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

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Friday, July 30, 2004

OK, I Was Wrong

I admit it.  I've said on numerous occasions that I thought the Dims would figure out that Kerry wasn't electable and they'd replace him like they replaced Torricelli in N.J., but it appears that they've convinced themselves that Kerry's can win.

Of course, they've got 100 days to figure out that he can't and really do a Torricelli on him, but I don't think that'll happen now.

Mea culpa.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

They Have No Shame

First reported here back in March in Stick a Fork in England. They're Done, the British government has found that people erroneously convicted of crime tend to sue once they're released from incarceration, and they tend to win pretty fair settlements.  So in order to recover some of the swag, they've developed this really neat idea:  Charge for room and board!

That's right, since the plaintiff received a room and three squares a day, they can be backcharged for it!  Prison is just a big Motel 6 with room service!  

Mr. Free Market reports  the latest such incident in which two men have been billed 25% of the awards that they received for being wrongly convicted.  From the BBC:
Innocent men must pay prison bill
Two men wrongly jailed for murder for 18 years must pay for the money they saved in "board and lodgings" while in prison, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Cousins Michael and Vincent Hickey were convicted of murdering newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater in November 1979.

An independent assessor ruled their "loss of earnings" compensation should be cut by 25% to cover living expenses.

The High Court overturned the ruling - but the assessor appealed, arguing it had been "lawful and reasonable".

Lord Brennan QC, the Home Office-appointed assessor, had awarded Michael Hickey, 42, £990,000, ($1,800,000 US) and Vincent Hickey, 49, £506,220, ($921,000 US) subject to deductions for expenses which they would have incurred as free men.

But in April 2003, High Court judge Mr Justice Maurice Kay ruled the deductions were unlawful.
On Thursday, after Lord Brennan's successful appeal, the cousins' solicitor said they were "extremely disappointed" by the Appeal Court's "palpably unfair" decision, and were considering appealing to the House of Lords.

Stigmatised as child killers, they had been subjected to appalling treatment in prison, Susie Labinjoh, of Hodge Jones & Allen, added. Their food had regularly been adulterated with phlegm and glass.

They had been "outraged" by the deductions, Ms Labinjoh said.

"They could not comprehend how anyone aware of the circumstances of their imprisonment could suggest that they profited from it in any way.
Mr. Free Market - a resident of England comments:
The issue here is not if the men were ultimately cleared on a technicality or ‘miraculous new evidence that has just come to light’ – it is whether the State can illegally detain you & then charge you for the privilege of doing so. Gordon ‘tax & waste’ Brown must be rubbing his grubby mits with glee – a whole new revenue source for him to fritter away.

As for the Court of Appeal – have you all gone stark raving aardvark?? As you speak as outsiders, what do you think of the human race?? Or have too many years living in Judge’s Chambers & hitting the tax payer funded vintage port, finally done for you?? This is shear unmitigated madness ……… maybe next time these judicial numpties take a sunny stroll on insanity beach, maybe they should stop for a minute & dip a toe into the sea of reason.
Word of advice:  Don't hold your breath.

Another word:  Emigrate.  England is done.  Stick a fork in it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

" this country poverty is a state of mind."

Triticale has an excellent post up on individual responsibility and the proper role of government.

Go read.

It's a Cheap Shot, I Know...

But too damned funny to pass up.

Separated at birth?

Kudos to "95thFoot" - a poster at

My Favorite Liberal

Has a pretty good post up.  The eternally optimistic Dean Esmay waxes eloquent on the two-party system, game theory, pragmatism, and political conventions.  Excerpt:
Half a loaf, half a loaf, half a loaf onward. Yet it's not a charge into oblivion, but a charge into what's right. Over a period of years, maybe a period of decades, the American people will eventually find their way to the right answer.

When you look at the candidates for President every four years, you must look at all of this. The Republican will ride to power speaking of stern, strong, unyielding principles that he will inevitably compromise upon. The Democrat will inevitably rise to power out of a squabbling mess of fractious ideologies, attempting to meld them into a semi-coherent whole. Neither one will be virginal, both will be a little full of shit--but both of them (usually) sincere. In most cases, both will genuinely want what is best for America. Your only question will be whether you think their vision is the right vision, and whether you believe he will govern responsibly, and will take the duties of his office sincerely.
Give it a read.
Lileks Alert!

I listened to a couple hours of Hugh Hewitt's radio show yesterday.  He's broadcasting from the DNC, and interviewing various people including quite a few lefties.  Yesterday he interviewed Regis le Sommier, U.S. bureau chief of Paris Match.  James Lileks called in.  The exchange was, um, somewhat heated shall we say?  At least for a Frenchman and a Minnesotan.

Hewitt wrote:
Regis acted towards Lileks as all French diplomats acted towards Bush Administration people throughout the fall of 2002 and the spring of 2003.  It wasn't pretty, but it should inspire Lileks to some pretty good writing in tomorrow's Bleat. 
Wednesdays James posts his Bleat! column later in the day, but usually gives us some idea of what's coming.  Here's a promise for today's:
I will post my column to the Strib computer at 1 PM tomorow; my response to Chanticleer will be up by noon Central Standard Time. Short version: suggesting that Chirac was close to Saddam does not mean one works for Fox, you prique. Long version: stay tuned.
I shall, and I recommend you do too.

Update:  As noted in the comments, after the diary commentary, the screediness is excellent!

Monday, July 26, 2004

It's Not All Faith

Reader Sarah sent me an email concerning the recent series of posts on the concept of rights. With her permission, I'm posting it here with my commentary:
I read your piece, "History and Moral Philosophy" from Saturday, and also "What is a Right?" You already know that I am an admirer of yours, and I deeply appreciate that you use your time and effort to speak out for individual rights. However, I believe that you are gravely mistaken about the nature of individual rights.

You admit, as so many libertarians* will not, that without God there are no absolute rights -- rights are determined by who has the power. I am not a Christian, but I can see the evidence of history. You can theorize whatever you want about human nature, but what did real people do when confronted with real situations?

[* For lack of a better word, I use this to describe liberty-lovers who do not believe in God.]

The only people who ever fought for individual liberty were Protestant Christians. It was because they believed God was on their side, which gave them the strength and determination to fight their enemies. From our cozy position with freedom already established we tend to forget what a huge step it was to win liberty in the first place.

We ought to ask what happened when people who did not believe in God fought for change. The best example is the revolution against the Czar in Russia. The Russians went from having a Czar to having Stalin. The Russian Revolution was a humanist revolution, since communism is an extreme version of humanism. We had another humanist revolution, which was the French Revolution. It was supposed to be based on reason, but the result was an orgy of depraved violence -- and an emperor to replace a king.

It is only when you have revolutionaries who believe in the Judeo-Christian God that they fight for inalienable rights for themselves and even for people they don't like. Nowhere else in the world could you have had a civil rights movement like we did in the United States, and that's because of the Christian conscience which overcame fear, prejudice, suspicion -- all the normal failings of people. Martin Luther King, Jr. conducted the civil rights movement on purely Christian grounds, and he prevailed. Slavery came to an end in the Western world solely because of the efforts of Protestant Christians. Their God told them that all people were created equal, and so they put enormous pressure on parliament to use England's imperial might to eradicate slavery around the world. It was not long before America followed suit. The industrial revolution, which freed hundreds of millions from poverty and squalor, was started by Protestants. (And Protestants are our best hope to continue this revolution.)

