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

Sunday, October 31, 2004

"Outside the Margin of Lawyer"

Mark Steyn coins a new phrase in his latest Spectator piece:
So my hunch that that first Harris poll is the correct one is only that — a hunch that Bush is ahead outside the margin of error. Unfortunately, on election day, he also has to be ahead outside the margin of lawyer, which is a tougher call.
Read the whole thing.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Well, HELL! Let's Not Just Give Up, Let's Help Pull It All Down!

Another fisk, this time of a whiny Leftist from an op-ed in the (People's Republic of) Austin Chronicle.

Welcome to the Situation


The administrations of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as the candidacies of John Kerry and Ralph Nader, all relate to what may be called the Situation – a Situation that they have not and will never discuss frankly. Which is not entirely their fault. Whatever mix of ambition, self-deception, and fear that each must struggle with – for they are merely human and we all struggle with such weaknesses – they also know that Americans of the left as well as the right are an immature people hell-bent on remaining immature.
With the glaring exception of the mature, intelligent, thoughtful Left who know what's best for us and want to make sure we get it - good and hard. I love writers who condescend to their audience. (Psst! You know that, because you're reading this, you're not an immature boob! You're one of us! The ELITE!)

The mass media market immaturity so successfully because Americans crave immaturity on a mass scale. Most of our entertainment and fashion, as well as the presentation of most news, and virtually all our phenomenally effective advertising, assumes that one must not treat Americans as adults – and America eats up such condescension manically, if not happily.
And who is it that runs the "entertainment and fashion" industry? Not to mention the overwhelming majority of newsrooms? The Left, is it not?

No one can hope to lead by confronting the Situation honestly and directly. So each concocts his own brand of gibberishy cant, shaded to his constituency, and hopes his rap will give him enough cover to deal with the Situation as he sees fit. And the Situation is this:

The great days of the United States of America are over. Nothing will bring those days back. It's too late. The damage has been done. There is no possible political, military, or economic solution. The general prosperity of the Fifties and Sixties (as opposed to the one-sided prosperity of the Nineties) is irretrievable. The capacity of the U.S. to lead the world has been drained.
Thank you Jimmah Carter. You can leave now. What? You have more to say? Oh well...

The only question is how America will decline – gracefully, clumsily, or tragically? Will we decline with our Constitution intact? Will our decline make us more tolerant and interesting, or meaner and more dulled? Britain declined drastically between 1914 and 1950, yet still produced great literature and a leader of the caliber of Winston Churchill. France declined just as badly, yet still had the cultural power to produce influential art and philosophy.
Our Constitution has been under constant assault - primarily from the Left - since the beginning of the 20th Century. The Bill of Rights is in tatters from that and from the Right's War on (some) Drugs™. Don't make me laugh at your contention that the Constitution is important to someone who expresses ideas like this.

Britain started going to hell as soon as they started destroying the personal liberties of their subjects with socialism. France suffered greatly from that as well. Note, also, that France can't build a functional aircraft carrier. But hey, check out that haute couture! France as a role model? To hell with that!

Europe as a whole declined during the 20th century, but retained the intellectual vitality to reinvent itself for the 21st and become another kind of power.
Europe depended on the U.S.A. to defend them, and then spent the money they'd otherwise have needed for defense on socialist programs to keep their people fat, dumb, and happy. And they "declined" while doing so. Their birthrates went to hell, and they're now being overrun by immigrants willing to do work their natives find beneath them. We're suffering from a bit of that ourselves, I admit, but not to the same extent. Their unions won concessions their economies can no longer support. USA, ditto. Europe isn't close to bottoming out, but just wait until France is predominately Muslim. Want to bet they'll still "produce influential art and philosophy"? "Another kind of power?" What kind of power is Europe? It's predominately corrupt and weak. They have essentially no power at all, and want only to hamstring America because we are no longer opposed by the Soviet Bear. Their power is in flapping their gums and wringing their hands, for the most part.

How will America decline? At this moment in history, that is the important question: How will America decline?
Only if you're a Leftist.

Look briefly at some specifics of the Situation:

China has become a manufacturing colossus while our factories are gone or going, for keeps.
Manufacturing is driven by labor costs. Unions and our general level of prosperity dictate that our labor cost will be higher than underdeveloped nations. Japan is losing manufacturing jobs too, for the same reason. Prosperity means higher wages. Globalization means exporting jobs that can be done inexpensively elsewhere.

It's simple economics. Why do people have such a hard time understanding that?

Our agriculture is on welfare: 18% of U.S. farm income comes from government subsidies; what happens to U.S. agriculture when we're too broke to sustain such subsidies?
Jesus! Agriculture is the "third rail" of government and has been since time immemorial. Nobody on the Left or the Right has the ability to defeat each year's multi-billion dollar "Farm Bill" that rightly should go out the window. And if they did, the Left would be screaming about how we'd be destroying the "family farm." You don't get it both ways.

China invests vast sums a year in its infrastructure, on all levels, from cultural and educational institutions to grand construction projects;
That's because China has relatively little in the way of such infrastructure. It's a COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP. They're starting from zero.

we're spending comparable sums futilely in Iraq while our infrastructure, on all levels, crumbles.
To paraphrase: "Liberating 50 million people and initiating democratic government in the Middle East is TOO EXPENSIVE!"

Goddamit, it's NOT FUTILE.
We're fighting for oil in the Middle East; China is in negotiation with Russia to have oil piped through its backdoor – while, through its front door, it has a sweet deal with Australia for natural gas (while we spend millions "defending" Australia against – China!).
Right. We're fighting for oil. I haven't notice the price at the pump coming down, have you?

In a third-degree-removed way, yes, we're in the Middle East because that's where the oil is - the oil our economy and way of life depends on. We'd buy it from others (and will, when they develop it), but we're in the Middle East now because Radical Islam has spawned people who want to kill us and have demonstrated some capability of it. Oil is secondary at best.

We've allowed our corporations to become non-national entities. Not only are they financing the rise of China, moving our manufacturing to China or to its sphere of influence, but through off-shore tax havens and the like these so-called American businesses contribute next to nothing to the only entity empowered to ensure our domestic tranquility: the federal government.
Wait a minute - weren't you just praising China's massive investment in its infrastructure? And this is being paid for by evil corporations? Well, whaddaya know! They're actually good for something! See what happens when you try taxing them into submission? They move offshore and do business in other countries! Imagine that! And whose idea was it to punitively tax big corporations to fund the Federal Government? The Left, was it not? We've "allowed our corporations to become non-national entities"? As opposed to what? Regulating them to death?

As to our heavily indebted federal government, its solvency is now supported mostly by Asians buying our bonds. Why do they buy our bonds? Because the American consumer is still the engine of world prosperity. How is this possible? Because of credit cards and the like. Without the American way of credit, we'd be in a depression.
And without the American way of credit, our economy would never have become the powerhouse it is. Everything's a tradeoff.

The paramount fact: The United States (as opposed to its nominally American corporations, which demonstrate no allegiance) is now important economically only because of its citizens' consumption.
You're forgetting our overly-subsidized agriculture. Turn that off and see how important we are.

That consumption is fated to decline while in the near future – maybe five years, maybe 10 – China will prosper enough for its 1.3 billion citizens to become significant consumers.
And their wages will go up, and Durkadurkastan will start getting an influx of manufacturing plants there to take advantage of cheap labor. And Chinese workers will bitch about "outsourcing."

There are so many of them that they don't have to consume as much as we do to become the world's economic engine; if, individually, they consume merely one-fifth of what we do, they will surpass us in buying power. When that happens, China and Southern Asia can support their own growth and will have no more use for us. Then they need not defeat us militarily. They have merely to stop buying our bonds. Or even to threaten to stop buying our bonds. America will have the choice of being either severely destitute or following China's lead – perhaps both! That is the Situation.
Quite possibly. If we stop inventing - the one thing America does better than anywhere else.

To cope with the Situation, each of the five men mentioned in the first sentence of this column has had, beneath his pointless rhetoric, a plan.

George H.W. Bush tried to proclaim a "new world order." The U.S. still had enough credibility, manufacturing clout, and consumer strength to lead and control the big changes that were afoot – or so Bush the First hoped. He temporarily secured both our oil dominance and our world leadership. But he couldn't be honest with our childish voters about the Situation, so he was accused of not having the "vision thing," though in fact he did. He lost his moment and his momentum, and America lost its last chance at dominance. (Do not take this to mean that I approved his policies. He sold out the American worker in order to retain American world clout. I'd rather we not be dominant. I'd rather we grow up.)
"I'd rather we not be dominant." No, you'd rather we be France. Thanks for making that even more clear.

Bill Clinton knew the score. He opted for a relatively soft landing. His plan: Let the corporations have whatever they want – given the makeup of Congress and the immaturity of the American voter, they'd get it anyway (so his thinking went); serve big business, but keep the American way of life more or less viable. Thus his priority was to balance the budget. I hate the way he balanced it; for instance, with a double-digit lead in the polls in '96 he cut school lunches for impoverished children to appease the right. Clinton knew that our middle class is small-of-heart and run by fear, and that they care nothing for the suffering of others as long as they're taken care of. He balanced their budget. But say this for him: His goal was that America decline gracefully, retaining most freedoms and some privileges. With a balanced budget America wouldn't be beholden to creditors, and would retain its agriculture and much of its powerful consumer value. China would dominate the 21st century, but would still need the U.S. as a junior partner, as the U.S. needed Western Europe in the last half of the 20th century. With their combined power, China and America could stabilize the world. So Clinton hoped. Not an entirely ignoble plan.
From an entirely ignoble man? What a backhanded compliment! No wonder I disliked Clinton so much! He wanted us to decline gracefully! How good of him! He was doing a helluva job at it.

