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

Monday, May 30, 2005

Remember to Honor the Others

I mentioned below that I had just finished reading Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. This is a pretty sobering look at the actualities of lethal force, and I wanted to wait until Memorial Day for this post because Col. Grossman makes a point that I think the majority of our society doesn't grasp. Doesn't want to grasp, in fact. But I'll get to that in a moment.

I was first introduced to the concepts explored by Col. Grossman in his book in an essay by Eric S. Raymond of Armed and Dangerous, The Myth of Man the Killer. Eric's piece was about the reluctance of people to kill or even inflict injury until forced to by extraordinary circumstances, but also about the perpetuation of a belief in the "myth of man the killer" and what that belief has done to our society. If you haven't read it, I strongly recommend you do.

But Col. Grossman, who has a bachelor's degree in history, and a graduate degree in psychology, examines the aftermath of both inflicting and experiencing the exercise of lethal force - through the spectrum of the impersonal (bombing, shelling) to the up-close-and-personal of close-quarters combat.

While this book will be fodder for several future posts, this is the topic I want to explore on this Memorial Day.

Col. Grossman notes that during WWII studies have shown that only 15-20% of combat troops - the ones on the line facing the enemy with weapons in hand - "would take any part with their weapons" - that is, actually fire at the enemy. He notes, however, that the studies found
Those who would not fire did not run or hide (in many cases they were willing to risk great danger to rescue comrades, get ammunition, or run messages), but they simply would not fire their weapons at the enemy, even when faced with repeated waves of banzai charges.
I won't get into the "why" of this in this essay, but accept it as fact, and understand that the military saw this as a major problem to be solved - not the "why," but the "how to increase firing rates" question.

And they did. According to Grossman, changes in training regimens increased the firing rate during the Korean conflict to 55%. During the Vietnam war the firing rate was 95%. That number probably reflects conditions today in Afghanistan and Iraq. That rate explains why, after a 24-hour firefight in Mogadishu, Somalia without armor, without much air support, and without artillery support, US forces only 450 strong came out of that hostile city with only 18 dead, and 73 wounded. And inflicted around 1,000 Somali casualties. We have built an army of ferocious fighters, as Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace stated:
"The thing I remember most about the entire operation was the extraordinary endurance and bravery, heroism and sacrifice of the young Americans who were under my command.

"They were absolutely ferocious fighters when they needed to be," Wallace recalled, "and in a moment they could turn into the most compassionate people you could ever imagine."
That's something we need to remember.

According to Col. Grossman, regardless of all the classic war movies you've seen, only about 2% of the people on the sharp end are capable of killing without suffering some psychological effect. The rest, even the ones who haven't fired a shot in anger, are affected by the violence they're exposed to. I, for example, cannot imagine the effect of being a direct witness to this:

or this on a daily basis:
An American soldier told me today that he has been telling kids to stay away from his unit so they won't be killed. This is harder, on all parties, than it might seem to anyone who hasn't seen first hand how much the kids here love the soldiers. The sound of heavily armored trucks rumbling through the streets has the same effect these kids as the tinkling bells of the "ice cream man" back home. Imagine having to tell kids to run the other way when they hear the icecream truck on a summer afternoon.

Recently, an insurgent hid behind a child in order to attack Americans. The tactic came as no surprise to the soldiers here. Terrorists routinely play wounded or feign their surrender in order to get close enough to launch an attack on Coalition or Iraqi Forces. In January I wrote about one bomber who grabbed the hand of a small child while she was playing on a sidewalk. Smiling, he walked with the child in hand, approaching some Iraqi police and exploded. Americans standing close by were unharmed.
The ability to switch from ferocious fighter to compassionate person is an extremely admirable trait of our modern military, but one that would strain the emotional capacity of any human being to or even past the breaking point. There's an interesting chart in Col. Grossman's book, of what combat did to soldiers in WWII:

The effects of this are lessened, Col. Grossman notes, if the soldiers can be pulled "off the line" and given rest and recreation, but that wasn't really possible during the Vietnam war, because there was no "line," and VC activity could occur anywhere, any time. I'm not one to draw parallels between that war and this one, but in this one case the similarities are striking.

And in the Vietnam war, the psychological casualties were enormous.

Col. Grossman notes, however, that recovery from such psychological trauma is dependent on a number of factors. Grossman notes:
Something unique seems to have occurred in the rationalization process available to the Vietnam veteran. Compared with earlier American wars the Vietnam conflict appears to have reversed most of the processes traditionally used to facilitate the rationalization and acceptance of killing experiences. These traditional processes involve:

* Constant praise and assurance to the soldier from peers and superiors that he "did the right thing" (One of the most important physical manifestations of this affirmation is the awarding of medals and decorations.)
* The constant presence of mature, older comrades (that is, in their late twenties and thirties) who serve as role models and stabilizing personality factors in the combat environment
* A careful adherence to such codes and conventions of warfare by both sides (such as the Geneva conventions, first established in 1864), thereby limiting civilian casualties and atrocities
* Rear lines or clearly defined safe areas where the soldier can go to relax and depressurize during a combat tour
* The presence of close, trusted friends and confidants who have been present during training and are present throughout the combat experience
* A cooldown period as the soldier and his comrades sail or march back from the wars
* Knowledge of the ultimate victory of their side and of the gain and accomplishments made possible by their sacrifices
* Parades and monuments
* Reunions and contiued communication (via visits, mail, and so on) with the individuals whom the soldier bonded with in combat
* An unconditionally warm and admiring welcome by friends, family, communities, and society, constantly reassuring the soldier that the war and his personal acts were for a necessary, just, and righteous cause
* The proud display of medals.
We, the general public, can't do much about the majority of these processes. We cannot make "safe zones" in Baghdad, we are not in control of troop rotation, we don't award medals, but we are the ones in charge of that "unconditionally warm and admiring welcome." It's up to us to reassure the returning soldiers that we're proud of them and what they've done.