It is an enormous advantage when when you believe you have free will given by God, that free will here on earth is translated to individual liberties, and that they are inalienable. People will fight for those rights, because God is on their side -- and they will fight for others to have those rights, because God says we are all equal.

Christianity is the only system of values and beliefs that has ever overcome human failings and extended individual liberties to everyone. Remove God, and the American Revolution, the Civil War to end slavery, and the fight against communism and fascism, never would have happened. Recall that France* not only crumbled in the face of fascism, but actually cooperated with it. Our most recent champion for freedom was Reagan, who ended the Cold War and crippled communism. He was a devout Christian who believed deeply in freedom.

[* France is nominally Catholic, but at its heart genuinely humanist.]

Is there one single atheist in history who was a champion of individual liberty? Not someone who philosophized about liberty (e.g. Rand), but someone who actually fought and won freedom for people?
Well, Gandhi wasn't an atheist but his opponents were Protestants, which is why he was successful.
The problem with your definition of rights is that when you fight and lose, like in 1930s Germany or totalitarian Russia, what can you do? What reaction would and atheist have had in those circumstances? What if Kerry wins? What would a libertarian draw strength from? What would rally them? If you do not have God, you are really without any basis from which toargue for freedom. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is just an opinion, and it is baseless. Without God, you cannot say that one set of morals is superior to another, for that implies that you are comparing them both to an objective standard. Jeffrey Dahmer told his father that he murdered and cannibalized people, because he realized that without God there is no right or wrong. And Dahmer may not have been an evil monster but for the fact that he took the atheist idea to its logical conclusion and acted on it. He personally denied life, liberty,and the pursuit of happiness to a large number of victims. So Where does the standard for right and wrong come from? We either have God, who gives us rights, or nature whose law is survival of the fittest.

Let's do a quick survey around the world:

Russia - a thugocracy; government by gangsters.

Middle East - islamofascism.

China - Confucian communist state based on obedience.

Africa - tribal hell.
South America - dictatorial class warfare (yes, they are nominally Christian, but more realistically they are of the cult of the Virgin Mary-- one step above paganism).
Europe - an Orwellian bureaucracy, which makes up any rules it likes.

Canada - a humanist paradise with no free speech, no gun rights, and no religious freedom.

Without the Christian influence (which is now uprooted in Europe and Canada) this is what you get.

As a person who values freedom, I look around the world and I see the United States as the last bastion of freedom. I know libertarians do, too. But What is its foundation? What keeps us free when all about us are storms of oppression?

I am not a big 'C' christian (I believe in God, but don't worship Jesus or go to church), but I find myself in sympathy and admiration of Protestant Christianity -- it is the foundation on which American liberties are built. Libertarians are conned by humanists in opposing Christians. And when you do oppose them, you are basically taking a sledgehammer to the foundation upon which you stand. You do not have to be Christian to be an ally of Christianity. But if you have a licentious tendency, if licentiousness is the motivating factor in your libertarianism and is the root of your objection to Christianity, then you're a sitting duck for those who will take away your freedom.

Christians are an ally to anyone who values true freedom. Not the freedom to drug yourself or to be socially deviant (the only kind of freedom that interests humanists), but the genuine kind of freedom that is enumerated in the constitutional amendments. Individual liberties are intimately tied up with the idea of God-given free will. Marx understood this when he stated that his goal was to "dethrone God and destroy capitalism." No other value system has ever produced the kind of freedom that we have in America.

Libertarians are the dupes of humanists, who are the most dangerous enemies to freedom. They are dupes any time they feel that Christianity is a threat to them. The worst thing that a Christian will do is say you're going to hell, but humanists will make a hell on earth.

As a proponent of the second amendment, you have to know your enemy. It is not just Dianne Feinstein and Sarah Brady. It is the humanists. In this battle against the humanists, who have overtaken Canada and Europe, there is only one group powerful enough to stand up to the humanists and that is Christians.
There's not a great deal there for me to argue with, though I think Sarah paints "humanists" with a little too broad a brush.

In my world view, "rights" to most people are much like God - entirely dependent on faith. Except, of course, rights are passive and God (in most belief systems) is active. But Sarah makes a valid point: If you don't have some grounding for your belief in your rights, it's much easier to say "screw it" and surrender them when faced with hard choices.

However, note that a belief in God doesn't, by your own admission, lead to freedom. It's Protestantism that does that - a specific religious belief. You say "Christian," but what you mean specifically is "Protestant." The Jews believe in God, but have submitted to slavery and even genocide. The Catholic church preaches what is in my opinion slavery to the church (after all, Protestantism comes from protesting the formerly iron grip of the Catholic church, does it not?)

It's all a belief system. It's a culture. It is possible for "humanists" to have a culture that holds a belief in rights without a belief in a god. In Is the Government Responsible for Your Protection, Part II I quoted Ezra Taft Benson who made Sarah's argument:
It is generally agreed that the most important single function of government is to secure the rights and freedoms of individual citizens. But, what are those right? And what is their source?

There are only two possible sources. Rights are either God-given as part of the Divine Plan, or they are granted by government as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, tradition and religious convictions all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights. If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government.
I said then that I didn't agree with Benson:
Well, not being a “believer”, I disagree with God being the source of individual rights, but I certainly reject the premise that rights are “granted” by government. As to accepting the corollary that rights can be denied by government – certainly they can – so long as the People allow it.
But I didn't give an alternate origin for those rights.

The origin of rights should be reason. (And this is going to get me a lot of abuse...) The origin of religious faith is fear. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. That's why religion came first and individual rights loooong afterward. Religion can, as Sarah very accurately points out, support a belief in rights, but it can also crush that belief. The Protestant sects of Christianity are, most definitely, responsible for the spread of the belief in the fundamental rights of individuals, but I believe it's possible to separate the two and make reasoned arguments as to why there ought to be certain individual rights, and not others. (Like training a puppy, the society should teach its children about rights and duties, and then as they get older, about the reason and logic behind them.)

It's important to me for people to grasp why there are rights, so that they cannot be pursuaded that they don't exist. Faith may be stronger than understanding, but I don't think it should be. "Because God said so" isn't sufficient, for me.

It's possible to have functional, irrational societies (see Italy) {and I'll catch hell for that, too} but in conflicts, societies grounded in some faith are generally far stronger than societies that are not. "Humanism" isn't so grounded, but it could be. As Sarah points out, it's generally dominated by the licentious who don't want to hear about duty, but who can expound endlessly on their rights. Christians are big on DUTY, regardless of the specific faith, and thus Sarah is correct that they are, or at least should be, natural allies in the war to preserve our rights. However, the problem comes from the conflict between the morality taught by Christianity, and the considerably more ambiguous morality of the humanists.

It's not so much that we don't see them as allies, it's that neither side really wants to associate with a group that will have such a strong effect on the, shall we say "more pliable" members of the other.

And besides, religion promises an eventual reward. A belief in rights only promises an eternal struggle to hold on to them.
Oh!  Ouch!

(Via Clayton Cramer)

Take a look.
Good Point

The Heartless Libertarian raises an excellent point:
Bush poses questions for black voters in a speech at the Urban Leauge.  I've pulled out the first three: 
Does the Democrat party take African American voters for granted?
Is it a good thing for the African American community to be represented mainly by one political party?
How is it possible to gain political leverage if the party is never forced to compete?
Now, take the first two questions, and change "African Americans" to "gunowners," and "Democrat" to "Republican."