George W. Bush sees things differently: America may be lost, but the American elite must still call the shots on the world stage. Screw the middle class as well as the poor, bankrupt the government long-term for power short-term. His goal: a military solution. A missile shield would allow us to dictate to China and Europe; even a fake missile shield might be a playing card. Find any excuse to root the American military in the Middle East. Its oil would be under our command, while a poorer America would swell the ranks of our "volunteer" forces. Gut the Constitution's checks and balances, for belief in raw power admits no checks and balances. Iraq is a mess? Inconvenient, but ultimately it doesn't matter as long as the American military is committed to the Mideast. That keeps everybody off balance. With everything so crazy, China will hesitate, Europe will hesitate, and the American elite will have enough time to move entirely off-shore, and then – screw America too, who needs it? How will America decline in the Bush plan? Precipitously, but the elite will still be the elite. That's all Bush cares about.
Ok, now wipe the foam from your lips and back away from the word processor.

Try to understand this: George W. Bush is an optimist. Like Reagan before him, he doesn't see America as a defeated, decaying nation, but one in the midst of change - one from which we will emerge, as we tend to do when lead by people of optimism, stronger. Jimmy Carter told us all the crap you're telling us. Reagan told us different. Reagan was right. Bush is too.

Ralph Nader says to the Situation: "End corporate welfare!" His stance was barely viable in '96, when I voted for him, but now it's '04 and the damage has been done. Corporations don't need us anymore, yea or nay. Their profits are ultimately Chinese. Nader can't fix that. His plan is politically unfeasible and economically outdated.
So, you voted for Nadir? That explains a lot. All that "corporate" money goes somewhere. And those corporations have a lot of American employees, too. Why must the Left see economics as a zero-sum game? "Ending corporate welfare" results in those corporations moving offshore - the thing you spent the first part of this screed decrying. What you're asking the Big Evil Corporations to do is stand perfectly still while you kill them for being productive.

And John Kerry – he's like one of those damaged but functioning Mars landers. Clinton's soft landing is no longer possible, but bumpy is better than a crash. Given the Situation, make things as bearable as possible. That's Kerry's real policy: Salvage what's salvageable. His goal is straight from Mars: a damaged but functional landing. It won't be pretty but it might work, and when all is said and done we might yet have a functioning Constitution. With that, we can pick up the pieces of what's left of America. Which is still something worth fighting and voting for.
There you go: Vote for Kerry! He'll make us as relevant as France!

I don't fucking think so. We've got our problems (and Leftists are a great big one), but we're not finished yet. The Left has not yet destroyed us, try as they might.

And if there's any justice in the world, on November 3 the Left will find that out. In spades.
I've Found My Jack-O-Lantern!

Via Instapundit:

"Ungovernable by Christmas" ???

Francis Porretto also reads one of my daily stops, Ravenwood's Universe. Well, today Ravenwood wrote something that disturbed Francis.
While a Kerry victory on Tuesday scares the hell out of me, I cannot wait for this whole thing to be over. I realize that neither a Kerry victory nor Bush victory will end the polarization. But I still just want to get back to living a normal life, where I'm not ostracized by those I care most about, for my 'wacky' political beliefs.
(Read the whole post, though.) Francis commented:
As was said in these pages once before, politics is an acceptable substitute for bloodshed only if the contending parties can accept its verdict and return to amity, regardless of who “wins” and who “loses.” But this appears not to be the case now. Recently, ace political reporter John Fund quoted an unnamed Democratic consultant as saying:
Democrats will protest and fight so strongly that Bush won’t have a win even if he wins. We will obstruct so much that this country will be ungovernable by Christmas.
Oh. Joy.

I thought we'd pretty much beat this discussion into the ground a couple of months back in that grand three-way discussion between myself, Ironbear, and Jed Baer. However, none of us actually bothered to ask any Democrat consultants. Apparently we forgot that reason and logic don't have much to do with this.

So, maybe I was wrong. I don't think so, because I don't think there's enough of the moonbat wing of the Democrat party to carry it off, but I might be in error. Perhaps there is enough division and hatred out there to instigate a civil war.

Francis advises "keep your powder dry."

Let me be more blunt: Fuck 'em. We're the ones with the guns.
More on Self-Defense in England

The argument that, like abortion, never stops. I had a multi-month argument discussion with Australian blogger Tim Lambert over self-defense (more accurately, justifiable violence), and just last week I linked to a London Sunday Telegraph op-ed that advocated changing the law to "to give householders the right to use whatever force is necessary against intruders." Well, Samizdata has an interesting post up on the topic, and I strongly recommend that you read through the comments, too.

"England can do it, Australia can do it, WE CAN TOO!" - chanted at the original (nowhere near) Million Mom March.

Not hardly, ladies. Not hardly.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Sweet Bleeding Jeebus!

Found on tonight, I had to share this little GIF:

Is that accurate, or what?
Stealing Shamelessly...

Perusing Serenity's Journal tonight I found a poem she'd been sent, and as that poem reflects a recurring theme in this blog - the difference between violent and predatory vs. violent but protective - I'm going to steal it and reproduce it here.

(BTW, I've met the young lady and had an interesting person-to-person conversation with her at the du Toit's 9/11 get together. Very enjoyable encounter!)

Thanks, Serenity!

The Sheepdogs

Most humans truly are like sheep
Wanting nothing more than peace to keep
To graze, grow fat and raise their young,
Sweet taste of clover on the tongue.
Their lives serene upon Life’s farm,
They sense no threat nor fear no harm.
On verdant meadows, they forage free
With naught to fear, with naught to flee.
They pay their sheepdogs little heed
For there is no threat; there is no need.

To the flock, sheepdog’s are mysteries,
Roaming watchful round the peripheries.
These fang-toothed creatures bark, they roar
With the fetid reek of the carnivore,
Too like the wolf of legends told,
To be amongst our docile fold.
Who needs sheepdogs? What good are they?
They have no use, not in this day.
Lock them away, out of our sight
We have no need of their fierce might.

But sudden in their midst a beast
Has come to kill, has come to feast
The wolves attack; they give no warning
Upon that calm September morning
They slash and kill with frenzied glee
Their passive helpless enemy
Who had no clue the wolves were there
Far roaming from their Eastern lair.
Then from the carnage, from the rout,
Comes the cry, “Turn the sheepdogs out!”

Thus is our nature but too our plight
To keep our dogs on leashes tight
And live a life of illusive bliss
Hearing not the beast, his growl, his hiss.
Until he has us by the throat,
We pay no heed; we take no note.
Not until he strikes us at our core
Will we unleash the Dogs of War
Only having felt the wolf pack’s wrath
Do we loose the sheepdogs on its path.

And the wolves will learn what we’ve shown before;
We love our sheep, we Dogs of War.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66
It's All Over but the Lawsuits

I voted today. Arizona has early voting through Friday, 10/29. There's a real chance that I might be sent out of town on election day on a service call, and I missed the deadline for an absentee ballot (I was out of town, on a service call, when that deadline expired). However, I found out about the early voting option, and there's a polling place just a stone's throw (err... bad metaphor) from where I live. So, bright and early this morning (an hour after I'm normally in my office) I lined up in front of the polling place, and at 8:05AM I presented my voter registration card, got my ballot, and voted.

Now on Tuesday I don't have to stand in line with a bunch of Kerry supporters.

Whoopee. Can't wait for Wednesday.
"You can never do only one thing"

Francis Porretto has written another of his excellent essays, this time illustrating the (small "L") libertarian position on the War on (some) Drugs™. Entitled Consensus And Constitutional Order, Part Six: Look To Your Margins! it's worth your time. And while you're at it, read my own take on the topic, It is Not the Business of Government from almost precisely a year ago.

Pardon the light blogging, but like I said earlier, I've been busy. And besides, I'm trying to catch up on my reading.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

John C. Dvorak, PC Magazine's Resident Luddite

Hat tip to Michelle for the link, since I stopped reading PC Magazine a long time ago.

Apparently PC Magazine contributor and opinion columnist John C. Dvorak has an ongoing problem with blogs and bloggers. As they say, those who forget history are destined to be run over by it.

Let us fisk:
The Zeros vs. the Ones

By John C. Dvorak

After witnessing the latest Presidential election process, it's apparent to me that the Internet is turning into a bad dream. Nobody wants to admit it, but the Web's natural ability to remove normal interpersonal structures that prevent society from falling into chaos is not a benefit to anyone. Information revolution notwithstanding, the Internet will prove to be the undoing of society and civilization as we know it. It may not happen today, but it will happen sooner than we think.
I believe similar pronouncements were made after the invention of the printing press, the radio, and the television. Each has undoubtedly caused massive change, but hardly resulted in "falling into chaos," John.

It is the change I think you fear, because the voices of the hoi polloi now have a place to be heard, and the Anointed, such as yourself, can be called to task without filtration through the editoral process. Our "letters to the editor" no longer have to pass your scrutiny.
Just look at politics. Thanks to the Net and the so-called New Media, the entire political scene has become one massive virtual Hyde Park corner filled with kvetching, squabbling bores.
Newsflash: We've been there long before there was any electronic media. Blogs haven't changed that, just made it a bit louder.
In the process, the dichotomous nature of binary communication has imposed itself on the public, forming two collectives with opposing and very rigid viewpoints. Call them the Ones and the Zeros: the conservatives and the liberals. Because of the Internet, these two crowds—or mobs—are each growing in size and becoming increasingly intolerant of the other. Since none of the purely liberal or conservative political parties are taken seriously in the U.S., these mobs have latched on to the major parties and hijacked them.
Right. We've never been this divided, this polarized before.

Remember the Civil War?
The best example of this is the recent sniping over the fabled George Bush memos in which he was told to take a military physical in 1972. It seemed as if the letter could not have been written on a 1972 typewriter but was some sort of hoax. The two political beehives swarmed over this, making all sorts of accusations against anyone who even suggested that their side might be wrong. The untenable Democratic position (which was the weaker) managed to save face by accusing Karl Rove of setting them up. As I was reading all this, I thought to myself, "So he was asked to take a physical. Who cares?" There were other documents, of course, but it was an eye roller to everyone except the Zeros and Ones, whose ranks continue to grow.
But you weren't thinking "A major news outlet was willing to use obvious forgeries in an attempt to influence the election?" We certainly were. You weren't the least bit affected by the fact that CBS was shameless enough to defend those forgeries as "fake but accurate"?