What they're witnessing and what they have to do as soldiers is destructive to the psyche of any human being. They are all in a crucible, under stresses most of us cannot imagine. So, by all means, respect the dead for their sacrifice this Memorial Day. But remember too the others who come back, both the wounded and the whole, who have answered our Nation's call and put themselves on the sharp end. Honor them whenever you see them, and let them know that their sacrifices are appreciated. We're doing a pretty good job, but not, I think, as a conscious process.

And we need to be.

Enjoy your Memorial Day. And thank a vet.

UPDATE: Just to give you a feel, read this post by Red2Alpha at This is Your War. A taste:
I pulled the trigger and a glittering brass cartridge spun out of the chamber and away. Half a heart beat later the shot roared back at me from the buildings lining Market St, coming back to me in waves as the detonation echoed up and down the street, off the flat surface of windows and walls, cars and people. It sounded deeper than a 5.56mm on a range, yet softer. My ears didn't pop and ring.
The truck jerked slightly and lurched to a halt. I saw the figures in it start. The white paint on the plastic bumper was flaking off like a scab, revealing the yellow primer under neath. Dead bugs spattering the bumper with their black bodies. I smelled cordite.

Since the IED things have been different for my team. We are more aggressive, quicker to anger. I'm angry all the time now. Everything and everyone is a threat to me. I'd much rather lash out with violence and rage than anything else.
Remember the role of the civilian at home. We do have one.

Book Meme.

David Codrea of the blog War on Guns just tagged me for another blogmeme, this one on books. Who am I to refuse?

Total number of books I've owned: No way to tell. At least a few thousand. My current collection, mostly paperbacks, mostly science fiction, runs about 1,000. I try not to sell or give away anything I like, but it's difficult to provide enough room for them all.

Last book I bought: R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton. Not her best work.

Last book I read: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, about which I hope to have a post up later today. Lots of food for thought.

Five books that mean a lot to me: I can't pick five specific books, but I think I can pick four specific authors, and one book.

Robert A. Heinlein (everything he wrote)

John D. MacDonald (his Travis McGee novels)

Robert B. Parker (his Spenser novels - even the poor ones)

- These three men molded my personal philosophy

Issac Asimov

- Asimov is in large part responsible for my fascination with science and technology. I still have his three-volume work on elementary physics, and his Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, among many others. I liked his work in SF, but it was his non-fiction writing that I found most interesting.

And the book; The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. I.

This is a collection of short stories from the "golden age" of SF that I stumbled across in a school library at about age 13. It contains such classics as "The Cold Equations," "Flowers for Algernon," "First Contact," "Microcosmic God," "The Weapon Shop," "Arena," and many, many others. This is stuff to make you think. Very subversive! Highly recommended.

Now I'm supposed to tag five others to do this. Don't feel obligated, but I am curious:

Kim du Toit

Connie du Toit (she now, occasionally, blogs on Kim's site, so she still counts!)

Bill Whittle (right, like he'll actually read this)

Rob Smith

Keith Thompson

Friday, May 27, 2005

Remember "Police Aware"?

That post from earlier last Saturday? It was an editorial on the inefficacy of Britain's police. Well, thanks to Cryptic Subterranian, I've found another sterling example:

A SHOPKEEPER has been given a DNA kit by police - so he can take samples every time his teenage tormentors spit in his face.

The man likened the girls to Vicky Pollard, of TV's Little Britain.

Six months of harassment began after he refused to sell the girls cigarettes or give them cigarette papers.

He was beaten by a man linked to the group and his cheekbone and jaw were broken.

The 53-year-old, of Crouch End, North London, said: "We do not feel safe. The guy who hit me in the face has since threatened me.

"You hear about Vicky Pollard, but these girls are worse."

A police spokesman said: "This behaviour will not be tolerated."
"This behavior will not be tolerated."

By whom? "Police Aware" - it's been taken care of!

How do you hand a man a DNA sample kit and explain to him, "The next time they spit in your face, old chap, just carefully collect some of the spittle into this sample bottle and ring us up! We'll be by in a week or two to collect the evidence! In the mean time, do try to avoid getting your neck broken or your throat slashed when they come back."

I. Am. DUMBFOUNDED. And I thought the proposed knife ban took the cake. And if you think this is a hoax, the barely more reliable Guardian corroborates, but here's a slightly more detailed version from a local online source. A quote from the victim:
"We are hanging on for the time being. Our customers have been very supportive.

"I know other shops in Crouch End are suffering because of these people.

"I've been to the police station a number of times to find out what's happening, but all I'm told is investigations are on-going."
What will be the outcome of the "on-going investigation?
If enough evidence is gathered against the group, police and Haringey Council could work together to bring an Anti-Social Behaviour Order into effect which could ban the yobs from the area altogether.
"Police Aware!" And ah, yes, the dreaded ASBO!

And if they disobey the ASBO? I'm sure a strongly worded warning will follow!

Bear in mind, too, that it isn't only the proles being treated this way. These same kits are being given to London's "traffic control officers" (meter maids). According to This is London, however,
Three (parking attendants) are assaulted in the capital each day, some being attacked with baseball bats and knives.
so they'll have to be very careful to make sure they don't get any of their own blood in the samples. It would be awkward if they got ASBO'd for assaulting themselves. But there's more justification for that knife ban! I suppose a Louisville Slugger ban will follow posthaste.

What the HELL happened to the Brits?

Presser v. Cockrum

Reader Robert Lewis, commenting on I Imagine This Post Might Be an Unpopular One, below, takes exception to my citation of the 1886 Supreme Court Presser v. Illinois decision:
"Under Presser, the right to keep and bear arms is not a limitation on the power of States."

Hah ...the supreme court of Texas claims otherwise ...