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Oh, Now THIS is Interesting...

Down here the AWB looks like it's going to sunset with a whimper, and now Canada is considering decriminalizing it's registration law?

It's not a repeal, but...

If you're curious, here's a short history of Canada's C-68 Firearms Act.  Note the 5,000% cost overrun.  Actually, if the Feb. 13th update is accurate, it's a 10,000% cost overrun.  That's two billion dollars, not one.   There has been a lot of comment on the fact that it's nearly impossible to determine just how high the costs have actually been, and a lot of anger over how the government has been hiding it.

Edited to add:  And I strongly recommend this op-ed, The gun registry: A billion dollar bag of perfect uselessness.  Couldn't say it better myself.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

History and Moral Philosophy

If  you haven't read Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, or if you have but it's been too long, I wanted to reproduce here what I believe is the most important thing Heinlein wrote in any of his novels: the lecture on "History and Moral Philosophy."  It's the piece I excerpted the quote on "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" from.  Thankfully someone else has already done the hard part for me, it's on the web here, but I'm going to steal shamelessly so it appears elsewhere for the ease of Google searchers everywhere (and I'm going to try to fix the typos, too.)  

And remember, this was published in 1959.
I found myself mulling over a discussion in our class in History and Moral Philosophy. Mr. Dubois was talking about the disorders that preceded the breakup of the North American republic, back in the 20th century. According to him, there was a time just before they went down the drain when such crimes as murder were as common as dogfights. The Terror had not been just in North America -- Russia and the British Isles had it, too, as well as other places. But it reached its peak in North America shortly before things went to pieces.

"Law-abiding people," Dubois had told us, "hardly dared go into a public park at night. To do so was to risk attack by wolf packs of children, armed with chains, knives, home-made guns, bludgeons ... to be hurt at least, robbed most certainly, injured for life probably -- or even killed. This went on for years, right up to the war between the Russo-Anglo-American Alliance and the Chinese Hegemony. Murder, drug addiction, larceny, assault, and vandalism were commonplace. Nor were parks the only places -- these things happened also on the streets in daylight, on school grounds, even inside school buildings. But parks were so notoriously unsafe that honest people stayed clear of them after dark."

I had tried to imagine such things happening in our schools, I simply couldn't. Nor in our parks. A park was a place for fun, not for getting hurt. As for getting killed in one --

"Mr. Dubois, didn't they have police? Or courts?"

"They had many more police than we have. And more courts. All overworked."

"I guess I don't get it." If a boy in our city had done anything half that bad ... well, he and his father would have been flogged side by side. But such things just didn't happen.

Mr. Dubois then demanded of me, "Define a 'juvenile delinquent.'"

"Uh, one of those kids -- the ones who used to beat up people."


"Huh? But the book said -- "

"My apologies. Your textbook does so state. But calling a tail a leg does not make the name fit. 'Juvenile delinquent' is a contradiction in terms, one which gives a clue to their problem and their failure to solve it. Have you ever raised a puppy?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you housebreak him?"

"Err ... yes, sir. Eventually." It was my slowness in this that caused my mother to rule that dogs must stay out of the house.

"Ah, yes. When your puppy made mistakes, were you angry?"

"What? Why, he didn't know any better; he was just a puppy."

"What did you do?"

"Why, I scolded him and rubbed his nose in it and paddled him."

"Surely he could not understand your words?"

"No, but he could tell I was sore at him!"

"But you just said that you were not angry."

Mr. Dubois had an infuriating way of getting a person mixed up, "No, but I had to make him think I was. He had to learn, didn't he?"

"Conceded. But, having made it clear to him that you disapproved, how could you be so cruel as to spank him as well? You said the poor beastie didn't know that he was doing wrong. Yet you inflicted pain. Justify yourself! Or are you a sadist?"

I didn't then know what a sadist was -- but I know pups. "Mr. Dubois, you have to! You scold him so that he knows he's in trouble, you rub his nose in it so that he will know what trouble you mean, you paddle him so that he darn well won't do it again -- and you have to do it right away! It doesn't do a bit of good to punish him later; you'll just confuse him. Even so, he won't learn from one lesson, so you watch and catch him again and paddle him still harder. Pretty soon he learns. But it's a waste of breath just to scold him." Then I added, "I guess you've never raised pups."

"Many. I'm raising a dachshund now -- by your methods. Let's get back to those juvenile criminals. The most vicious averaged somewhat younger than you here in this class ...and they often started their lawless careers much younger. Let us never forget that puppy. These children were often caught; police arrested batches each day. Were they scolded? Yes, often scathingly. Were their noses rubbed in it? Rarely. Newspapers and officials usually kept their names secret -- in many places this was the law for criminals under eighteen. Were they spanked? Indeed not! Many had never been spanked even as small children; there was a widespread belief that spanking, or any punishment involving pain, did a child permanent psychic damage."

(I had reflected that my father must never have heard of that theory.)

"Corporal punishment in schools was forbidden by law," he had gone on. "Flogging was lawful as sentence of court only in one small province, Delaware, and there only for a few crimes and was rarely invoked; it was regarded as 'cruel and unusual punishment.'" Dubois had mused aloud, "I do not understand objections to 'cruel and unusual' punishment. While a judge should be benevolent in purpose, his awards should cause the criminal to suffer, else there is no punishment -- and pain is the basic mechanism built into us by millions of years of evolution which safeguards us by warning when something threatens our survival. Why should society refuse to use such a highly perfected survival mechanism? However, that period was loaded with pre-scientific pseudo-psychological nonsense.

"As for 'unusual,' punishment must be unusual or it serves no purpose." He then pointed his stump at another boy. "What would happen if a puppy were spanked every hour?"

"Uh ... probably drive him crazy!"

"Probably. It certainly will not teach him anything. How long has it been since the principal of this school last had to switch a pupil?"

"Uh, I'm not sure. About two years. The kid that swiped --"

"Never mind. Long enough. It means that such punishment is so unusual as to be significant, to deter, to instruct. Back to these young criminals -- They probably were not spanked as babies; they certainly were not flogged for their crimes. The usual sentence was: for a first offence, a warning -- a scolding, often without trial. After several offenses a sentence of confinement but with sentence suspended and the youngster placed on probation. A boy might be arrested may times and convicted several times before he was punished -- and then it would be merely confinement, with others like him from whom he learned still more criminal habits. If he kept out of major trouble while confined, he could usually evade most of even that mild punishment, be given probation -- 'paroled' in the jargon of the times.

"This incredible sequence could go on for years while his crimes increased in frequency and viciousness, with no punishment whatever save rare dull-but-comfortable confinements. Then suddenly, usually by law on his eighteenth birthday, this so-called 'juvenile delinquent' becomes an adult criminal -- and sometimes wound up in only weeks or months in a death cell awaiting execution for murder."

He had singled me out again. "Suppose you merely scolded your puppy, never punished him, let him go on making messes in the house ... and occasionally locked him up in an outbuilding but soon let him back into the house with a warning not to do it again. Then one day you notice that he is now a grown dog and still not housebroken -- whereupon you whip out a gun and shoot him dead. Comment, please?"

"Why ... that's the craziest way to raise a dog I ever heard of!"

"I agree. Or a child. Whose fault would it be?"

"Uh ... why, mine, I guess."

"Again I agree. But I'm not guessing."