Methinks you (deliberately) missed the crucial issue. And the power of the blogs to illuminate it and bring it to a much, much wider audience. No, you're carping because Memogate illustrated, with great fireworks, that the "journalists" are no longer the gatekeepers of information.
Rather than benefit from intelligent debate, the public is subjected to a lot of bickering fanned by the Internet. I used to think that everyone was entitled to his opinion, but no longer.
And you, of course, are one of the Annointed who has the inherent power to decide who is and who is not entitled to have, much less express an opinion, right? That's implicit in that statement, John. You see it as your job to give an opinion to those not so entitled. Those YOU select as being unworthy.
Most opinions are worthless. As a culture, we are trained never to believe or say that opinions are worthless. For some reason, opinions are supposed to be revered because, uh, well, it's free speech! (No letters, please.)
Too late. I'm blogging my response.

Go ahead and hate me. I don't give a damn about your worthless opinion.
I'm not suggesting that because most opinions stink they should be censored in order for us all to think a certain way.
No? Sure sounds that way.
Rather, thanks to the Internet, we are confronted with too many opinions from too many people—a large number of whom are seriously disturbed or feebleminded. Before the Internet, these opinions would have been handed out in leaflet form to just a few people unlucky enough to bump into their purveyors. But now they're on the Net, accompanied by miles of commentary written by people who are frustrated pamphleteers themselves.
So, you're saying that the internet forces people to be exposed to stinky opinions? What, you don't have a "Back" button on your browser? Some mechanism binds you immobile to your chair and forces your eyelids open, "A Clockwork Orange" style, so that you cannot look away?

You could throw the leaflets away, John. You can click on through those sites that express stinky opinions with even greater ease.

So some bloggers are "frustrated paphleteers," so what? If they write well and cogently, they draw an audience. If they don't, they won't. It's called the free market of ideas.

And you object to it because everybody has access to it now, not just the Elite Journalists.

Don't like it that some of us amateurs do for fun what you do for a living, and often do it better? Don't like it that we now know that what you do for a living doesn't require anything more than a knowledge of the subject and an ability to write? Don't like it that we can fact-check and criticize and be heard?

That's sour grapes, John. You're just another member of the Holy Church of Journalism objecting to the peasants getting their hands on Bibles printed in the vernacular. Your power is diminishing due to the Information Revolution. We've been there and done that in history before. It's just your turn now.
Almost everyone on the Net is anonymous.
Oh horseshit. Anonymity is damned near impossible. Because of the Information Revolution, anonymity is one of the hardest things to maintain, and if you're an influential blogger, it's almost assured you'll be exposed. A LOT of bloggers use our own names, and give out more personal information that YOU do, John. (If that's your real name.)
When you see someone on the street handing out a flyer, it is usually not hard to determine whether he or she is a lunatic. Not so with the haughty blogger who, by hiding behind a good online template, is actually taken seriously. A blogger who stays hidden long enough may even become famous. I know, not every blogger is a whack job—but that's the point. How can you tell?
You read their words. You read their links. You read other people's responses and comments. And you make up your own mind.

Rather than, say, reading the New York Times and accepting every word as gospel because, well, it's "the paper of record." Or watching 60 Minutes II and believing the memo "evidence" must be real, because Dan Rather said so!.

Hard to tell just who's a lunatic these days? On the contrary. It's easier and easier every day, because of the Information Revolution. Wake up and smell the coffee, John.
Saying from behind a false identity what one otherwise wouldn't dare say is a practice that began long ago, and blogging has just made it worse. I first noticed it with alter egos cropping up in e-mail, newsgroups, and especially online chat rooms, where true dweebs are suddenly transformed into Don Juans. The persona thing sometimes goes into new dimensions as boys are turned into men, men pretend to be women, and women turn into sex fiends. Just keep the lights turned off.
You're talking about email, newsgroups and chat rooms now, John. I thought this column was about BLOGS. Blogs can be journalism. Email, newsgroups and chatrooms are not, or are at least far more difficult to use as sources. Blogs provide for review, fact-checking, and comment. With email, newsgroups and chatrooms it is far more difficult. Apples and oranges.
Blogs are now the easiest way to remake oneself, as the tools for their creation are fantastic and easy to use. They have emboldened a lot of otherwise shy people. This is the New Media at work, creating false personas that are pumped up by other phonies. Under the right circumstances, virtual lynch mobs emerge like swarms of locusts—individual bugs may be easy to squish, but a swarm is dangerous. I think these online mobs, where one or two troublemakers rile up the frustrated, are just as dangerous.
This, I admit, is a possibility. It's one of those unexpected consequences of any new technology. I don't think anybody considered the ramifications of publishing the Bible in lay language, either. But the question here is "do you or don't you trust the people." I do. You apparently don't. After all, the majority of their opinions stink, in your opinion.

It is good to know where you stand.
If it were up to me, I'd shut down the Net tomorrow and make people get out of the house and mingle.
Like I said, good to know where you stand. I'm glad you're not running for Emperor. We might have to form a virtual lynch mob.
By the time the liberal and conservative extremes, incensed by blog-driven blather, leave the house, it will be as two swarms of locusts hell-bent on revolution—or on battling each other: The Zeros versus the Ones.
Actually, we've already discussed the probablility of that happening here on the blogs.

Our opinion is: It won't happen. Some rioting, some domestic terrorism, that's all. The extremes just aren't that numerous.

You overestimate the power of the blogs, and underestimate the intelligence of their audience.

But then, that's why you're one of the Anointed, and believe you know what's best for us peons. And I, for one, am glad your influence is waning.
This is What Propaganda Is

The New York Times, by "reporting" the "disappearance" of 380 tons of high-explosives from Qa Qaa has thrown up a new "talking point." Never mind that there were already over 600,000 tons of munitions scattered in ammo dumps throughout the country. Never mind that the IEDs used by the insurgents terrorists are mostly made from artillery shells and land mines. No, this story is about one thing and one thing only: unseating George W. Bush. And the lackeys in the editorial cartoon department hop unthinkingly on the bandwagon, as usual:

Duane Powell, Raleigh's News & Observer

Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News

Rex Babin, The Sacramento Bee

The normally thoughtful Robert Arial, of South Carolina's The State

Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer

Don Wright of the Palm Beach (FL) Post

Bill Schorr, of United Media

And, finally

Sandy Huffaker, currently freelance.

Sandy obviously doesn't read anything other than the mainstream media, or he'd know that "ALL BAD!" is an outright lie. He obviously doesn't know anyone with family stationed in Iraq, o he'd know "ALL BAD!" is an outright lie.

But that's what propaganda is.

And this is why it works.

And this is why the internet and the blogosphere is so crucial. Something, finally, must counterbalance the media's ability to spin, twist, fold, distort, mutilate and spindle the news.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Light Blogging Alert

Just a warning. I won't be posting much for a bit. Probably not until after the election. I'm swamped at work and too tired to crank out those 2,500 word fisks, much less spend the face-time necessary to look up idiocy to whup up on.

However, on Sunday I found a series of articles in the Albany Times-Union on gun control in New York (by the ironically named journalist Jordan Carleo-Evangelist) that I thought y'all might find interesting. I had planned on commenting extensively on these pieces, but I think I'll just let them be. Read 'em and discuss amongst yourselves:

Guns and crime: the great debate


For decades, some states have tried to fight gun violence by a variety of laws restricting gun buying and ownership. Yet homicides involving firearms remain the nation's second leading cause of violent death, trailing only suicides involving guns.

That experience has led to a growing body of research that suggests the relationship between gun-control laws and gun crime is at best unclear. The most promising solutions to gun violence, say some researchers, may have little to do with passing new gun laws.

Cop's slaying spotlights challenges of gun control


The handgun used to fatally wound Albany Police Lt. John Finn last December presents a lesson in the complexity -- and perhaps the futility -- of New York's gun control laws.

Keshon Everett, who has since pleaded guilty to murder, was on federal probation for a felony drug conviction when he shot Finn three times on Dec. 23. He used a gun purchased in Ohio more than a decade ago.

Gun permit rules open to interpretation


The U.S. Air Force trained Maj. Dave Panzera how to fire machine guns, and has certified him to carry a gun at work since 1985. Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas all let him carry a pistol anywhere he went, issuing a concealed weapon permit in no time at all.

But New York was different. Despite his military service and training, the 38-year-old father of five had to prove to this state that he's an upstanding citizen before he could have a gun.

Programs, activism target gun crimes


"The Weed and Seed model has not failed," insisted Richard Ortiz, the Buffalo Police Department's chief for administration. "We have to be creative because we can no longer do things on overtime."

One lesson learned from the program, Mestre said, is that gun violence can be reduced without passing new gun laws.

"The folks who have these guns are not paying attention to any laws. What they're paying attention to is enforcement -- whether they're being prosecuted," he said.

Politics, paranoia fuel war of words over guns


School shootings are rare. Disarming drug dealers would save more lives than banning certain types of guns or making it harder for otherwise law-abiding people to own one, they said.

The panel identified promising strategies to reduce gun violence that appeared to be working in Buffalo, New York City and other places. The programs encourage citizens to get involved in community improvement while police step up efforts to seize illegal weapons from known criminals.

Following that strategy, Lizotte said, New York City cut homicides from 2,245 in 1990 to 598 in 2003.

"No new laws were passed," he said. "New York is the shining example that something can happen while enforcing existing laws."

Via fellow Tucson blogger Cowboy Blob comes this first-hand story of combat medicine in Iraq. READ IT.

We get to the dust-off point. We get him out of the vehicle, I and a staff sergeant from CA sit with him, and I am assessing him in my head, trying to figure out what is wrong with him. He can't lay down because too much blood is going down his throat. Probably too much blood getting into his airways, keep him upright. Urgent Surgical, Lacerations to the face, possible loss of eyesight, lacerations left and right shoulder, shrapnel entrance wounds, scrape left leg. I am cutting away his uniform with a knife he gave me. Exposing his wounds, seeing how bad it might be. Other than on his face, none are terribly serious. His face scares the shit out of me. Out of my mouth are constant comfort and jokes and bullshit and anything I can think of. I am even telling him not to worry and telling him what I see. He is drowning I am describing the water.
Helluva piece.

Monday, October 25, 2004

While the Mercury Appears to be Falling, a Snowball Still Won't Survive Hell

But perhaps, just perhaps, the Brits are beginning to grasp what their laws have brought them to. Via I found this London Sunday Telegraph op-ed advocating "the law to be changed to give householders the right to use whatever force is necessary against intruders."