"The right of a citizen to bear arms, in lawful defense of himself or the State, is absolute. He does not derive it from the State government. It is one of the 'High Powers' delegated directly to the citizen by the United States Constitution, Amendment II, and "is excepted out of the general powers of government". A law cannot be passed to infringe upon it or impair it, because it is above the law, and independent of the law-making power."
-Supreme Court of Texas, Cockrum v. State of Texas (1859).
Delving into my library, I pulled my copy of Clayton Cramer's For Defense of Themselves and the State: The Origins and Judicial Interpretation of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Here's what Clayton has to say about it over pages 90-92:
Article 610 of the penal code specified that manslaughter committed with a Bowie knife or dagger would be considered to be murder, and punishable accordingly. The defendant, John Cockrum, was indicted in 1857 for murdering William N. Self, of Freestone County. In 1858, Cockrum was convicted of murder, apparently based on article 610, and sentenced to life in prison in solitary confinement.

Cockrum appealed. The relevant part of his argument, as presented by his lawyer:
It is contended, that Article 610 of the Penal Code, is in violation of both of the State and Federal Constitution, which contain substantially the same provision, securing the citizen from any infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. 1st. it is asserted, that any law prohibiting a citizen from keeping or bearing any knife, which is intended to be worn upon the person, which is capable of inflicting death, and not commonly known as a pocket-knife, would be unconstitutional. To prohibit absolutely the keeping and having of an ordinary weapon, is certainly to infringe on the right of keeping and bearing arms. A bowie-knife, or dagger, as defined in the Code, is an ordinary weapon, one of the cheapest character, accessible even to the poorest citizen. A common butcher-knife, which costs not more than half a dollar, comes within the description given of a bowie-knife or dagger, being very frequently worn on the person. To prohibit such a weapon, is substantially to take away the right of bearing arms, from him who has not money enough to buy a gun or pistol.
Here Cockrum's attorney, Robert S. Gould, crisply articulated the position that would be taken a century later, in opposition to laws banning so-called "Saturday Night Specials" - that such laws work principally to disarm the poor.
And I cannot help but point out the extreme divergence between this argument and the argument being put forth today in England seeking justification to ban all long, sharp kitchen knives.

Clayton continues:
But what is the relevance of a law enhancing the penalty for manslaughter, to the right to carry a "bowie-knife or dagger"?

Gould pointed to the court decisions on the right to keep and bear arms, in particular. Nunn v. State (1846), since it had overturned a law banning small pistols. He then argued that if it was unconstitutional to ban the carrying of an arm for a lawful purpose, such as self-defense; and discriminating against a particular arm by enhancing the penalty for criminal use would be an attempt to discourage law-abiding people from carrying such arms, for fear that a manslaughter might thus be punished as severely as murder.
From what I've seen, England has been treating arms violations more severely than some murders. Anyway, continuing:
Most of the Texas Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Roberts, addressed the issues of how the varying punishments available for a murder conviction could be determined by the jury, and are of no relevance to our interests. Of relevance to the Second Amendment and Texas' similar constitutional provision, especially in light of the post-war decisions by the Texas Court: "it is contended, that this article of the Code, is in violation of the Constitution of the United States, and of this State." After citing the Second Amendment and the 13th section of the Texas Bill of Rights: "Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms, in the lawful defense of himself or the State," the Court explicated the purposes of the state and Federal Constitutional protections, with no apparent disagreement that both applied to a state law:
The object of the first clause cited, has reference to the perpetuation of free government, and is based on the idea, that the people cannot be effectually oppressed and enslaved, who are not first disarmed. The clause cited in our Bill of Rights, has the same broad objec in relation to the government, and in addition thereto, secures a personal right to the citizen. The right of a citizen to bear arms, in the lawful defence of himself or the State, is absolute. He does not derive it from the State government, but directly from the soveriegn convention of the people that framed the State government. it is one of hte "high powers" delegated directly to the citizen, and "is excepted out of the general powers of government." A law cannot be passed to infringe upon or impact it, because it is above the law, and independent of the law-making power.
The Court then held that discrimination in sentencing based on the probable lethality of a weapon was legally justified, but:
The right to carry a bowie-knife for lawful defence is secured, and must be admitted. It is an exceedingly destructive weapon. It is difficult to defend against it, by any degree of bravery, or any amount of skill. The gun or pistol may miss its aim, and when discharged, its dangerous character is lost, or diminished at least. The sword may be parried. With these weapons men fight for the sake of the combat, to satisfy the laws of honor, not necessarily with the intention to kill, or with a certainty of killing, when the intention exists. The bowie-knife differs from these in its device and design; it is the instrument of almost certain death. He who carries such a weapon, for lawful defence, as he may, makes himself more dangerous to the rights of others, considering the frailties of human nature, than if he carried a less dangerous weapon.
Today's controversy over semiautomatic military style rifles (so-called "assault weapons") has strong parallels to the concern expressed here about the Bowie. In both cases, the weapon was perceived as an "instrument of almost certain death," and a a weapon against which there was no defense. Also like today's controversy, the distinction between a Bowie knife and a butcher knife is partly in the perception of the purposes of the weapon, not their actual capabilities.
Interesting parallels to today, aren't they? The more things change....

The critical thing about this, though is that the Cockrum decision came in 1859. The U.S. v. Cruikshank decision came in 1875, followed by Presser v. Illinois in 1886. Cockrum should still be precedent for Texas STATE law, given the wording of 13th Section of the Texas Bill of Rights, but it does not apply to the FEDERAL government, because inferior courts cannot tell the Federal Supreme Court that it's out to lunch, even when it is. And laws have been passed to infringe on or impair the right to keep and bear arms, but not too damned many in Texas.

You'll notice that the Texas legislature didn't stand up to the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban as being violative of the right to keep and bear arms, nor did it protest the 1934 National Firearms Act, nor any part of the 1968 GCA.

Nice try, Robert, but no kewpie doll for you! ;-)
Oh Sh#^!! I'm a "Free Liberal!".

At least I fit this definition:
A Free Liberal is a person who values individual freedom, is alive to the dangers inherent in all forms of power and authority, and believes in the possibility of the rule of law, equal justice, fundamental rights, and a free and prosperous society.
This reminds me a lot of Steven Den Beste's piece, Liberal Conservatism. A lot.