"Mr. Dubois," a girl blurted out, "but why? Why didn't they spank little kids when they needed it and use a good dose of the strap on any older ones who deserved it -- the sort of lesson they wouldn't forget! I mean ones who did things really bad. Why not?"

"I don't know," he had answered grimly, "except that the time-tested method of instilling social virtue and respect for law in the minds of the young did not appeal to a pre-scientific pseudo-professional class who called themselves 'social workers' or sometimes 'child psychologists.' It was too simple for them, apparently, since anybody could do it, using only the patience and firmness needed in training a puppy. I have sometimes wondered if they cherished a vested interest in disorder -- but that is unlikely; adults almost always act from conscious 'highest motives' no matter what their behavior."

"But -- good heavens!" the girl answered. "I didn't like being spanked any more than any kid does, but when I needed it, my mama delivered. The only time I ever got a switching in school I got another one when I got home -- and that was years and years ago. I don't ever expect to be hauled up in front of a judge and sentenced to a flogging; you behave yourself and such things don't happen. I don't see anything wrong with our system; it's a lot better than not being able to walk outdoors for fear of your life -- why that's horrible!"

"I agree. Young lady, the tragic wrongness of what those well-meaning people did, contrasted with what they thought they were doing, goes very deep. They had no scientific theory of morals. They did have a theory of morals and they tried to live by it (I should not have sneered at their motives), but their theory was wrong -- half of it fuzzy-headed wishful thinking, half of it rationalized charlatanry. The more earnest they were, the farther it led them astray. You see, they assumed that Man had a moral instinct."

"Sir? I thought -- But he does! I have."

"No, my dear, you have a cultivated conscience, a most carefully trained one. Man has no moral instinct. He is not born with moral sense. You were not born with it, I was not -- and a puppy has none. We acquire moral sense, when we do, through training, experience, and hard sweat of the mind. These unfortunate juvenile criminals were born with none, even as you and I, and they had no chance to acquire any; their experiences did not permit it. What is 'moral sense'? It is an elaboration of the instinct to survive. The instinct to survive is human nature itself, and every aspect of our personalities derives from it. Anything that conflicts with the survival instinct acts sooner or later to eliminate the individual and thereby fails to show up in future generations. This truth is mathematically demonstrable, everywhere verifiable; it is the single eternal imperative controlling everything we do.

"But the instinct to survive," he had gone on, "can be cultivated into motivations more subtle and much more complex than the blind, brute urge of the individual to stay alive. Young lady, what you miscalled your 'moral instinct' was the instilling in you by your elders of the truth that survival can have stronger imperatives than that of your own personal survival. Survival of your family, for example. Of your children, when you have them. Of your nation, if you struggle that high up the scale. And so on up. A scientifically verifiable theory of morals must be rooted in the individual's instinct to survive -- and nowhere else! -- and must correctly describe the hierarchy of survival, note the motivations at each level, and resolve all conflicts.

"We have such a theory now; we can solve any moral problem, on any level. Self-interest, love of family, duty to country, responsibility toward the human race -- we are even developing an exact ethic for extra-human relations. But all moral problems can be illustrated by one misquotation: 'Greater love hath no man than a mother cat dying to defend her kittens.' Once you understand the problem facing that cat and how she solved it, you will then be ready to examine yourself and learn how high up the moral ladder you are capable of climbing.

"These juvenile criminals hit a low level. Born with only the instinct for survival, the highest morality they achieved was a shaky loyalty to a peer group, a street gang. But the do-gooders attempted to 'appeal to their better natures,' to 'reach them,' to 'spark their moral sense.' Tosh! They had no 'better natures'; experience taught them that what they were doing was the way to survive. The puppy never got his spanking; therefore what he did with pleasure and success must be 'moral.'

"The basis of all morality is duty, a concept with the same relation to group that self-interest has to individual. Nobody preached duty to these kids in a way they could understand -- that is, with a spanking. But the society they were in told them endlessly about their 'rights.'

"The results should have been predictable, since a human being has no natural rights of any nature."

Mr. Dubois had paused. Somebody took the bait. "Sir? How about 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'?"

"Ah, yes, the 'unalienable rights.' Each year someone quotes that magnificent poetry. Life? What 'right' to life has a man who is drowning in the Pacific? The ocean will not hearken his cries. What 'right' to life has a man who must die if he is to save his children? If he chooses to save his own life, does he do so as a matter of 'right'? If two men are starving and cannibalism is the only alternative to death, which man's right is 'unalienable'? And is it 'right'? As to liberty, the heroes who signed the great document pledged themselves to buy liberty with their lives. Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is the least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.

"The third 'right' -- the 'pursuit of happiness'? It is indeed unalienable but it is not a right; it is simply a universal condition which tyrants cannot take away nor patriots restore. Cast me into a dungeon, burn me at the stake, crown me king of kings, I can 'pursue happiness' as long as my brain lives -- but neither gods nor saints, wise men nor subtle drugs, can insure that I will catch it."

Mr. Dubois then turned to me. "I told you that 'juvenile delinquent' is a contradiction in terms. 'Delinquent' means 'failing in duty.' But duty is an adult virtue -- indeed a juvenile becomes an adult when, and only when, he acquires a knowledge of duty and embraces it as dearer than the self-love he was born with. There never was, there cannot be, a 'juvenile delinquent.' But for every juvenile criminal there are always one or more adult delinquents -- people of mature years who either do not know their duty, or who, knowing it, fail.

"And that was the soft spot which destroyed what was in many ways an admirable culture. The junior hoodlums who roamed their streets were symptoms of a greater sickness; their citizens (all of them counted as such) glorified their mythology of 'rights' ... and lost track of their duties. No nation, so constituted, can endure."
I was probably eleven or twelve when I first read Starship Troopers and I remember then being struck by that passage.  As I've gotten older, I've appreciated it more. 

I really don't believe in "natural rights" - rights that exist outside the framework of a human society.  All rights are human constructs, and come with associated duties.  Whenever the citizens of a society shirk those duties, the associate right no longer exists, as though it never was.  When the right and the corresponding duty support the instinct to survive, then they are objectively "correct."  When they do not, they are not. 

I've been asked twice recently, "Is it wrong to rape or not?"  And I've responded twice now that it is, certainly, in this society, in all cases - but it has not historically been so, and in some contemporary cultures it still isn't.  I've been accused of "moral relativism" for this, but instead I see it as an acceptance of reality.

If I am, somehow, thrown into a situation where I am faced with being the witness to a rape, I will object as strenuously as I can - up to the point of lethal force if I am able.  But if the rapists believe they have that "right" I don't expect to persuade them of the "wrongness" of their actions.  Only of the consequences of them.

Assuming I am able to, either at that time or afterward.

"The basis of all morality is duty, a concept with the same relation to group that self-interest has to individual.
"We acquire moral sense, when we do, through training, experience, and hard sweat of the mind.
"(T)he instinct to survive can be cultivated into motivations more subtle and much more complex than the blind, brute urge of the individual to stay alive. ...your 'moral instinct' was the instilling in you by your elders of the truth that survival can have stronger imperatives than that of your own personal survival. Survival of your family, for example. Of your children, when you have them. Of your nation, if you struggle that high up the scale."


Honor, duty, morals, ethics - all are learned, as is the concept of rights.  And we as a nation are failing to teach, as Heinlein pointed out in 1959 in Starship Troopers, as Rand did in her 1970 essay The Comprachicos.  None of this simply falls like manna from the heavens upon us.  It is not absorbed through our pores by osmosis after birth, and it is not instinctual and encoded in our gene sequences.  And continuing to preach of rights while ignoring duty will result, I think, in societal collapse.