Here's the piece:

'People must be given the right to defend themselves in their own homes'
(Filed: 24/10/2004)

The Sunday Telegraph today launches a campaign for the law to be changed to give householders the right to use whatever force is necessary against intruders.

Our initiative follows last week's fatal stabbing of Robert Symons, a schoolteacher, who disturbed a burglar at his family home in Chiswick, west London.

It is backed by Mr Symons' mother, Amyra, who said yesterday: "I agree with your campaign totally. The law must be changed." Victims of crime, MPs and victims' charities are also supporting the campaign.

The law permits the use of "reasonable force" as a method of self-defence against intruders. What "reasonable force" constitutes, however, is difficult to define, leaving vulnerable people unsure of what force they can use to protect themselves and their homes. The Home Office, admitted to this newspaper last week: "There is no definition of what is 'reasonable force'."
This produces that "chilling effect" that Tim Lambert finally grudgingly admitted to after months of back-and-forth discussions over the legal risks of self-defense in England. If you don't know what the definition of "reasonable force" is, but you know that if you use any significant force, you're going to court to prove it was "reasonable" - to a group that gets to use perfect hindsight in reviewing your actions and that can decide your fate based on that vague law. In fact, according to one English barrister I quoted previously:
"The law," explains Harry Potter, the barrister who, with Charles Bott, would defend Osborn, "does not require the intention to kill for a prosecution for murder to succeed. All that is required is an intention to cause serious bodily harm. That intention can be fleeting and momentary. But if it is there in any form at all for just a second - that is, if the blow you struck was deliberate rather than accidental - you can be guilty of murder and spend the rest of your life in prison."Moreover," Mr Potter continues, "while self-defence is a complete defence to a charge of murder, the Court of Appeal has ruled that if the force you use is not judged to have been reasonable - if a jury, that is, decides it was disproportionate - then you are guilty of murder. A conviction for murder automatically triggers the mandatory life sentence. There are no exceptions."
Now, if an intruder is in my home, I would intend to use a level of violence necessary to render him no longer a threat. I would do so deliberately - and by Mr. Potter's definition, that would mean that I would attempt murder, and would therefore face the wrath of the State for doing so.

Yet Tim insists that "self defence is legal."

I guess it depends on the whim of the Crown and the depths of your pockets.

The Sunday Telegraph believes that the law must be changed so that once intruders enter someone's home with the intent of stealing, or raping or assaulting them, they lose their rights to protection from the law.

Here are some of the harrowing stories of people attacked and robbed in their homes, and who support the move to change the law.

Sam and Eleanor Orr, of County Antrim

Mr and Mrs Orr were at home in November 2003, with Eleanor's 86-year-old mother Elizabeth at their farm in Co Antrim when three masked men burst into their house. The men pistol-whipped Sam and pushed Eleanor and her mother to the floor.

The thugs were particularly rough with Elizabeth as they tried violently to wrestle the gold rings from her arthritic and swollen fingers. She has since died.

Sam, 60, recalled last week: "They stood over us and kept hitting me on the head, there was blood washing down my face so I couldn't see out of one eye.

"It feels like there is no law at all to protect us. If the boys were caught, which they weren't, they would have been given a few months and then been let back out again. You should be able to shoot them if they come into your home.

"Eleanor's mother never recovered from the stress of the attack and we are convinced that is what killed her.

"The law just isn't strong enough. The robbers aren't frightened of the law, they act as if they can do whatever they want to do. You should not be prosecuted for injuring an intruder."
Actually, the problem is that the law is too strong - it prevents people from defending themselves, protecting the thugs in the process. They act as if they can do whatever they want to do because they can, by and large, and they know you will be prosecuted if you defend yourself.
John Bolt OBE, a retired Royal Marine, of Northumberland

Mr Bolt, 81, who served in the Second World War, was stabbed twice by an intruder at his Northumberland home in February 2001. Mr Bolt was upstairs with his wife when they heard a noise.

He went to investigate and was confronted by a burglar armed with a knife. The two struggled and the thief stabbed Mr Bolt twice before fleeing through a window.

"The chap had a knife and so I was entitled to have a go at him. I think, in law, if he's got a knife, I think I'm entitled to kill him, but I don't know what the law is in detail.
Because no one does. It apparently varies by jurisdiction and judge.
"It is a funny thing to try and manage with the law because your reaction in those situations is immediate - you don't stop and think: 'Gosh, what does it say in the book about this?'
Yet, as the law is written, you aren't supposed to have to. What you believe at that moment - right or wrong - is supposed to be the deciding factor. But it's not. Instead, others deciding with calm reflection, months after the incident and with all the pertinent facts at hand are supposed to decide if what you did was "reasonable."

When, at the time, you aren't able to reason much, just act. Or not.
"I'm an ex-Royal Marine so my reaction was quite active and wholly motivated by self preservation. I would certainly have tried to finish him off if I had something in my hand at the time, but that is a reaction, an instinct. Whether it is legal or not I don't know."
Quite probably not, but again it seems to vary by jurisdiction and judge.

Comforting, no?
Major Roderick Petley and his wife Victoria, 62, of East Sussex

The Petleys, who live near Heathfield, East Sussex, were woken by burglars who broke into their home in the middle of the night earlier this year.

Major Petley, 71, an officer in the Rifle Brigade (now the Royal Green Jackets) from 1952 to 1964, said: "When we were burgled, I went downstairs with a loaded rifle, but they had fled.

"What happened to us has toughened me up a bit. What happened to that man in Chiswick is absolutely awful."

The burglars smashed a plate glass window with a battering ram, smashing coffee cups and saucers worth £1,000. They escaped with Major Petley's £3,500 bracket clock in the back of their van.

The Petleys have been forced to spend more than £32,000 on home security improvements, while their annual home insurance premium has risen to £8,000.

Mrs Petley, 62, said: "It's a nightmare. The police know who did it, but can't catch them.

"No longer is an Englishman's home his castle. We are denied the right to defend ourselves and our family, and the law must be changed."
I wish you luck, but I doubt seriously that you'll live to see it.
Anonymous couple, of East Sussex

The elderly couple, who live near Heathfield have been burgled twice this year, in June and August. They are now trying to sell their house and move to a "more secure" area.

The man, an 83-year-old former insurance broker, and his wife, 69, were in their house during both burglaries, although they escaped harm by staying in their bedroom. They used to enjoy having their 10 grandchildren to stay, but are now too frightened to have them there.

"The present law stands justice on its head," the man said. "If you can't defend your home, what can you do? Both times I have woken and heard burglars in the house, I have felt angry and afraid but have had to leave them to it.
And why? Because he believes (and with reason) that defending his property would land him in jail.

There's that "chilling effect" again.
"One does worry about what one would do if they came into the bedroom. I don't know what I could do. I wouldn't have much hope.
And why? Because this couple is disarmed, while the burglars aren't. An elderly couple isn't much of a match for young men, much less young men carrying, say, a crowbar or a knife. This is the condition in which a firearm and only a firearm will make the victim at least equal to the assailant(s).

But you just can't convince some people of that.
"I would like burglars to expect the worst. It would make a difference. Something to drop on his head or give him a electric shock should be sufficient. These aren't things you can do, as the law is now.
And this is the mental attitude that will prevent, I think, the Brits from ever retaking their right to self defense. "The worst" isn't a knock on the head or an electric shock. It's a sucking chest wound or worse.
"The definition of 'reasonable force' should be broader. The burglar should expect anything. A change in the law would, undoubtedly, have an effect on our decision to go or stay."
Then I suggest you start packing.
Crispin Reed, a website developer, of East London

Mr Reed, 27, was confronted by two burglars at his warehouse flat in Hackney in February last year.

A kitchen knife was held to his throat and his stomach was slashed before the intruders fled with a bicycle, mobile telephone and camera equipment.
Note that all the anti-weapon laws on the books in England didn't prevent Mr. Reed from being knifed in his own home. They didn't disarm his attackers. They disarmed the victim.

And that's all they ever do.
"There was a knocking early one morning. I was half-asleep and I thought it was the postman. When I opened it, two men in their early twenties were standing there. They mumbled something about wanting to buy crack and barged in.

"There were four of us in the flat and I shouted for everyone to get up - I thought that together we could fight them off. But the man holding the knife to my throat told me to be quiet or he would cut me.

"The other one swiped his knife against my stomach. Fortunately I had moved back and the cut wasn't deep, but it was a 5in long cut and it bled a lot.

"At the time this happened my sister Hanna was staying with me and she was terrified - she hasn't been back here to stay since.

"What made me really angry was that one of them said, in a mocking voice, 'You are allowed to defend yourself, you know'. But I was panicked and confused.
The thugs obviously know the law... to the letter. And they like it just the way it is.
"I didn't know what to do or what I should do. To be honest, I'm still not sure where the law stands. Now I keep a rounders bat and a crowbar by the front door. If something like this happens again I will use them, regardless of the consequences. Because of this, I support your campaign."
Once more, no one knows where the law stands. Including the State. And they like it the way it is. It's unfortunate that people have to learn who's responsible for their protection the hard way, and then have to make the decision to damn the consequence of doing what is right rather than what's legal.
William Rutter, a council worker from Newcastle upon Tyne

On Christmas Day in 2002, Mr Rutter, 54, was subjected to a horrific attack in his home.

He was watching television when masked burglars broke in. They pinned him against a wall, punched him repeatedly, slashed at his chest and hands with Stanley knives and said that if he did not hand over his life savings, they would kill him.
More evidence of how effective those anti-knife laws are. But hey, since their victims aren't going to have a firearm to defend themselves with, a knife is more than enough weapon, isn't it?
Mr Rutter was stabbed in the heart and left for dead while the men rifled through his wallet, which contained £40, before heading upstairs to search through his possessions.

Luckily for Mr Rutter the intruders were disturbed by policemen, who had heard sounds coming from the house from their unmarked patrol car. The men were caught as they tried to escape over Mr Rutter's garden fence.