Thanks to Mike at Feces Flinging Monkey, I've wasted a lot of time playing De-Animator, a pretty simple, but engrossing Flash game. Through judicious use of the shotgun and inhuman (heh) skill with the Webley revolver, my best score:

One hundred twenty-four zombies before they pulled my arm off and beat me to death with it. Think you can do better?

UPDATE: Best yet (for me.) UPDATED AGAIN!

One MORE Update: Mike from Feces Flinging Monkey sent me his suggestion for higher scores of de-animated zombies; happiness is a warm belt-fed!

I just haven't figured out how to move to the foxhole with the pintle-mount in it.

More Moronics from Nerf™land - I Mean England.
(Or: "At What Price, Safety?")

Have you seen the latest? Two Three Four readers emailed me, and one commenter posted on this story:
Doctors seek kitchen knife ban


Key points
• Doctors claim long kitchen knives serve no purpose except as weapons
• 55 out of 108 homicide victims in Scotland were stabbed last year
• Police superintendents say a ban would be difficult to enforce

Key quote
"Many assaults are impulsive, often triggered by alcohol or misuse of other drugs, and the long pointed kitchen knife is an easily available, potentially lethal weapon, particularly in the domestic setting" - Dr Emma Hern, writing in British Medical Journal

LONG, pointed kitchen knives should be banned as part of a concerted effort to reduce the terrible injuries and deaths caused by stabbing attacks, doctors warned today.

Accident and emergency medics claim the knives serve no useful purpose in the kitchen but are proving deadly on the streets of Britain, with the doctors claiming the knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.
Wait a minute. "(P)roving deadly on the streets of Britain"?? It's already illegal to carry almost any kind of knife "on the streets" of Britain unless you can prove "need" of it. (No presumption of innocence there.) Just ask Charlie Booker, arrested and sentenced for carrying a butter knife in public. Last I checked, a butter knife wasn't pointy or sharp.

Moreover, they're setting up metal detectors in public places, and searching anyone who tries to avoid them. It's "for the children," you know. If it saves just one life!

But now they need to ban kitchen knives?
The doctors claimed they had consulted leading chefs who said the knives were not needed for cooking - a claim disputed by chefs contacted by The Scotsman.

Latest figures from the Scottish Executive show that in 2003, 55 of 108 homicide victims were stabbed by a sharp instrument - often a kitchen knife.
Fifty-five homicides justifies banning kitchen knives. Jeebus. And of those 55 the weapon was often, not always a kitchen knife. Anyone see a realty disconnect here?
Writing in the British Medical Journal, specialist registrar Dr Emma Hern and emergency medicine consultant Dr Mike Beckett said a short pointed knife may cause a substantial superficial wound if used in an assault, but is unlikely to penetrate to inner organs. However, a pointed long blade pierces the body like "cutting into a ripe melon".
Define "short." One inch? Two? I've got this Ka-bar meat cleaver that I could really go medieval on your ass with. I don't think it qualifies as "pointy."
Internal organs can be heavily damaged, causing serious injury or death. The doctors said long knives with blunt ends - such as bread knives - would do far less damage.
Unless they're used to slash one's throat. Or femoral artery. Don't underestimate the lethality of a serrated bread knife!
Dr Hern said: "Many assaults are impulsive, often triggered by alcohol or misuse of other drugs, and the long pointed kitchen knife is an easily available, potentially lethal weapon, particularly in the domestic setting. Government action to ban the sale of such knives would drastically reduce their availability over the course of a few years."
Wait, wait. I thought the problem with these knives is that they're "on the street". Doesn't that suggest some premeditation? I mean, after all, you've got to be willing to break the law in the first place to simply carry such a knife out of your home, right? So if you're willing to do that, why wouldn't you be willing to substitute some other weapon? And banning the sale would "drastically reduce their availability over the course of a few years"??? IT'S A PIECE OF STEEL, YOU MORON!! THEY TAKE DECADES TO WEAR OUT! That Ka-bar meat cleaver I mentioned? WWII-era, if not older. I've got a couple of Old Hickory carbon-steel knives about the same age. And I don't think my 10" bladed, razor-sharp, needle-pointed Henckels chef's knife will be retiring any time soon, either.
Scotland's most respected pathologist, Professor Anthony Busuttil, said: "All the statistics show that for the last 15 years, victims of stabbings, whether fatal or seriously injured, are caused by kitchen knives such as steak knives rather than knives bought specially for the purpose."
Which, of course, could change overnight if such knives were all banned and confiscated, right? There'll be a big amnesty for people to turn in all their sharp, pointy knives and be reimbursed by the government who will issue them sporks in return? And then house-to-house searches and imprisonment for those who fail to comply?
Restaurateurs and chefs reacted angrily to suggestions of banning kitchen knives. Malcolm Duck, chairman of the Edinburgh Restaurateurs Association, said: "Kitchen knives are designed for a purpose. It would be like asking a surgeon to perform an operation with a bread knife instead of a scalpel. Anything in the house like a cricket bat could be used as weapon in the hands of an idiot."

Chief Superintendent Tom Buchan, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said although a ban on sharp, pointed kitchen knives would be welcome, it could be difficult to enforce.
Gee, ya THINK?? You've got to have licensing and registration FIRST! Didn't you learn anything from the handgun ban?

Oh, right. Of course you didn't. Silly me.

The BBC has a story on this too. More of the same, except for this quote:
The use of knives is particularly worrying amongst adolescents, say the researchers, reporting that 24% of 16-year-olds have been shown to carry weapons, primarily knives.

The study found links between easy access to domestic knives and violent assault are long established.

French laws in the 17th century decreed that the tips of table and street knives be ground smooth.

A century later, forks and blunt-ended table knives were introduced in the UK in an effort to reduce injuries during arguments in public eating houses.
Ten minutes on a grinder: sharp pointy knife again. Or, of course, everyone could just switch to chisels.