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

An Interesting and Pertinent Question

Jonathan Wilde at Catallarchy asks Why ought I respect your rights to life, liberty, and property?
The fundamental answer to that one is:  "Because you risk your death if you don't."

But a number of other people give their answers.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Rights, Revisited

In the comments to A Swing and a Miss! below, I've had quite an exchange with Thibodeaux of Say Uncle, and now a comment from Spoons of The Spoons Experience on the topic of "absolute rights." They believe that absolute rights are a concrete reality. I do not. Here's the exchange to date (because Haloscan eventually loses them):

I have to say I'm against you on this one. - Thibodeaux

Then please, make your argument. Simply stating "I disagree" doesn't really get us anywhere. - Kevin Baker

I don't really see the point. You're not going to change your mind, and I'm not going to change mine. But if counting heads is the most important thing, I'm going to be counted in the other column. - Thibodeaux

I'd at least like an explanation of what it is you specifically disagree with me about. Even if we are unable to convince each other, I will be able to understand where you're coming from. For instance, I assume you do believe in "absolute rights"? - Kevin

Yes, I do, without the quotes. - Thibodeaux

What happens when you run across someone who doesn't? Or at least someone who doesn't believe in the same absolute rights you do? Someone who, say, believes he's within his rights to slit your throat with a boxcutter because you don't pray towards Mecca five times a day? - Kevin

This is why I said it was pointless to discuss; we could play "what if" all day long. As it happens, each and every one of us comes in contact with people who don't believe in the same set of rights. I recognize that we don't live in an ideal world, and we have to defend our rights as best we can.

However, I still maintain that even though rights can be violated, that does not mean that those rights don't exist, regardless of how many people approve that violation. If I understand you correctly, you maintain that, practically speaking, it does. Well, I disagree, but I don't see that either of us is going to change our minds. - Thibodeaux

What you're saying, in effect, is "I BELIEVE in the following rights..., and damn the rest of you to hell if you do not."

I have no problem with that. That is, actually, the basis of any society - a statement of beliefs shared by the majority of the populace. But if there were, in actuality, "absolute rights," shouldn't all (sane) people, everywhere believe in them? That's my only point. It is patently not the case, and never has been.

I don't think we're all that far apart, here.

When you go back and look at the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, those documents spell out the fundamental basis of the beliefs our society: "This we believe..."

Mr. Kennedy's disillusionment comes from the fact that, if we actually behaved as though we believed in those stated fundamentals, our government wouldn't be coercive and wouldn't be what it is today. Therefore he rejects American society as being hypocritical when it says it protects the rights of individuals. - Kevin

What you're saying, in effect, is "I BELIEVE in the following rights..., and damn the rest of you to hell if you do not."

Pretty much.

But if there were, in actuality, "absolute rights," shouldn't all (sane) people, everywhere believe in them? That's my only point. It is patently not the case, and never has been.

Were those people who believed in a geo-centric universe insane? Or just ignorant? Of course, philosophy isn't physics, but I think it's a logical fallacy to say that since not all sane people believe in something, then it doesn't exist.

I don't think we're all that far apart, here.

Probably not, since I agree with and enjoy practically everything else you've written on this blog. - Thibodeaux

You're right, philosophy absolutely isn't physics.

So your position is that there are some fundamental rights that eventually all societies will hold in common because they are REAL, and we will all come to recognize them.

That's a good hope to have. I cannot (and would not) fault you for it. As far as I'm concerned it matters not whether those beliefs are "real," because as long as people believe in them, they are. I believe that history shows an increasing recognition of (some) rights of the individual against the power of government. I simply understand that you cannot assume that all people will believe what you believe, and that you must be able to convince them through reasoned argument that you are right and they are wrong. ("Because it is!" doesn't count.) Or you must be willing (and able) to kill them if they want to force their beliefs on you to the exclusion of your own. - Kevin

So your position is that there are some fundamental rights that eventually all societies will hold in common because they are REAL, and we will all come to recognize them.

Not quite. I believe the fundamental rights are real, but I doubt if everybody will ever agree with that.

As far as I'm concerned it matters not whether those beliefs are "real," because as long as people believe in them, they are.

I don't agree that belief creates reality. I simply understand that you cannot assume that all people will believe what you believe As do I. - Thibodeaux

I think the real crux of the difference, Thibodeaux, is the definition of "real," then. - Kevin

I guess it depends on what you mean by "is."

Seriously, though, the difference is the appropriate reaction when your rights are violated. If, as you say, your rights are nothing more nor less than what the majority say, then it seems to me you ought to shut up and take it when the majority decides you don't have a given right. What justification do you have to do otherwise? - Thibodeaux

No, the choices when the majority decides that you don't have a given right are:

1) continue publicly and risk punishment, 2) continue secretly, and risk punishment, 3) submit, 4) strike out and guarantee punishment.

I missed one here: 5) Go elsewhere in search of a society that believes as you do.

If YOU BELIEVE in the right, it is real TO YOU. Only YOU can decide what the appropriate response is, FOR YOU. That's why I said above that "you must be able to convince them through reasoned argument that you are right and they are wrong. ("Because it is!" doesn't count.) Or you must be willing (and able) to kill them if they want to force their beliefs on you to the exclusion of your own." If you're going to resist (unless you don't care about that right as it affects others) the ability to make your resistance hurt is essential to preserving the right for others. Otherwise nobody's going to notice your resistance.

Of course, this gets you labeled "a fanatic."

As regards the concept of "real" - how can an idea, a philosophical construct, be "real?" You can't put your hand on it. It has no mass or physical dimensions. - Kevin

How can an idea, a philosophical construct, be "real?"

I don't know; ask Plato.

If YOU BELIEVE in the right, it is real TO YOU.

Well, again, I disagree. Belief is not reality, and reality is not personal. - Thibodeaux

I see you two are having fun, but I gotta say that I most strongly disagree with Kevin on this one. I believe in absolute rights. That doesn't mean that everyone will agree on what they are. It just means that some people are wrong.

It's interesting, Kevin, that you quote the Declaration of Independence in support of your position. If ever there were a document that rejected your view on rights, that's the one: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

All men everywhere have those rights -- whether they are acknowledged by their societies, or not. - Spoons

Why, Spoons? Because the Founders said so? You need to read "What is a Right?", because it addresses (actually, Heinlein addresses) that directly.

I think those rights are real in direct proportion to how strongly they are believed and defended. The Founders believed them enough to risk "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor" to uphold them, and so enshrined them for their posterity, but I don't think they are as "real" today given the entropy of our society.

You think you believe in "absolute rights," but what you actually believe is that those rights ought to be believed by all people. And I agree. But that doesn't (IMHO) make them "real". Only action makes them real. - Kevin

I realize that this is a subtle philosophical point, but it's something that everyone needs to understand - especially in the world today where two cultures are in desperate conflict.

The progenitor of my political philosophy is probably Robert Anson Heinlein. I quoted Heinlein in that earlier piece specifically on the topic of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" from his book Starship Troopers:
"Life? What 'right' to life has a man who is drowning in the Pacific? The ocean will not hearken to his cries. What 'right' to life has a man who must die if he is to save his children? If he chooses to save his own life, does he do so as a matter of 'right'? If two men are starving and cannibalism is the only alternative to death, which man's right is 'unalienable'? And is it 'right'? As to liberty, the heroes who signed the great document pledged themselves to buy liberty with their lives. Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is the least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.