When Mr Rutter was discharged from hospital, with a foot-long scar on his back and a smaller scar on his chest, it was months before he felt able to return to his home.

Yesterday, he greeted the news of the campaign enthusiastically. "This is good," he said. "What goes on now is a disgrace.

"My brother and sister and my friends all look out for me. I have a panic button, too.

"Nobody is going to do to me what those people did, ever again."

Best of luck to you, Mr. Rutter. Sincerely. You probably used most of yours in that first incident, since the cops were on the scene in time to intervene. Next time press the panic button and order a pizza and see who gets there first.

Don't get me wrong, I am heartened that some of the Brits are starting to understand. Given the level of violent and property crimes there, I'm actually surprised that more of them aren't pissed off enough to back this, but it does appear that decades of indoctrination has removed that "aggressive edge" from the overwhelming majority of the population, leaving it only in the criminal class.

Remember the distinction: Violent and predatory vs. violent but protective. Britain forgot it. We can't afford to.

(All emphasis in article is mine.)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

My One Entry for Today

And it's a link to something someone else wrote.

I've spent some time today catching up on stuff - oil change for my truck, trip to the bookstore, getting reacquainted with my wife, ;-) - and doing some reading. I mostly write about stuff I read online, and I've found something that will result in another long post, but for right now, if you haven't read it, Michael J. Totten has a piece up from last week that I just stumbled across about what a real totalitarian state is like, and why the Leftist poseurs here are talking out of their asses when they accuse the current administration of totalitarianism and fascism.

Go read Overheard at the Coffee Shop, if you haven't already.

Note: totalitarianism isn't impossible here. The mechanisms are always right there just waiting to be assembled and put to use, but we're a long way from that point. At the moment. Personally, I think civilian disarmament is a prerequisite for totalitarianism here, but I could be wrong about that. It's possible that the majority of residents here might reach the point where they'd accept the chains of totalitarianism if they were convinced it would bring them safety.

I hope not, but the holy church of statism has been preaching here for decades. It's hard to tell just how effective it's been.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

What, You Thought I was Kidding?

Well, I'm back, finally. We'll see how long this time. I just spent the last five days on an overhead travelling crane control retrofit that didn't go as well as I would have liked. We were supposed to be finished Friday afternoon.

There's an engineering joke - "If it ain't broke, keep 'improving' it until it is." It seems that one of our vendors made some firmware changes in their product, and now it doesn't work the same way the (otherwise) identical units made last year do. Not good, since they changed functions I needed and used.

Anyway, I'm home, and barring any catastrophe, perhaps I can get back to posting again. Thanks to all of you who kept my stats up this week, but I did tell you I'd be gone! (I wasn't about to try posting something from the computer in the lobby of the EconoLodge, even if I could get some seat time in front of it. Besides, 12-hour workdays suck, and I didn't have the energy anyway.)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Christmas Gifts

Bill Whittle is finally publishing his book, Silent America: Essays from a Democracy at War. I'm glad, because I'll be giving copies to everyone I have on my Christmas list this year.

This tidbit of information was put up last Thursday (while I was incommunicado) so I just found out about it from Bill's most recent post. In that post, Bill echoed sentiments I hold and have written about in this blog. As usual, Bill's artistry with words far exceeds my mere technical skills, so I'll quote him:
I worry about terrorism. I worry about Transnational Progressivism. I worry about the utter moral decline of large parts of Europe. I worry about China. I worry about all these things.

But the only thing I genuinely fear is the cyclical nature of civilization. I fear the consequences of abandoning personal responsibility. I fear the self-hatred and nihilism that grows among the pampered, the narcissistic and the uninformed. These are things to be feared greatly. They have brought down entire civilizations and led to dark ages that have cost this species very dearly. I think we stand at such a point today, and this election -- win or lose -- will not determine the outcome...although it might give us some indication of how sick or healthy we are at this pivotal moment in history.

So prepare yourselves. There is a big fight ahead of us, regardless of who is crowing loud in a few weeks time. Other civilizations have fallen; this one may yet. But none have been armed as we are, and our wonder weapon is not the Carrier Battle Group, the Smart Bomb, or the M1 Abrams. This Civilization is armed with information, with real-time communication, with self-organizing expert systems. And for the first time in history, it has in its quiver the chance to hear from great minds otherwise buried in obscurity, to harness the power of billions of opinions and ideas and little, well-made boxes of competence and expertise; brilliant and commanding voices thrown away with the chaff in preceeding generations. This is a force multiplier to cheer even the most pessimistic.

And civilization will rise or fall on the ability to use these weapons under the shield of our shared values of freedom, opportunity, and just plain courage.

Watch this space.
You can bet your ass I will.

Remember the three legs of the tripod of freedom: The ability to reason, the free exchange of ideas, and the capability and the will to defend that which is yours. Never in our history has the second leg of the tripod been stronger. Let's hope that strength also strengthens the other two, and can help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations.

Because "the worst thing about living in the declining era of a great civilization - is knowing that you are." - R.A. Heinlein

Let's make Silent America a runaway best seller.
Missed Me?

Wait... Don't answer that! (Oh, OK, if you must...)

I've been out of town with no internet access for three days, and I'll be gone again all next week, starting Monday. So much for my traffic stats for the month of October, I guess.

Oh well, there's a lot of archived stuff, why don'tchall go nuts! Read the golden oldies!

Right now I've got to get caught up on what I've missed since Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

HA! Ahead of the Curve (for once!)

John Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy reports that there is now a "Kerry as Chamberlain meme"
A number of commentators have been making the link between John Kerry and Neville Chamberlain, such as Ed Koch and the guys at Powerline. Long before John Kerry emerged from the pack of Democratic candidates, I was struck by the parallels to England in the 1930s. Although Bush is DEFINITELY no Churchill, the response of intellectuals and the press was quite similar. Churchill was depicted as a simple-minded warmonger who lacked the nuance to deal with Hitler.
I beat 'em to the punch with this post back in September:
Bush = grasp on reality, plan to deal with it, difficult and dangerous but necessary course of action, "blood, toil, tears, and sweat:" Winston Churchill
Kerry = "Peace in our Time:" Neville Chamberlain


Believe it or not, Aljazeera is reporting on a mass grave found in Iraq:
Horror unearthed from Iraqi mass grave

Wednesday 13 October 2004, 1:47 Makka Time, 22:47 GMT
Investigators probing mass graves in Iraq have conducted their first scientific exhumation of bodies.

Hoping to unearth crucial evidence that could help in convicting deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, investigators said nine trenches in a dry riverbed at the Hatra site in northern Iraq contained at least 300 bodies, and possibly thousands.

Those buried included children still clutching toys

"It is my personal opinion that this is a killing field," said Greg Kehoe, a US lawyer appointed by the White House to work with the Iraqi Special Tribunal.

"Someone used this field on significant occasions over time to take bodies up there and to take people up there and execute them".

"I have been doing grave sites for a long time, but I have never seen anything like this, women and children executed for no apparent reason," Kehoe said. "It's a perfect place for execution".

Kurdish victims

The victims are believed to be minority Kurds killed during 1987-88. One trench contains only women and children, apparently killed by small arms. Another contains only men, apparently killed by automatic gunfire.

Some of the mothers died still holding their children. One young boy still held a ball in his tiny arms.

International organisations estimate more than 300,000 people died under Saddam's 24-year rule and Iraq's Human Rights ministry has identified 40 possible mass graves countrywide.

Authorities hope careful investigations of the site will provide enough evidence to convict Saddam and other senior members of his regime.

Though investigators have excavated smaller mass graves before, scientific exhumation is being done for the first time.

Saddam is expected to face trial for crimes against humanity next year. Investigators are still pursuing evidence.

He is accused of widespread abuses against the Kurds, including a particularly gruesome campaign in 1988 when mustard gas was deployed against the population.

During his reign, Saddam pushed hundreds of thousands of Arabs into Kurdish areas to force the locals out. He is accused of widespread abuses against the Kurds, including the "Anfal" (The Spoils) campaign in 1988, during which thousands died in a mustard gas attack.

Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 50,000 Kurds were killed during the campaign.
Mustard gas? But Saddam had no WMDs!

The story also reports that Saddam was recently operated on for a hernia. No news about his possible cancer. Like I give a damn. I hope that monster dies in agony.

But the thing this story reminded me of was two ProtestWarrior posters:
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Or more.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

An Outstanding Multi-Part Fisk

Another excellent piece (pieces, actually) by "La Professora of Moonbatology," E-Claire disassembles the Sunday New York Times Magazine 13-page interview of John Kerry in multiple parts over at Knowledge is Power. Read 'em all.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part IX

Part X

Part XI

Worth every bit of your time.
Guns Don't Cause Suicide, the Internet Does

Or hibachi grills & charcoal. Or booze and sleeping pills. Or vans and plastic sheeting.

Roto-Reuters reports that seven people in Japan who met over the internet have been found dead of apparent suicide:

Seven Die in Japan 'Internet Suicide' Pact
Tue Oct 12, 2004 09:26 AM ET

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese police said on Tuesday they were investigating a suspected group suicide involving seven people who met through the Internet,
the latest in a rash of suicides linked to the Web.

The four men and three women, mostly in their 20s, were found dead on Tuesday in a car parked on a mountain road in Minano in Saitama prefecture near Tokyo, officers said.

Police said they found four charcoal stoves in the car, which was wrapped in blue plastic sheets and had its windows sealed from the inside.

"We believe they all died after inhaling carbon monoxide from the charcoal," a police spokesman said. "We believe they got acquainted through the Internet."

One of the seven had sent an e-mail to a friend on Monday saying he would commit suicide, the spokesman said.

"We found no traces of violence that could have otherwise led to their deaths," he said.

Empty cans of liquor were found inside the car and a box of sleeping pills near the silver vehicle, Kyodo news agency said.

No religious prohibitions exist in Japan against suicide and it has long been seen as a way to escape failure or of saving loved ones from embarrassment for financial loss. However, it has also been stigmatized as a shameful, taboo subject.

In Kanagawa prefecture, just west of Tokyo, police said two women in their 20s had killed themselves in a car in what was believed to be another case of Internet suicide.
Cases dubbed by the Japanese media as "Internet suicide" pacts started to come to the fore in 2003. A total of 34 people killed themselves in such pacts last year, according to police data.