Now, lest you think this is merely an aberration (even after the banning of full-auto weapons, semi-auto rifles, all handguns, pepper & other defensive sprays, tasers, pretty much anything suitable for self-defense, et cetera,) let me remind you that in 2003 they were discussing forcing pubs to use plastic glasses and plastic beer bottles to, what? REDUCE VIOLENCE, of course, because Pub fights cost £4m a year and bottles and drinking glasses were used to inflict 15,000 injuries a year! I don't know what the outcome of that effort was. If anyone does, please let me know.

But I'll tell you what: Let's just raze the British Isles, tote off all of the wood and brick and glass and metal and rebuild with terrycloth, foam rubber, Saran-wrap and soft plastics and then you'll all be safe! Right?

As soon as everyone is in a straightjacket, that is. You seem to need the spinal support.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Lileks Plans to Move to Arizona.

No, really.

C'mon down, James. You'll be very welcome here.

Quote of the Week.

By now I'm sure that most of you have read Keith Thompsons's San Francisco Chronicle piece, Leaving the Left. If you haven't, you need to. Too much crunchy goodness to excerpt even a teaser. But that's not where the Quote of the Week comes from this time. Mr. Thompson has his own web site, and on that site is another of his essays, Busting the Moral Equivalence Racket. In it he quotes author Sam Harris from his book The End of Faith:
(S)o many Muslims are eager to turn themselves into bombs these days because the Koran makes this activity seem like a career opportunity
But we're not in a religious war, you understand. Words like "Crusade" must not be uttered.

Mr. Thompson has a blog, too: Sane Nation. I think I'm going to have to spend some time there. He says things like this:
Spot quiz. Who made the following statement:

“The free use of private property is just as important as ... speech, the press, or the free exercise of religion.”

A. James Madison
B. Thomas Jefferson
C. Adam Smith
D. Bobcat Goldwaithe

Answer: none of the above. Janice Rogers Brown made that statement. But it sounds a lot like Madison or Jefferson. So what is it that has "progressive" opponents of Brown's nomination to the D.C. Court of Appeals screaming like Bobcat?

Here's what: Brown had the audacity to declare that courts have the responsibility not run roughshod over groups that are unpopular or lack political power.
Yup. I definitely need to read more of what this ex-Leftist has to say.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Pendulum is Still Swinging, Apparently.

A Google News search for the term "assault weapon" today brings up a plethora of news stories on the Illinois House rejecting the current attempt to ban them. Whatever they are. It was a close one, however, failing by a single vote.

But the thing that grabbed my attention was the number of op-eds and letters-to-the-editor that were pro-gun. Like this one from Maine's Morning Sentinel:
I am tired of gun-control laws, their supporters and their tired lies. The assault-weapons ban is dead. You cannot breathe new life into it with the same lies and emotional diatribe that gave it life initially. My opinion is unchanged by the most recent reiteration.

So-called assault weapons do not function differently from any other semi-automatic firearm. They shoot one bullet with each squeeze of the trigger, like a revolver. They shoot bullets that are either the same as, or less powerful than, common hunting calibers. They do not "spray" bullets, because they are not machine guns. They look like machine guns. They have bayonet lugs, pistol grips, flash suppressors and detachable magazines, and they're usually black.

They're scary looking, but they won't kill anything any deader than any other firearm. Anyone with any familiarity knows this. If you have done your research, you know it. I can only assume your supporting this misguided effort means you will someday support banning all semi-automatic firearms. That failing, eventually, you will support banning all firearms.

The NRA, gun makers, dealers and sportsmen's groups don't vote; gun owners vote. We always have, and always will. We buy newspapers, too. Lawmakers would do well to not ignore those who elect them, and those who make their livelihoods selling newspapers should pay heed as well. Deal in truth and facts. You'll be respected and prosper.

Leon A. Richard
That was published as an op-ed.

Or this one from the St. Paul MN Pioneer Press:
The Minnesota Personal Protection Act has been in the news recently for two very important reasons — the "carry law" will become law and a permit holder has been charged with murder. It seems reasonable to try to determine if this is the exception, or the rule, in other states that have had much more than two years of experience and many more permit holders than the 25,000 in Minnesota.

By law, Texas is required to gather statistics on the arrests and convictions of permit holders. These statistics show that 3,370 permit holders have been arrested in the nine years since Texas enacted its carry law. That may sound frightening unless you know that there are 350,000 permit holders in Texas, and that only 24 percent of those arrests resulted in a conviction.

The resulting conviction rate makes permit holders almost eight times less likely to be convicted of any crime compared with nonpermit holders. The events in Minneapolis were an exception, not the rule. This is a good law that deserved to be resurrected.

Which rebutted this one that appeared two letters above it:
I found it interesting that your brief mention of the shooting death of Billy Walsh, a doorman at Nye's Polonaise Room in Minneapolis, never mentioned that the shooter was a permit holder, issued a permit under the 2003 conceal and carry law. Given that the day after the shooting the Senate passed a bill to re-enact the 2003 law, wasn't the fact that the shooter was a permit holder worthy of reporting? No wonder there isn't more outrage about having so many loaded handguns in public — if the media doesn't include such details, how are we to know?

Can you say "balance"?? Color me shocked.

Now, how about this piece in the North Greenville College newspaper, The Skyliner?
Library staff retires overused words

During several lunchtime discussions in the fall of 2003, the faculty of Hester Memorial Library began to comment to each other about the tendency of pop culture to overuse various words and phrases.

From these discussions, came a list of words which the group felt should be retired, or at least given a rest. The following spring, the group honed this list down to the top five words for that year.

In the spring of this year, the group gathered to compile a second list of overused words.

Certain words that are abused or overused by media, news casters, and television culture as a whole will be put on a list to be banned from the English language. This list is composed by Jonathan Bradsher, Director of the Library here at NGC for five years and NGC librarian of six years Carla McMahan.

The idea behind this list was to critique the usage of the English language in popular culture and to note its overuse, or misuse, of words and phrases. Because television tends to be such an influence in American culture, this critique is focused on the medium of television.