"The third 'right' - the 'pursuit of happiness'? It is indeed unalienable but it is not a right; it is simply a universal condition which tyrants cannot take away nor patriots restore. Cast me into a dungeon, burn me at the stake, crown me king of kings, I can 'pursue happiness' as long as my brain lives -- but neither gods nor saints, wise men nor subtle drugs, can insure that I will catch it."
Societies are made up of groups with similar beliefs. So long as those beliefs are compatible with the success of the society, they are "moral" for that group. A couple of posts below is one on abortion. Yet Romans - certainly looked to as a "civilized" society - practiced actual infanticide by exposure. They practiced slavery. Their soldiers looked upon rape as one of the spoils of war.

We are not born with an innate understanding of the "Rights of Man." Morals and ethics are learned and are part of the culture in which you are raised.

Rights are as well. All of these make up the logical framework under which a society functions. When the Founders wrote in the Declaration of Independence that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." they flew in the face of centuries if not millennia of history in which it wasn't self-evident at all. There were serfs and there was an aristocracy. At most there might be a "middle class," but they certainly weren't equal, and the powerful guarded their privileges warily.

When societies clash, their belief systems clash too. Size, power, and strength of arms matter a lot, but so does the robustness of the different belief systems. How resilient, how functional the systems are determines how changed each side will be by the clash - and they will both be changed.

Steven Den Beste has described the root cause of the current war in the Middle East as a failure of the Muslim world to deal with reality.
What is the root cause of the war? Collective failure of the nations and people in a large area which is predominately Arab and/or Islamic. Economically the only contribution they make is by selling natural resources which are available to them solely through luck. They make no significant contribution to international science or engineering. They make little or no cultural contribution to the world. Few seek out their poetry, their writing, their movies or music. The most famous Muslim writer of fiction in the world is under a fatwa death sentence now and lives in exile in Europe. Their only diplomatic relevance is due to their oil. They are not respected by the world, or by themselves.
He goes on to explain in detail. Their culture - their belief system - is failing in comparison to the West. They are certain their way is correct - but the empirical evidence is against them. They see Western culture - including its belief in equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - as the enemy, because their culture rejects all of those ideals. It is rigid. Ours is flexible.

Heinlein's "little red book" of philosophical sayings is The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (which, by the way, is about to be republished by Baen Books). In it he says something that has stuck with me for decades:
Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate -- and quickly.
That is, essentially, the root of the "hearts and minds" concept. We either convert them, or we have to kill them, but we should do so quickly, and without hate - because it's the hate that will change us..

Here in the West we are undergoing a bifurcation of philosophies: the Right, steeped in history and tradition, in equality and the rights of the individual; and the Left, the "progressive" "liberal" groups that - and this seems undeniable to me - hate traditional America but want to take advantage of all that it provides. But that's an entire other essay, and I'm not going to go there right now.

My point is that our belief system - the rights of individuals, the equality of birth, "life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness," the Bill of Rights, the whole nine yards - is a system of belief built upon millenia of history. It's a belief system that works, and works better than anything that's come before. But it's also fragile, and it can be wiped away if we don't fight to maintain it. A belief in "absolute rights" (IMHO) removes any onus on the people to fight to support it. "Absolute rights" implies that they exist outside of us, independent of us, and do not need our support.

I don't believe that. I believe that if we follow that path then those rights will slowly disappear from lack of support - from entropy.

Justice Scalia reportedly said something along the same lines once, only he was speaking of constitutional guarantees of our enumerated rights:
To some degree, a constitutional guarantee is like a commercial loan, you can only get it if, at the time, you don't really need it. The most important, enduring, and stable portions of the Constitution represent such a deep social consensus that one suspects if they were entirely eliminated, very little would change. And the converse is also true. A guarantee may appear in the words of the Constitution, but when the society ceases to possess an abiding belief in it, it has no living effect. Consider the fate of the principle expressed in the Tenth Amendment that the federal government is a government of limited powers. I do not suggest that constitutionalization has no effect in helping the society to preserve allegiance to its fundamental principles. That is the whole purpose of a constitution. But the allegiance comes first and the preservation afterwards.
I'm not so sure about the "deep social consensus" part ensuring an enduring, stable Constitution, myself. It all takes work. I'm sure that those rights are real only so long as we believe, and we act on that belief.
More Democrat / Communist Parallel

Politburodiktat has driven the nail home flush with his post MiniTruth Circular #35 - Non Persons:
 Sandy Berger does not exist. Of course, loyal comrades Kos and Atrios have already been made aware of Berger's non-person status and have acted accordingly.

Joe Wilson - Joe Wilson does not exist. He never existed. He never lied. He never attempted to discredit Criminal Bush only to be discredited himself. All references to Joe Wilson must immediately be filed in the Memory Hole.
Read the rest. 

Apparently NBC News has also picked up on the non-personage of Sandy Berger.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

A Swing and a Miss!

The dead-horse beating continues...

John T. Kennedy of the group blog No Treason left a comment on my old post What Is a "Right":
Is it wrong to rape?
To say it's wrong to rape is the same as saying that one has a right to not be raped. To say you have a right to not be raped doesn't mean you have a postive right to be protected from rape or avenged for rape by others, it just means that it is wrong to rape you.
To say you have no right is to say nothing that can be done to you is really wrong, it is to deny that there are such things as right and wrong, good and evil.
You need to read the essay to understand my argument, but it boils down to this point:
A "right" is what the majority of a society believes it is.
And I'll illustrate John's error right now.

Look at history. For centuries, if not millenia, rapine and pillage was the reward of conquering soldiers. To those cultures there was a right to rape. It wasn't "wrong," nor was it evil. It simply was. The victim had no say in the matter.

John believes in "rights" that exist outside the context of society - absolute rights that exist in all people, everywhere.  I don't.  What is right, wrong, good and evil define and are defined by societies, and those societies rigorously enforce those definitions, or the society morphs into something else.

The idea of "rights" is a cultural one, and cultures change.  And for most of history, even right up to today, the rights one culture recognizes often do not extend to peoples of other cultures.

OUR society (and nearly all contemporary societies) believes that rape is inherently wrong, but it was not always so.  According to current news reports, rape is again being used as a weapon of war in Darfur.  The West is appalled.  But the rapists see it as their right.  Their culture tells them so.

Try again, John. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Freedom isn't Free

I have put off commenting on the recent NYT piece by the woman who underwent "pregnancy reduction" with the exception of one comment I left at The Spoons Experience: 
That is, indeed, pretty horrifying.

But should the state mandate that she carry the triplets to term? Should our government have that power?

Should that woman be mother to three, much less one?
Spoon's response was not unexpected:
Should the state have the power to mandate that she not murder her children?

You bet your fucking ass it should.
Well, Mike Spenis has weighed in, and said what I wanted to say.  Here's a taste:
Unsurprisingly, the no-abortions-at-all rule seems to be the unanimous preference among those who would prevent this sort of thing in the future, and that, my friends, is what this is all about.

If you have the right to abort your pregnancies, you can do if for whatever reason you want; for a good reason, or a stupid reason, or even for no reason at all. You can do it for reasons that would horrify your neighbor, or do it for reasons that would horrify us all. That's what choice means.

Now, replace the phrase "abort your pregnancies" with "purchase a gun" or even "home school your children" and we're all back on the same page again.