Police have asked Internet service providers to disclose information about those who post plans about suicides on the Web.

However, experts say it is pointless to blame the Internet and that a closer look should be taken at the society in which they occur.

Suicide rates have always been high in Japan, where there are about the same number each year as in the United States, which has more than double the population.

Last year, Japan reported a record 34,427 recorded cases of suicide. (Additional reporting by George Nishiyama)

Imagine that! They managed to have 34,427 suicides and gun ownership there is 0.01% (or less) of what it is here. Moreover, I believe that Japan counts as suicides, murder-suicides where a family member kills his entire family and then himself. This isn't all that rare there, and it tends to skew Japan's homicide statistics, too.

All black sarcasm aside, if you want to die, you'll find a way. And if you put a gun to your head and pull the trigger, you want to die.

But according to "health professionals," guns cause suicide.

Monday, October 11, 2004

As Usual, Lileks Says it Better Than I Can

Surely by now you've heard about this weekend's New York Times Magazine interview with Sen. Kerry, and the comment making the rounds of the talk shows today. I've already had a comment exchange with a dedicated lefty on the topic. Here's the quote that's gotten the rise out of everyone:
When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. ''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''
My. Mouth. Is. Agape.

James Lileks, however, says what I would were I that talented:
Tony Soprano doesn’t take over schools and shoot kids in the back. The doxies of the Bunny Ranch don’t train at flight schools to ram brothels into skyscrapers.

A nuisance?

A nuisance? I don’t want the definition of success of terrorism to be “it isn’t on the rise.” I want the definition of success to be “free democratic states in the Middle East and the cessation of support of those governments and fascist states we haven’t gotten around to kicking in the ass yet.” I want the definition of success to mean a free Lebanon and free Iran and a Saudi Arabia that realizes there’s no point in funding the fundies. An Egypt that stops pouring out the Jew-hatred as a form of political novacaine to keep the citizens from turning their ire on their own government. I want the definition of success to mean that Europe takes a stand against the Islamicist radicals in their midst before the Wahabbi poison is the only acceptable strain on the continent. Mosquito bites are a nuisance. Cable outages are a nuisance. Someone shooting up a school in Montana or California or Maine on behalf of the brave martyrs of Fallujah isn't a nuisance. It's war.

But that's not the key phrase. This matters:
We have to get back to the place we were.

But when we were there we were blind. When we were there we losing. When we were there we died. We have to get back to the place we were. We have to get back to 9/10? We have to get back to the place we were. So we can go through it all again? We have to get back to the place we were. And forget all we’ve learned and done? We have to get back to the place we were. No. I don’t want to go back there. Planes into towers. That changed the terms. I am remarkably disinterested in returning to a place where such things are unimaginable. Where our nighmares are their dreams.

We have to get back to the place we were.

No. We have to go the place where they are.
And that's precisely what we are doing.

But Kerry wants to go back to handling terrorism as a law enforcement problem. Sorry, John. The sound of the collapsing towers? That was the sound of a massive paradigm shift. You must not have been paying attention.

Your supporters weren't either.
That Dog Don't Hunt - That's Excellent

Via Ipse Dixit I found this NRA ad. It should be a poster:

Love the graphic!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Light to No Blogging this Weekend

I'm calling a big two-day International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association match this weekend. I get up at about 5:30AM, get to the range about 7:30AM and get home about 5:30PM. The match is being run by others, but I volunteered to be the range master for it, which means I sit in the observation tower and call out the instructions to the shooters and target setters. It's not really physically stressful, but I'm still tired and sunburned when I get home. (You'd be surprised how much light reflects off the desert, and how much of it you get even sitting in the shade, over eight hours.)

Anyway, no long drawn-out posts this weekend, no links to stuff that will raise your blood pressure, nada. Just me out at the range with a bunch of old farts reliving our better days when we could actually see (and hit!) those damned steel turkeys 150 yards off, over the iron sights of our single-shot pistols.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Mr. Free Market, Just Another "Gullible Gunner"

Mr. FM has written another excellent piece, entitled "The Police & Self Defence." ("Defense" is spelled funny because Mr. FM is a Brit.) Initially quite humorous, he gets right down to it:
A couple of reassuringly large & tasty coppers that I count in my circle of chums have long admitted that down in this little corner of rural England, if you had cause to dial 999 during the night, the police are spread so thin that the chances of them getting to you ‘in time’ are pretty marginal to say the least. So where does that leave us law-abiding householders went the pond life kick in the back door in the small wee hours. Try to defend your loved ones, self & property, the Crown malicious prosecution service will leave no stone unturned in an attempt to convict you – all in the ‘public interest’ you understand. There is little point in calling the police, as the nearest unit will be over half an hour away - & in this sort situation seconds count. Even if the police do turn up, the chances of them actually doing anything is reasonably remote, as events in Highmore Cross, as small village in Oxfordshire bear testament.
The Crown will prosecute you for trying to defend your loved ones, self & property? Surely not! At most there may be only a "chilling effect" occurring!

Do read the whole thing - you need to, to see where English-style "gun control" leads - but I'm quoting this part for my archives:
The root of the problem rests with our increasingly emasculated society. As opposed to relying on others in times of great adversity, surly(sic) isn’t (it) time that people started to assume some form of self reliance. That starts, not necessarily with learning how to triage a sucking chest wound, but demanding our politicians restore an unfettered right for a bulldogs, in their own homes, to defend themselves as they see fit & them giving them the means to do so. As the police are increasingly unable & unwilling to fulfil their mandate from society, we must demand the reinstatement of our right to take matters into our own hands.
Unfortunately, I'm in agreement with the authors at Samizdata. It'll be a cold day in hell before the State gives back that power.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

John Edwards is Right: There Really ARE Two Americas!

Just not the way he meant it.

I found this interesting piece via Medic Mom, and thought you might find it worth your time as well.
One Nation, Two Worlds
Attitudes toward guns predict places in a divided electorate
Portraits from a Polarized America By Susan Baer
Sun National Staff

October 4, 2004

Second in a series

MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Sunday mornings, there is God. Sunday afternoons, guns.
After sitting in the pews of their Lutheran church, the Montest family will load up their white Chevy Suburban with guns, ammo and safety gear, and head out from their home in Whispering Woods, a Pittsburgh-area subdivision, to one of the two gun clubs they belong to.

On a soggy-aired weekend in June, Margeaux Montest, just days out of sixth grade, loads her mother's Ruger .22-caliber pistol as easily as she dresses her American Girl doll. The younger of the Montests' two children, she is a 12-year-old Girl Scout with braces on her bottom teeth, a passion for horses and "natural ability," her parents say, with firearms.

Today, at the Greater Pittsburgh Gun Club, she is aiming the silver handgun at the paper bull's-eye about 15 feet ahead, where wild daisies thrive in defiance of the frequent shower of bullets.

"Load and make ready," says her father, Richard, 43, whose deer hunting has taken a back seat to competitive shooting these days.

"Watch your muzzle," says her mother, Catherine, her cherry red manicured nails vying for attention with the gleaming metal arrayed on the table beside her.

"Don't lock your elbows."

"Lean forward."


Ten shots, nine on the paper, one inside the 10-ring. Applause from Mom. High-fives.

"Can I do another one?" the floppy-haired Margeaux asks, jumping up and down amid the litter of spent shells.

Her mother helps her load the magazine of another gun, this one the Glock 9 mm pistol that Cath- erine Montest, 41, bought six years ago to carry with her for protection.

Since that time, the working mother, a sales manager for Nextel and a Girl Scout troop leader, has become a pro -- able to fire off 10 shots and reload in 10 seconds flat. Along with her pistols, trophies and confidence, she has amassed a collection of strong opinions about the rights of responsible, law-abiding people to own guns, to carry guns, to use guns.

Her idea of gun control?

"Using two hands."
You know? I like the Montests.
On the other side of the state -- and the other side of the gun debate -- is another typical American two-career family with teenagers on the phone, a sport utility vehicle in the driveway, an addition on the house and schedules tacked on the fridge.

But guns have never been allowed in the half-century-old stone-and-wood home in the Philadelphia suburb of Bala Cynwyd, where Susan Tachau, 50, and Mark Anderson, 49, have raised their three children. Not even toy guns. Not even water guns. When a friend gave the children Super Soakers, the large neon-colored plastic water guns were kept in the shed so the children would understand that nothing even resembling a weapon had a place in their home.

The family would be surprised if any of Mark's six sisters and brothers or Susan's sister and brother owned a gun. They have no idea about their neighbors. It is not a topic of conversation at PTA meetings, Susan's book club meetings, Mark's tennis matches and certainly not at the Unitarian church the family attends, where there are sermons, hymns, meditation and much talk of peace, if not God.

They respect the rights of hunters to own shotguns and even those who want to keep a weapon in their homes for self-defense. But they believe more gun controls, restrictions and regulations would help reduce the gun violence they read about almost every day.
Um, no, they don't "respect the rights of hunters to own shotguns," etc. Read on.
"I think a major problem we have is the number of guns that are available and the ease with which you can acquire new guns," says Mark Anderson, a law professor at Temple University.
Ah, there it is again, the number of guns is the problem. And the only way to effectively reduce the number of guns?? Ban and confiscate. And the only way to effectively ban and confiscate? LICENSE AND REGISTER.
The two Pennsylvania families -- the Montests of Moon Township, the Tachau-Andersons of Bala Cynwyd -- are not only representative of the two ideologically opposed corners of the state, but they are also typical of the two Americas going to the polls this November and possibly dividing the vote as precisely in half as they did four years ago.

Among the many predictors of one's place in this split-screen nation -- commonly referred to as "red America" and "blue America" after the color-coded map of the 2000 presidential race -- is one's attitude toward guns.

In this election year, the fierce passions of the gun debate have mingled with political pragmatism to cast the issue in a new light. Faced with the reality that nearly 50 percent of voting households have guns in the home, Democrats have shifted their fight from more aggressive goals to incremental safety measures that even many gun enthusiasts support.