The top five words to the retired for 2005 are as follows:

1. Literally- A word that means "free from exaggeration or embellishment." It has been a favorite of news programs and especially the local ones. It is unfortunate that many of these users do not seem to understand its meaning. A recent newscaster reporting on a flood stated that "the water is just a few feet away... literally." One's first thought after such a statement is, what about the water that's "figuratively" just a few feet away?

2. Assault Weapon (and/or High powered Assault Weapon)- a phase that is loaded with politics and factual ambiguity. The reason that this word is on the list is because there is no one definition for this phrase and yet it is so widely used. What is an assault weapon? Whatever the speaker wants it to be. Since there is no definition, this phrase does not have to be qualified. Therefore, one could state that a slingshot was an assault weapon and a slingshot with an extra strong rubber band was a high powered assault weapon.
The remaining three worst words and phrases were "Ripped from the headlines!", "To the next level", and "Weapons of Mass Destruction." (To that I'd like to add "going forward" or "moving forward." "Conceptualize" is pretty bad, too, but not used as widely.) But still, the wording of the "assault weapon" paragraph makes me smile.

And finally, there's this op-ed from Florida's Tallahassee Democrat:
Florida isn't about to become Deadwood East

By Bill Cotterell

Shortly after Gov. Bob Martinez signed the 1987 concealed-weapons bill, I was seated next to a Sports Illustrated reporter at a Miami-FSU game. Before kickoff, he was prattling on and on about this wacky new Florida law.

Of course, he hadn't read it. He'd only heard about it from late-night comedians and national news accounts.

The magazine writer had already chosen his headline - "Shootout in the Gunshine State" - so it's fortunate that the football game turned out to be one of the best ever. Shaking his head, he told me he was going to write in SI how one of the first folks he'd met upon landing in Miami was a filling station attendant with a gun on his hip.

Perhaps feeling obliged to defend my home state, I pointed out that (a) a holstered pistol is not a concealed weapon, (b) although the law had been signed, the state was not yet issuing "conceal to carry" permits and (c) there were probably guns under the counters of some gas stations and convenience stores he had stopped at on his way up here. But southerners can't talk guns to New Yorkers because they've made their city so safe.

An odd thing is, Georgia had permitted concealed weapons a few years earlier and nobody noticed. Maybe it was the popularity of TV shows like "Miami Vice" or movies like "Scarface" back then, but Florida still has a reputation for weird things that only happen here.

Remember all those wild gun battles on Monroe Street since 1987? Remember how the concealed weapon law created an O.K. Corral in every crossroads of Florida? Me neither.

Actually, nothing much changed.

Law-abiding gun owners continued to abide by the law and criminals kept on being criminals. And people who don't want anything to do with guns weren't required to run out and get one.

Then there was the assault-weapon ban a few years later. Congress adopted a federal ban on certain types of rifles amid much discussion of folding stocks, banana-shaped clips and whether there could be handles on top of the thing.

I don't know much about guns, but, when I got out of the Marine Corps 40 years ago, the guidebook said a projectile leaves the muzzle at 2,500 feet per second. It doesn't matter whether a weapon is shaped like a pistol, a rifle or a piano. As long as it fires one shot per trigger-squeeze, an ounce of lead at that speed will do the same damage.

The Bush administration let the assault weapons ban expire last year. Have you seen a lot of people running around with AK-47s and Uzis? Me neither.

Actually, nothing much changed.

Now we're hearing the same indulgent chuckles from more enlightened quarters because the Legislature approved the "castle doctrine." The law Gov. Jeb Bush signed last week says you don't have to retreat if someone tries to invade your home or car, or assaults you on the street.

The law says you can meet force with force but it doesn't say you should. A sensible person (and our laws do presume that you're sensible) will still try to avoid a deadly confrontation.

There's a certain macho appeal to the law, but any sheriff or police officer would probably tell you that if you can get your family to safety and call 911 from next door, that's still the best thing to do.

It's doubtful many of the critics have read the bill. In fairness, neither have most of its supporters, but this time, the hooting and finger-pointing can be hazardous. A lot of the dire warnings about this new law may leave the impression that you can shoot the Avon lady.

There still must be a reasonable belief that you, or people near you, are in imminent danger. Police and prosecutors aren't stupid. Maybe some guy who shoots his wife will try to get off by saying he thought she was a burglar, but that could happen under the previous law - and juries can still see through alibis under the new one.

As with the conceal-to-carry law and the lifting of the assault-weapons ban, we're told that Florida will become Deadwood East. We hear how street-corner confrontations that used to end in shouted threats or maybe a bloody nose will now wind up with a chalk outline on the sidewalk.

When I worked in Atlanta, the little town of Kennesaw got into Johnny Carson's monologue with an ordinance that said every "head of household" - in Georgia at the time, this meant "husband" - had to own a gun. (In a bit of sublime satire, the elders of Ely, Minn., mandated that every home had to have a fishing pole, on the theory that feeding your family is as important as defending it.)

Sent to Kennesaw to write a story, I asked a merchant to give me the big picture.

"Well," he said, pausing, "I guess I'm gonna sell a gun - if there's anybody around here that don't already have one."

Actually, nothing much changed.

And maybe, if people will quit saying you can shoot first with impunity, nothing much will change with Florida's new castle doctrine.
Yes, I know they're all insignificant next to the New York Times, but taken together, they indicate to me that the pendulum is still swinging our way.

Then There's This,.

(Via Say Uncle)

Photobucket is down

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I May Have Hooked a Live One!.

I've been commenting over at Banana Oil! on Ian's post A Challenge, sparring with another commenter, Alex. If you're interested in the exchange, it starts here. Well, Alex has taken up the gauntlet, and I've invited him to post here at TSM. We'll see.

I love doing this.

I'm weird, aren't I?

Monday, May 23, 2005

I Imagine This Post May Be Unpopular.