This is part of the price of freedom. This is what choice means.
It means people get to make bad choices.  Venal choices.

Abortion is one of the topics that, like religion, comes up regularly on message boards and generates pages of debate argument.  It boils down, for people like me and Mike, as a question of "when is a fetus a person?"  When do the rights of the fetus become equal to the rights of the woman carrying it?  For Spoons, it's apparently at conception.  For me, it's somewhere during the second trimester, so to err on the side of caution I draw the line at 12 weeks.  After that, it becomes a question of medical necessity, and that's all.

I look forward to the day when technology allows us to fertilize and carry embryos to term outside the human body, to extract a fetus and place it in a uterine replicator.  The question of abortion will become moot.  But until then abortion will continue, legal or not, and the decision to abort will remain often a venal one.

Freedom has costs.  This is one of them. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I'm Saving This One for Posterity
Rich Lowry in a recent National Review Online column lays it all on the table:

W.’s Double Binds  He can’t win — even if he does!
Sometimes a political figure becomes so hated that he can't do anything right in the eyes of his enemies. President Bush has achieved this rare and exalted status. His critics are so blinded by animus that the internal consistency of their attacks on him no longer matters. For them, Bush is the double-bind president.
If he stumbles over his words, he is an embarrassing idiot. If he manages to cut taxes or wage a war against Saddam Hussein with bipartisan support, he is a manipulative genius.

If he hasn't been able to capture Osama bin Laden, he is endangering U.S. security. If he catches bin Laden, it is only a ploy to influence the elections.

If he ignores U.N. resolutions, he is a dangerous unilateralist. If he takes U.N. resolutions on Iraq seriously, he is a dangerous unilateralist. If he doesn't get France to agree to his Iraq policy, he is ignoring important international actors. If he supports multiparty talks on North Korea, he is not doing enough to ignore important international actors.

If he bombed Iraq, he should have bombed Saudi Arabia instead, and if he had bombed Saudi Arabia, he should have bombed Iran, and if he had bombed all three, he shouldn't have bombed anyone at all. If he imposes a U.S. occupation on Iraq, he is fomenting Iraqi resistance by making the United States seem an imperial power. If he ends the U.S. occupation, he is cutting and running.

If he warns of a terror attack, he is playing alarmist politics. If he doesn't warn of a terror attack, he is dangerously asleep at the switch. If he says we're safer, he's lying, and if he doesn't say we're safer, he's implicitly admitting that he has failed in his core duty as commander in chief.

If he adopts a doctrine of preemption, he is unacceptably remaking American national-security policy. If the United States suffers a terror attack on his watch, he should have preempted it. If he signs a far-reaching antiterror law, he is abridging civil liberties. If the United States suffers another terror attack on his watch, he should have had a more vigorous anti-terror law.

Bush's economy hasn't created new jobs. If it has created new jobs, they aren't well-paying jobs. If they are well-paying jobs, there is still income inequality in America.

If Bush opposes a prescription-drug benefit for the elderly, he's miserly. If he supports a prescription-drug benefit for the elderly, he's lining the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies. If he restrains government spending, he's heartless. If he supports government spending, he's bankrupting the nation and robbing from future generations.

If he opposes campaign-finance reform, he's a tool of corporate interests. If he signs campaign-finance reform, he's abridging the First Amendment rights of Michael Moore (whose ads for Fahrenheit 9/11 might run afoul of the law).

If he accuses John Kerry of flip-flopping, he is merely highlighting one of the Massachusetts senator's strengths — his nuance and thoughtfulness. If he flip-flops on nation-building or testifying before the 9/11 commission, he proves his own ill-intentions, cluelessness, or both.

If he doesn't admit a mistake, he is bullheaded and detached from reality. If he admits a mistake, he is damning his own governance in shocking fashion.

If he sticks with Dick Cheney, he is saddling himself with an unpopular vice president, giving Democrats who can't wait to run against Cheney a political advantage. If he drops Cheney, he is admitting that the Democratic attacks against his vice president have hit home, thus giving Democrats who have made those charges a political advantage.

If he loses in November, the voice of the American people has spoken a devastating verdict on his presidency. If he wins, he stole the election.

That's it precisely.

More on "Violent but Protective"
Back in June I wrote three pieces on the difference between violent and predatory, and violent but protective.  They were:
"(I)t's most important that all potential victims be as dangerous as they can",
Violence and the Social Contract, and
Governments, Criminals, and Dangerous Victims.
This topic has been a recurring theme of this blog, dating back to the beginning of it with Is the Government Responsible for Your Protection, parts I and II, and I've linked to other pieces on the topic as well, such as Eric S. Raymond's The Myth of Man the Killer, and others.
Well, here's another.  Back in Is the Government Responsible I quoted a friend of mine who once wrote:
The vast majority of people are good, decent "herbivores" who just wander around, harming nobody. Unfortunately, there are a small number of carnivores out there, who would prey upon the herbivores. The fact that some of the herbivores have the ability to defend themselves and others makes ALL herbivores safer, and only makes life appreciably more dangerous to the carnivores. I don't think there is a huge amount of violence out there....but there is SOME.
I don't carry guns so that I can shoot people, I carry a gun so that if somebody tries to do something violent or bad, I can put a stop to the violence. The idea is actually one of being able to bring to bear overwhelming force in the face of force, so that the first person doesn't try to use force in the first place.
Via Mostly Cajun I found a very interesting piece based precisely on this précis:
On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs, by LTC Dave Grossman, USA (Ret.)
Excellent piece.  RTWT.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Idiocy Fantasy as Policy

The LA Times has a piece up about Brazil's doomed-to-failure attempt to curb its astronomical homicide rate by - wait for it...


The LA Times has a registration requirement, but the Tucson Citizen carried the piece. It's also available in abbreviated form on the Seattle Times site, so I've linked to that, but I will include the whole text (as I fisk it) from the Tucson Citizen, including the Citizen's headlines:
Law's goal is to disarm gun-heavy Brazilians

By Henry Chu
Los Angeles Times

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — To live in this city and other urban areas of Brazil is to hear the frequent rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire. As many as 20 million firearms are in circulation in this nation of 180 million people, who suffer from one of the highest rates of gun deaths in the world.
Yet according to the UN Small Arms Survey 2003 there are an estimated 238 to 276 million firearms in the United States - nearly a 1:1 parity - and our homicide rate, while quite high, is absolutely eclipsed by Brazil's. If the number of guns is the problem, the U.S. should have wiped itself out by now, should it not?
Now, under a new law hailed by supporters as the most sweeping gun-control measure in South America, only Brazilians with valid reasons — police and security guards, for example — are allowed to carry firearms in public.
And this will stop the
Ordinary citizens who own guns either must register their weapons, turn them in or face jail time.
And this will affect the I mean, it's worked so well in England, hasn't it? Washington D.C., Chicago...
Proponents of the law, which went into effect this month, see it as a badly needed step toward ridding this country of weapons too easily acquired and too often used to kill.
They always do. It never works. But it cannot be an error in the philosophy, only an incorrect implementation of it. They must do it again, only harder!
Critics call it a misguided attempt that will do little to take guns out of the hands of drug dealers and other violent criminals who build their private arsenals through a flourishing illegal arms trade.
Replace "critics" with "realists" and you'd be bang-on. (No pun intended.)
No one, however, disputes the statistics that have made shooting deaths commonplace in Brazil, where officials say someone is killed by a bullet every 12 minutes — more than 40,000 each year.
Pardon the nit-picking, but killed with a bullet. Killed by a PERSON.
By contrast, the United States, which has 100 million more people, recorded about 30,000 gun deaths in 2001, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And here we have our very first "GOTCHA!"