While Al Gore pressed for federal licensing of gun owners as the Democratic presidential nominee four years ago, John Kerry has shot pheasant on the campaign trail to promote his credentials as a hunter and gun owner, and trumpeted his support for Second Amendment rights.

In this political climate, the 10-year-old federal ban on assault weapons, although favored by a majority of gun owners and law enforcement organizations, was allowed to expire last month. While President Bush had expressed support for the ban as a candidate in 2000, he did not exert any pressure on Congress to extend it, fearing the loss of support from the powerful National Rifle Association, the ban's chief opponent.

For his part, Kerry, not wanting to be painted with the anti-gun brush that many believe hurt Gore four years ago, rarely spoke in favor of the ban until it was about to lapse.

Even the Tachau-Anderson household is resigned to the fact that guns are a large part of society and are here to stay. Sure, they would like to see handguns banned "in an ideal world," Mark says. But he knows it's as naive as a Miss America contestant's wish for world peace.

"It's not even worth saying."
But you say it anyway. Thanks for being honest. Most gun-control supporters won't admit it.
So they do what they can to be true to their beliefs, trying to limit the violence their children see in movies and on television, for example, while the Montests do what they can as well, urging their 15-year-old son, R.J., to write letters to his senators stating his opposition to further gun restrictions.

And in these two middle-class families, one can see how some of the views that are dividing the nation are formed, reinforced and passed on to the next generation -- how two thoughtful, typical American families whose lives revolve largely around children see their world through such profoundly different lenses.

The Montests are members of Gun Owners of America. The Tachau-Andersons, the American Civil Liberties Union.

When Margeaux Montest turned 12 last November, she went to get her hunting license and the next day went deer hunting with her father. (She froze, saw no deer and now wants to take up squirrel hunting.)

When 15-year-old Carrie Anderson was about the same age, she went to see Babe, a movie about a talking pig who wants to be a dog -- and the next day became a vegetarian, like her father.
Why am I not surprised?
Two families. Two points of view. Two sensibilities. Two worlds in America.

Susan and Mark have been married for 25 years and are typical of the kind of voters John Kerry can count on. They are lifelong Democrats and socially liberal -- supporting abortion rights and gay marriage, and opposing the death penalty. Skeptical of the war in Iraq, they had a Howard Dean sign on their front lawn last winter until the former Vermont governor fizzled, and now have a Kerry sign beside their dogwood tree.

They read The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times online, The New Yorker and Newsweek magazines, and listen to National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. Mark read Against All Enemies, a book highly critical of Bush's handling of the threat of terrorism, before and after 9/11, by former White House anti-terrorism chief Richard A. Clarke. They both read comedian Al Franken's last book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, and passed it around to many of their friends. Mark bought a recording of Bill Clinton's book for his mother this past summer. The 9/11 Commission report is now on his nightstand.

Although they feel what Mark calls a "profound sense of hopelessness" on the gun issue, noting that Kerry didn't mention it in a 45-minute speech they heard him give in Philadelphia, they realize it's a political calculation he had to make.

Beyond banning guns from their home, the couple has tried to make nonviolence a hallmark of their household and their life. They decided to send their youngest daughter to a Quaker school this year, partly because of the school's philosophy about peaceful conflict resolution and its zero-tolerance policy for weapons.
This reminds me of something Bill Whittle wrote in his latest essay, Deterrence
It would be nice to live in a world full of liberals. I say that as a staunch conservative. It would be nice to live in a world that behaved like a Hollywood party or a university campus, filled with kind, educated people with lots to lose, who cherish reason and responsibility and are incapable of brutal, violent acts. If all the world were filled with decent, compassionate, rational people, life would be a bouquet.

But it’s not. There are bad people who do bad things, and there are bad countries run by bad people who do bad things who eat the kind and gentle people for breakfast. There is no denying this. Therefore, liberals are insane. I speak from experience here.

It’s a damn shame, it really is.
I give you the Tachau-Andersons. Exhibit "A".
And they have been vigilant about what their children watch and listen to.

Michael, 22, a student at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania who has cerebral palsy, was not allowed to go see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie when he was young. At 7, he had to decline a classmate's party when the first-graders were invited to see a Batman movie. His father had gone to see the movie first and decided, "No way."

"There was too much depravity for little kids to deal with," Mark Anderson says at the family's Cape Cod-style home with butterfly wallpaper in the kitchen, lace curtains in the living room and wood paneling in the den.

Carrie knows not to expect to listen to rap music when she's in the car with her mother.

For her part, Susan -- who is head of the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation, which gives out low-interest loans for technology that assists the disabled -- doesn't want her children to view violence as a casual event. "There aren't many issues we don't compromise on," says the mother of Michael; 18-year-old Julia, who was adopted from Korea; and Carrie, adopted from Paraguay. "But this is one of them. I'm pretty black and white on these issues."

Although you can almost feel the mild rebellion of teenagers in this home, where Carrie has recently started spelling her name with a "K" and Julia responds to a request to clean her room by giving her mother the silent treatment, the Tachau-Anderson children seem to have adopted many of their parents' values.

Given $200 each to contribute to a charity or cause, they generally choose left-leaning organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Greenpeace or other environmental groups. Julia recently picked up Michael Moore's anti-gun documentary Bowling for Columbine at the DVD rental store and, looking forward to casting her first vote in November, has been asking her parents about the Democratic Party.

To Mark and Susan, and now to their children, the availability and accessibility of guns only adds to the violence that they read about in the papers every day and that leads the local news more nights than not. The senseless tragedies, such as the 10-year-old boy who was shot in the head and killed outside his elementary school in North Philadelphia in February, the random victim of a gang shoot-out in daylight. The children regularly found with guns in Philadelphia schools. The accidents.

"I think the presence of guns begets the desire for other people to have guns, thinking they need guns to protect themselves," Mark says. "I would like to have a nation where it's just much harder to get a gun in the first place."
I'm sure you would. It's waaaay too late for that, though, Mark.
He points to Britain -- where there are strict gun controls, and far fewer guns in the homes and on the streets -- as a model he wishes the United States would follow.
Perhaps he should look at just how effective Britain's strict gun control laws have been. Gun violence has gone UP with ever-stricter gun laws, not down.

Now, extrapolate to the U.S. You really want to repeat that experience, super-sized American style, here?
Mark, a Minnesota native whose mother was fiercely anti-gun, and Susan, whose Kentucky roots are still evident in her voice, grew up in homes where handguns were not allowed. Susan's father, a Marine who served in World War II and Korea, was a dove hunter and kept a shotgun in the house. But he made it clear to his children that "handguns kill."

Growing up in Louisville during the civil rights movement crystallized her feelings about guns, says Susan, who worked for the McGovern campaign at age 18. "There was so much violence, so much hatred, and guns would appear," she recalls of the struggles to integrate neighborhoods and schools. "And you saw that there was so much anger over these issues that people could get hurt and certainly threatened."

As for Mark, whose father was a doctor and also served in World War II, not being around guns meant not being comfortable with them. "If you're not around guns a lot, they're very scary," he says.

As a law professor, he has looked at the legal debate over the Second Amendment and decided it was written to guarantee the state the right to protect itself through militias or groups of citizen soldiers. But he knows many Americans disagree, convinced that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to keep and bear arms.
Yes, one of them being Laurence Tribe - Yale law professor and author of the textbook American Constitutional Law who has this to say about the Second Amendment:
Perhaps the most accurate conclusion one can reach with any confidence is that the core meaning of the Second Amendment is a populist / republican / federalism one: Its central object is to arm 'We the People' so that ordinary citizens can paricipate in the collective defense of their community and their state. But it does so not through directly protecting a right on the part of states or other collectivities, assertable by them against the federal government, to arm the populace as they see fit. Rather the amendment achieves its central purpose by assuring that the federal government may not disarm individual citizens without some unusually strong justification consistent with the authority of the states to organize their own militias. That assurance in turn is provided through recognizing a right (admittedly of uncertain scope) on the part of individuals to possess and use firearms in the defense of themselves and their homes -- not a right to hunt for game, quite clearly, and certainly not a right to employ firearms to commit aggressive acts against other persons -- a right that directly limits action by Congress or by the Executive Branch and may well, in addition, be among the privileges or immunities of United States citizens protected by §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment against state or local government action.
But Mark's a law professor, so he knows better. I wonder what textbook is used at Mark's university for ConLaw?
While the legal fights rage on, the Tachau-Andersons believe any number of restrictions and regulations would cut down on the availability of guns, and thus gun violence: tort liability for gun manufacturers so they would better police how their products are distributed, shutting down gun shows because private vendors are allowed to sell guns at such shows without performing background checks on the buyers and limiting the number of guns a person can buy at a time.

They called the defeat of the assault weapons ban "a sad moment," even on a symbolic level. "If you can't get that kind of bill passed, what hope is there for anything else?" Mark asks.

They would like to see waiting periods, which they think might have prevented the suicide 10 years ago of their friend Peggy, who, upon release from a hospital where she was being treated for depression, bought a gun and killed herself.
This is known as "respecting the rights of hunters, etc." Right. And yes, Peggy's suicide was the gun's fault. She couldn't find a rope, or a car and some garden hose, or a razor blade, or enough drugs, or...

If someone wants to end their own life, they will. The method is immaterial.
In their eyes, Pennsylvania's law allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns makes the world a more dangerous place. "I think the numbers of situations where they can be used to prevent crimes are very limited," Mark says. "And I just don't like the idea that if I'm driving a car and I get involved in a car accident or if I cut somebody off, I don't like the idea that somebody's got a gun."
Some questions: After passage of Pennsylvania's "shall issue" CCW law in 2002, when has this happened? Did it happen prior to CCW passage? What prevented someone who was likely to commit an act of violence like that from carrying illegally? What has Pennsylvania's violent crime rate done since passage of the CCW law? Why would you believe that someone who has to jump through the legal hoops necessary to acquire a CCW permit would be irrational enough to become violent over a traffic incident? If you believe you might be the victim of something like this, why are you not willing to prepare for the possibility?
"In this area, there's so much road rage," Susan adds. "People drive like maniacs anyway, and you do get worried about how somebody's going to respond and how quickly it escalates."