I just took the time to read the Bach v. Pataki decision. (A day late and a dollar short.) Several bloggers have commented on it. Yosemite Sam of The Ten Ring wrote:
Now via Alphecca we have a decision from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that pretty much takes a crap on the Bill of Rights. The case is Bach vs. Pataki in which a Virginia man argued that his Virginia carry license should be valid in New York State, just like a driver's or marriage license.

But this "Court" decided that New York has a compelling reason to crap on the Constitution and said that the state's restriction of permits to New York residents was valid. They justify their decision using the totally bogus 2nd Amendment collective rights argument that even Lawrence Tribe says is utter bullshit.
The referenced piece by Jeff contains:
Once again we see judges who should be figuratively tarred-and-feathered for their astounding lack of knowledge concerning current thinking on constitutional law. Even such liberals as Lawrence Tribe have come around to believe that the Second Amendment refers to a personal right, just as all the other amendments do. Here we have (in my opinion) incompetent judges attempting to twist the original meaning of the Bill of Rights to suit their activist positions.
Most bloggers, though, were more circumspect. David Hardy wrote:
In the 1980s, the 2d Circuit easily waved the Second Amendment away. For example, in U.S. v Toner, 728 F.2d 115 (2nd Cir. 1984), an equal protection question was raised with regard to the Gun Control Act's ban on possession by illegal aliens, and the Circuit disposed of the "fundamental right" criterion (if a fundamental right is involved, a court must use a higher level of scrutiny in determining whether equal protection has been violated) with a sentence: "....the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right, cf. United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S.Ct. 816, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (1939) (in the absence of evidence showing that firearm has "Some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia," Second Amendment does not guarantee right to keep and bear such a weapon)..."

Today, the Circuit has to spend a lot of time hedging, and it declines the obvious opportunity simply to adopt the district court ruling. This suggests it sees the Second Amendment question as up in the air rather than settled.
Countertop Chronicles is pessimistically enthusiastic:
Boy, I'd love to see the Supreme Court knock this one out of the park. Unfortunatly, its probably a very good delaying tactic on part of the GFW's on the 2nd, because if the Supreme's were to take the issue up, they likely would limit their review to the error of relying upon Presser. Once reversed, they would simply send it back down to the Second Circuit and avoid any discussing of the underlying Second Amendment concerns that are really at issue.
And, finally, Crime & Federalism was more encouraged:
This is almost a model test case on the incorporation question. Some have speculated that the reason four Justices haven't voted to grant cert. in other Second Amendment cases resulted from the lack of a good "test plaintiff." Well, Bach is the perfect plaintiff.
You know what a decade of reading legal decisions has done to me? It's made me appreciate it when judges actually follow the law. A while back I wrote "Game Over, Man, Game Over" when I was disillusioned at 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski bowing to the precedent of that circuit's Hickman v. Block when it so obviously went against what he believes. I said then:
Mike Spenis said "the future of our freedom ultimately rests with the court's willingness to periodically reexamine the law," but the evidence is plain that the courts will not do that. They will use obviously flawed precedent so long as it "comports especially well with our notions of good social policy." And even if it doesn't, the courts will often bow, as Kozinski does here, to precedent they abhor. We depend upon the honor and intellectual honesty of the judges who make up the Justice system, yet it seems that those who are truly honest and honorable are outnumbered by those who are "willing to bury language that is incontrovertibly there." The honest and honorable ones abide, under the rule of law, by precedent that is otherwise insupportable. The middling honest ones, the ones Justice Brandeis labled as "men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding" "build magnificent legal edifices on elliptical constitutional phrases - or even the white spaces between lines of constitutional text." And those decisions stand, without review, periodic or otherwise, to serve as the next step down the road to Hell.
I stand by those words still, but I do so because if the honest and honorable judges did not abide by precedent, we would not have even the semblance of rule of law.

This is what caught my attention in the Bach ruling:
Although the sweep of the Second Amendment has become the focus of a national legal dialogue, we see no need to enter into that debate. Instead, we hold that the Second Amendment’s “right to keep and bear arms” imposes a limitation on only federal, not state, legislative efforts. We thus join five of our sister circuits.

Our holding is compelled by the Supreme Court’s opinion in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252 (1886). In 1879, Herman Presser led four hundred armed members of a society called the Lehr und Wehr Verein through the streets of Chicago. Illinois’s Military Code required that any “parade with arms” be licensed by the Governor. Presser lacked a license, and was charged and convicted under the Code. Presser argued to the Supreme Court that Illinois had exercised a power “forbidden to the States by the Constitution of the United States.” He relied on both the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Supreme Court rejected Presser’s argument. Justice Woods explained, “[A] conclusive answer to the contention that [the Second Amendment] prohibits the legislation in question lies in the fact that the amendment is a limitation only upon the power of Congress and the National government, and not upon that of the States.” The Court quoted Chief Justice Waite’s opinion in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875). “[T]he right of the people to keep and bear arms ‘is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second Amendment declares that is shall not be infringed, but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress.’” Presser, 116 U.S. at 265 (quoting Cruikshank, 92 U.S. at 553). The Court affirmed Presser’s conviction.