What you have here is a classic example of mixing statistics for maximum shock effect. What Brazil is experiencing is a massive increase in homicide - specifically homicide by firearm, but homicide nonetheless. Yet what the author just did was compare Brazilian homicide to all American deaths by firearm.

According to the CDC, in 2001 (latest data available) there were 29,573 deaths by firearm in the U.S. Of those 29,573, there were 16,869 suicides, leaving 12,704 homicides and legal interventions. Also according to the CDC, in 2002 Brazil suffered 49,570 homicides, of which 34,085 were committed with firearms and 6,728 were committed with sharp objects.

Brazil has a population of about 175 million compared to our population of about 300 million. Their "sharp-object" homicide rate is about equal to our firearm homicide rate. Think on that as we continue.
"In six years, the U.S. lost 56,000 men in Vietnam. We have almost a Vietnam each year in Brazil," said Antonio Rangel Bandeira of Viva Rio. "I show the figures to people in other places and they say, 'Which country is Brazil at war against?' "
If you want to get right down to it, it's a civil war due to America's demand for illicit drugs. But by all means, beat that "VIETNAM!" meme for everything it's worth.
Debate over stricter gun controls echoes that in U.S.

The debate over stricter gun controls in Brazil echoes that in the U.S. Gun-control advocates here find themselves up against a similarly established culture of gun possession, partly born of a romanticized rough-and-tumble frontier past in which cowboys, rebels and vigilantes helped expand the country's settlements and borders.
Cue "Duelling Banjos" and Clint Eastwood.
The newly tightened rules are the fruits of years of lobbying by gun-control activists, who had been stymied in the past by a powerful domestic firearms industry aided, at times, by the National Rifle Association in the United States. Gun-control advocates credit a new, left-leaning government and growing public anger over crime with shifing the political winds in their favor.
Yes, the NRA, in the pocket of the gun industry, is responsible for all of this murder. You read it here in the LA Times, so it must be true.
Passed by the legislature in December, the law requires background checks for prospective buyers, raises the legal age for gun ownership from 21 to 25, demands that all guns be registered and imposes prison sentences of up to four years for violators.
Again, this will affect the criminals... how? This has worked... where?

This will disarm... whom?

It will disarm the law-abiding - and that is all it will do. It will create a more dependent and less protected population. Nothing else.
Anyone with a criminal record will be denied, but critics note that drug traffickers and organized-crime rings get their stockpiles illegally anyway and thus will not be affected.
Again, replace "critics" with "realists" and you'll be absolutely correct.

Ask the British.
To encourage owners to hand in their weapons instead of simply registering them
(for future confiscation)
the government has set aside $3.3 million for a buy-back program that offers as much as $100 per firearm - more than a month's wage and a considerable sum for poor Brazilians.
Or, conversely, a drop in the pot to drug smugglers. And how many poor Brazilians have a firearm to sell? I mean, most firearms sell used for more than $100, and when the black market really gets started, what'll they be worth? Want to bet we'll see police and military armories getting jacked?
Perhaps most significant, the law calls for a national referendum next year asking voters whether gun sales should be banned.
And, again, this will affect the criminals... how?
Polls show strong public support for such a move.
Well, considering how many poor Brazilians there apparently are, perhaps they believe "If I can't buy one, you can't either."
That dismays Renato Conill, vice president of Forjas Taurus. The company is one of Brazil's largest gun manufacturers, with annual revenue exceeding $40 million through domestic sales and exports to more than 80 countries.
That would be the "evil bloodsucking" company. Guess the editors clipped that part though.
"We don't believe that by restricting honest citizens' access to legal firearms the crime rate will lessen," Conill said. "Legal weapons aren't a cause of crime. ...The disarmament law will simply stimulate the black market."
Said the man who actually grasps the lessons of history.
Before, buying a gun in Brazil was an easy affair. A customer had only to show identification and produce proof of employment to be eligible. Now, potential buyers are subject to more rigorous background checks.
Yes, I'm sure that puts a severe crimp on how drug lords arm their armies.

I can't wait to see them try to explain why the homicide rates don't go down.

But here's an easy explanation: The guns aren't the problem. The drug trade is. Throwing $3.3 million at the gun problem is a complete waste of $3.3 million.

The government's corrupted by drug money.

Law enforcement is corrupted by drug money.

And now the honest people are going to be disarmed and handed on a platter to the predators.

Way to go, Brazil!

"May Have Some Truth"
SOME truth.  Gee, ya THINK?
Today's edition of the Tucson Citizen has this little AP blurb on page B-1:
Bush uranium claim may have some truth
WASHINGTON - It was one of the first signs that the intelligence used to go to war in Iraq was wrong: The White House repudiation of 16 words in last year's State of the Union speech that had suggested Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium in Africa.

Yet even as two recent reports sharply criticized prewar intelligence, they also suggested President Bush's claim may not have been totally off-base.

A British report concluded that Bush's statement and a similar one by Prime Minister Tony Blair were "well-founded." In his speech, Bush had attributed the uranium claim to the British government.

A Senate Intelligence Committee report found inadequate evidence that deposed Iraqi President Saddam had been rebuilding his nuclear weapons program. It cited various reports, however, that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa. Thus, although Bush cited only British evidence that was determined to have been inconclusive, other intelligence files clearly contained other inconclusive evidence of the truth of the claim.
And anybody who can access Instapundit can find every single link they'd ever need to know that it's COMPLETELY TRUE. 
But bloggers aren't journalists.
Another masterpiece from Allapundit:

If a Police Officer Says It, It Must Be True
Very shortly after I started this blog I did a transcript of an NRA piece exposing a case of a police official, in that case Sheriff Ken Jenne of Broward County, Florida, deliberately misleading a CNN reporter concerning "assault weapons." 
Here's another one.
Should gun ban be extended?
The federal law that prohibits the manufacture, sale and possession of semiautomatic assault weapons will expire Sept. 13 unless Congress and President Bush renew the ban.
However, the U.S. House of Representatives has yet to act on a bill to do so, and Congress will recess Friday until after Labor Day.
"I think it’s something to consider," said U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-6th, of West Pikeland. "I want to see what a final bill would look like."
One House bill would provide a straight 10-year extension of the assault weapons ban.  Another measure has been introduced that would outlaw more firearms, said Gerlach. 
He added that Congress could vote on the bill when lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., in September."
Law enforcement feels it’s been effective," said Gerlach, "so that’s good feedback to have."
Last week, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association passed a resolution to encourage Congress to renew the 10-year assault weapons ban that President Clinton signed into law.
East Pikeland Police Chief James Franciscus, who serves as Chester County Police Chiefs Association financial secretary, supports extending the ban.
"If the ban is lifted, people will be able to purchase fully automatic weapons, and they will be able to use those automatic weapons," he said. "  It could jeopardize the lives of the public or police officers or others."
Gee, that's what Ken Jenne implied but did not actually say.  (There's more to the op-ed, but it's the typical boilerplate "HORRORS!" piece.)
I have a question:  Should people so ignorant of the law be police chiefs?   Or, if he actually knows the law and is lying, should people willing to frighten the public with a non-existent boogeyman be in such positions of power? 
I think not.