The family spent a lot of time in Pittsburgh in the past year -- Michael had a series of surgeries for complications from an infection at Children's Hospital there -- and was astounded at the number of people they met who owned guns.

"And not just one -- enormous numbers," Susan says. "One woman went on about how her husband had six or seven guns and [said], 'You come in our house, man, we'll blow you away!'"

"Do they feel safer?" Susan asked. "I don't know. I would not feel safer having a loaded gun in my house."
I bet you'd feel REALLY unsafe if someone wanted to come into your home in the middle of the night and you didn't have one. How about putting a sign out in front of your home:

Didn't think so.
In fact, for Susan and Mark, the decision to have nothing to do with guns is an easy one. Mark thinks it's unlikely a gun would help him protect his home and family from an intruder, and worries that, if he had one, he'd be more likely to use it in a situation where he shouldn't.
Again, here's the problem of projection: "I am unable to possess a firearm and not use it in anger, so NO ONE should be so trusted without extensive vetting and testing."

Unless you work for the government.

This is the attitude we discussed back in December of last year on several blogs, and it is the attitude decried by Eric S. Raymond in his excellent essay Ethics from the Barrel of a Gun:
To believe one is incompetent to bear arms is, therefore, to live in corroding and almost always needless fear of the self — in fact, to affirm oneself a moral coward. A state further from the dignity of a free man would be rather hard to imagine. It is as a way of exorcising this demon, of reclaiming for ourselves the dignity and courage and ethical self-confidence of free (wo)men that the bearing of personal arms, is, ultimately, most important.

This is the final ethical lesson of bearing arms: that right choices are possible, and the ordinary judgement of ordinary (wo)men is sufficient to make them.

We can, truly, embrace our power and our responsibility to make life-or-death decisions, rather than fearing both. We can accept our ultimate responsibility for our own actions. We can know (not just intellectually, but in the sinew of experience) that we are fit to choose.
But Mark does not trust himself to try. He hasn't even tested himself, but has found himself unfit to choose.
For them, it is a simple calculation.

"I just think guns create a lot more risk in my life than they do protection," he says. "When you look at the statistics of the people who kill themselves and the accidents that happen and things like that, plus the homicides with guns, I think there's just a lot more bad that happens than good from gun ownership."
There are tens of millions of gun owners in this country. Mark himself is shocked by how many people in Pennsylvania own them. Yet he concludes that "a lot more bad" happens than good.

I suppose if I read the NYT and listened to the BBC and NPR I might have a tremendously skewed image of the world, myself.
The Montests, conservative Republicans with a flag waving outside their 12-year-old brick colonial home and an NRA bumper sticker on an old van, couldn't disagree more.

In a refrigerator-size gun safe in their basement, they store their 20 to 30 guns -- they've lost count -- long arms and pistols, including one of Catherine's that she describes as a "cute, itty-bitty, little derringer thing." Upstairs in their bedroom, they keep other guns in a smaller safe they can access quickly with a press of fingers in a sequence only they know.

Mounted above Richard's desk in his home office -- where he works as a sales manager for an industrial packaging supply company he and his wife started 10 years ago and recently sold -- is the head of a nine-point buck he shot. In son R.J.'s room is the hide of a deer the 15-year-old shot two years ago. The Montests had the hide tanned and processed, and turned much of the meat into jerky.

Many of their neighbors own guns, including the avid deer hunter next-door, whose elaborately landscaped back yard includes waterfalls and two life-size foam deer he uses for bow-and-arrow practice. Occasionally, there are neighborhood barbecues with venison steaks slapped on the grill.

Indeed, in this Western Pennsylvania town, like many across America, hunting is such a part of life and tradition that schools are closed for the opening day of deer-hunting season -- the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday here -- and many high schools offer rifle clubs.

Catherine does not hunt but enjoys competitive shooting. Mostly, though, her interest in guns relates to protection. She lives in a neighborhood of well-kept lawns and relatively little crime. But occasionally, especially if she is venturing into unfamiliar territory, she locks her Glock 9 mm in her holster purse with its steel-reinforced straps and takes it with her when she leaves home.

"My No. 1 goal is to come home the way I left," she says.

"But with more clothes," the dry-witted Margeaux chimes in.

Although Richard comes from a Democratic, pro-union steel mill family, and Catherine a family where politics was never discussed, the Montests have evolved into committed conservatives, Bush voters through and through. They are against abortion rights and gay marriage, in favor of the death penalty and the war in Iraq. They believe Bush will protect their gun rights "more than Kerry would ever dream of doing," Catherine says.

Catherine says she was drawn to the Republican party because of its emphasis on "personal responsibility" over government handouts, and happily cast her first vote for Ronald Reagan.

That same sense of personal responsibility undergirds her opposition to abortion rights, she says, and prompted her, at age 16, to join a group of youths from her Catholic church who went to Washington, walked into Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's office and loudly railed against the Republican's pro-abortion rights votes.

Richard says he, too, fell under the spell of Reagan after the Nixon years instilled in him distrust of government.

These days, although the couple occasionally read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, they prefer conservative-edged news. Catherine watches Fox News but goes online for much of her information, occasionally checking out "The Drudge Report" and a conservative chat site, "Free Republic."

Neither of them reads books on current affairs, but Catherine is a fan of Tom Clancy novels and has read the Left Behind series of apocalyptic thrillers, which is particularly popular among evangelical Christians.
(See! See! Ignorant, Right-wingnut religious freaks! Their lips probably move when they try to read, too! - Ed.)
Active in their church, Richard and Catherine, who wear gold chains with crosses around their necks, say they, too, try to monitor what their children watch -- but mostly for sexual content or offensiveness. They told R.J. he couldn't watch the adult cartoon South Park -- because of the bad language and raunchiness more than the violence -- although they knew he sneaked off to a neighbor's to watch.

"They live in the world," Richard says of the violence children see on TV. "Bad things happen in the world."
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the primary difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives: The ability to SEE the world clearly for what it is, rather than paint it over with fantasies of how it ought to be.

Bad things happen, indeed.
The Montest children grew up with toy guns of all sorts. Catherine says that when R.J. was 2, he was "cleaning the clock with Duck Hunt," a Nintendo game where a player shoots at the screen with a toy pistol. By kindergarten, the children were learning about gun safety and using the real thing.

Catherine recalls a road trip the family took years ago, when the children watched the movie Gettysburg on a portable TV with a VCR. Margeaux, then 6, called out, "Mom, they're doing it wrong; they're doing it wrong," saying that the soldiers were not wearing eye and ear protection.

"I was like, 'Cool, I think she gets what you're supposed to do,'" Catherine says. Now, however, R.J.'s interests have turned from guns to guitars and girls, a much more frightening prospect for his mother. "I'd rather him be out there in the woods with the guys and the guns."

Neither Richard nor Catherine grew up in a family with guns, but as their interest in guns developed -- Richard's out of sport, Catherine's out of fear -- they have become fierce defenders of the rights of gun owners and the Second Amendment.
That does tend to happen, when you 'reclaim for yourself the dignity and courage and ethical self-confidence of free (wo)men that the bearing of personal arms brings.'

Interesting, isn't it?
"Those crazy guys with the powdered wigs those couple hundred-odd years ago really were the most incredibly remarkable men," Catherine says. She says she is certain the Founding Fathers intended the Second Amendment to refer to an individual's right to bear arms, rather than to state militias, as many legal scholars contend. "All of the other amendments, at least on the Bill of Rights, refer to the individual. Why would this one be any different?"

Richard is highly suspicious of the motives of gun control advocates, believing that even the slightest of regulations will start the nation down a "slippery slope" toward disarmament.

Because he and his wife believe that guns used in crimes are typically purchased illegally anyway, they see gun control as merely a way to "appease people complaining about gun crime."

"There are already lots of laws on the books for committing crimes with guns or for obtaining guns illegally," Richard says. "Why do we need a whole new batch of them?"

"We need to vigorously prosecute the ones that we have and not plea [bargain] them off the table," Catherine adds.

They see "no logic" in the argument that more guns lead to greater gun violence, believing that gun accidents would be reduced if guns were demystified and people -- including children -- were better acquainted with how they work.

Even the assault weapons ban, which they were glad to see go, was merely a matter of "cosmetics," the Montests say.

"There's a perception that this gun versus this gun is somehow more lethal, which really it isn't," Richard says. "It just looks more lethal."

"It still puts holes in things," Catherine says. "Pretty much the same thing."

Richard says he also opposed the assault weapons ban for "selfish reasons" because the larger-capacity ammunition magazines, which give him an edge in competitive shooting because he doesn't have to reload as frequently, were not available under the ban.

The Montests feel they are lucky to live in a state where any law-abiding citizen who applies for a permit can carry a gun in a purse or a pocket, believing criminals are deterred by the knowledge that a would-be victim could be wielding a weapon. "God bless the police -- they're wonderful, they do a lovely job, but they can't be everywhere at all times," Catherine says.
Nor would we want them to be.
She points to her friend Wendy from the gun club as an example. She resisted a carjacking -- and held the perpetrator at bay until the police came and arrested him -- by producing her gun. "She was pretty terrified, but she was able to preserve her own safety and protect herself from harm -- and the gun did not need to be discharged," Catherine says.
An example, Mr. Anderson, of how gun possession can be a positive that you won't hear about from the NYT, NPR, or the BBC. What would have happened to Wendy prior to passage of Pennsylvania's CCW law? And what would have happened to her assailant? How many more people would he have victimized?
For her part, she decided to become a gun owner after one night about six years ago when she feared she and her husband were being followed in their car by a group of hoodlums.

The only comfort she had that night, she says, was knowing that her husband was carrying a gun.

As it turned out, the car behind them kept going once the Montests turned into a parking lot. There was no trouble, no incident, no need for a gun.

Still, the Montests have made a different calculation than the Tachau-Andersons, although both families live in communities of relatively little crime.

For Richard and Catherine and their children, the gun is a tool, a pastime, a protector, a right.

"That's a cool gun," Margeaux exclaims at the shooting range after trying out her mother's small black semiautomatic pistol, the one she packs in her purse from time to time for peace of mind.

"A very cool gun," her mother agrees.
And that is an EXCELLENT piece of writing on the part of Ms. Baer. Kudos.