Presser stands for the proposition that the right of the people to keep and bear arms, whatever else its nature, is a right only against the federal government, not against the States. The courts are uniform in this interpretation. Just as Presser had no federal constitutional right “to keep and bear arms” with which to challenge Illinois’s license requirement, Bach has none to assert against New York’s regulatory scheme. Under Presser, the right to keep and bear arms is not a limitation on the power of States.
Like it or not, that's sound legal reasoning, and here's why:
We must follow Presser. Where, as here, a Supreme Court precedent “has direct application in a case, yet appears to rest on reasons rejected in some other line of decisions, the Court of Appeals should follow the case which directly controls, leaving to th[e Supreme] Court the prerogative of overruling its own decisions.” Rodriquez de Quijas v. Shearson/Am. Express Inc., 490 U.S. 477, 484 (1989); see also id. at 486 (Stevens, J., dissenting). The Court has cautioned, in the context of constitutional interpretation, that “courts should [not] conclude [that] more recent [Supreme Court] cases have, by implication, overruled an earlier precedent.” Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203, 207 (1997); see also id. at 258 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting). Even if a Supreme Court precedent was “‘unsound when decided’” and even if it over time becomes so “‘inconsistent with later decisions’” as to stand upon “‘increasingly wobbly, moth-eaten foundations,’” it remains the Supreme Court’s “prerogative alone to overrule one of its precedents.” State Oil Co. v. Khan, 522 U.S. 3, 9, 20 (1997) (quoting Khan v. State Oil Co., 93 F.3d 1358, 1363 (7th Cir. 1996) (Posner, J.)). Thus, “regardless of whether appellant[] agree[s] with the Presser analysis, it is the law of the land and we are bound by it. The[] assertion that Presser is illogical is a policy matter for the Supreme Court to address.” We cannot overrule the Supreme Court.
Quite right. To do otherwise means that the system of rule of law falls apart. Both Cruikshank and Presser, while bad decisions, are clear on what they meant - and they stated in no uncertain terms that the Second Amendment didn't protect against STATE infringements on the right to arms. Inferior courts do not have the legal power to overturn those decisions. Individual Appeals Court judges do not have the power to overturn en banc Circuit decisions, either.

The metaphorical crap was taken on the Bill of Rights by the justices in the Cruikshank and Presser courts. The judges sitting on the 2nd Circuit bench are not the clean-up crew, nor should their decision be grounds for tarring and feathering. They're doing their job, as far as I can see. It's up to the Supreme Court to fix this one, and while I hope they'll do the right thing, or at least what Countertop thinks likely, I would not be surprised if they deny cert. on this case as they did on both Emerson and Silveira. It is, after all, easier to dodge uncomfortably bad decisions than correct them.

They've been doing that since 1939.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Range Report!!.

Cowboy Blob has the pictures and details. The malfunctions I was experiencing with my Kimber were new to me. I just added Cylinder & Slide's Safety Fast System. Among other things, it came with a new slide release. Well, it seems to work too good, locking the slide back when it shouldn't be. I was shooting Federal 230gr hardball, and several times the slide would lock back, and I'd look to see the cartridge about 1/4 of the way forward. Drop the slide release and everything was copacetic. Very odd. But the SFS works great! Might have to go back to the original slide release, though.

The 25-round Butler-Creek 10/22 mag seems to have surrendered, but the factory 10-rounders still work perfectly.

Both the Garand and the AR-15 were flawless.

But by 10:30 it was already too damned hot, so we packed it in. Good day, though.

Damn, It's Hot!.

This hot:


Summer took its time getting here, but it's here with a vengeance.

Let's Just Keep Bashing England, Test Case for America's Future.
Dept. of Socialized Medicine, This Time.

I'm on a roll. Might as well. (The Telegraph is such a wealth of material.)

I present to you this op-ed on just how wonderful England's National Health Care system is:
My mother was dying, but no one would take charge of her care

By Alasdair Palmer
(Filed: 15/05/2005)

The latest report into the failings of patient care in the NHS has a depressingly familiar ring. An organisation called the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death found that nearly half of patients needing intensive care were not properly cared for. In a substantial number of cases in which the patient died, the care was so bad that it could have contributed to hastening the patient's death. The report found that the overall quality of medical records was "poor". Ten per cent of patients did not even receive a complete examination, nor was their medical history available to the doctors who were charged with making decisions about their care.

Dr Bill Kirkup, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, was quick to insist that "there is no evidence to suggest that the failings identified by the report are typical or found throughout the NHS". But of course there is: many people who have experience of NHS care will have their own stories illustrating "less than good practice". Mine relate to my mother, who died of cancer 18 months ago. Initially, she went to her GP with back pain. He gave her some pain killers, and reassured her that nothing was wrong: he did not order any tests of any kind, even though her medical notes stated that two years earlier she had had breast cancer.

The pain killers he prescribed had no effect. She went back to see him, in increasingly severe discomfort, several times. Each time, her GP said the same thing: "Don't worry, it will clear up." My mother's cancer was diagnosed only when she took herself to see a neurologist who had, years before, helped her get over back pain. That neurologist did some tests - and told my mother she would have to be admitted to hospital immediately.

The GP's reluctance to look at my mother's records delayed by six months the diagnosis of the recurrence of her cancer, which turned out to have metastasized into her bones and liver. It was unquestionably a dire example of "less than good practice". But once she was admitted to the Royal Free hospital, in north London, the standard of her care did not improve much. Some of the nurses were inhumanly rough with her, causing her tears of agony when lifting her off the bed to wash her. We complained and tried to get the nurses changed. The complaints had no effect. Then the hospital's supply of pain-killing drugs - essential for my mother - first threatened to run out, then not to be renewed.

There was no continuity of care. Several different teams of doctors were assigned to her. They didn't lose her notes, but they did seem to have difficulty in reading them, for they each asked her the same questions - the answers to which were in her records - each time they saw her. Most of the very limited time the doctors had available for her consultations were thus taken up with these routine questions.


I remember my father sitting at her bedside as a group of doctors finally came to deliver an assessment. The senior consultant - who was standing in for someone else, who was on holiday - introduced herself and started to repeat the familiar questions whose answers were in the notes. My father interrupted and said: "We do need someone to take charge of this case. Can I take it that you are responsible for my wife's care?" There was a long pause. Then came the answer. "Um… No," the senior consultant said. "I'm not responsible. It is a committee thing."

And there, it seems to me, is the crux of the problem with so much hospital care: no one is responsible for anything. There are endless teams and committees - the palliative care team, the medical emergency team, the patient-at-risk team, and so on - but no one takes responsibility. The whole point of the committees seems to be to ensure that no individual can be held responsible for whatever decisions are taken. "Less than good practice" is the inevitable result.
"No one is responsible for anything." Let me quote Mark Steyn from the piece I pointed to in the last post:
Almost every act of the social democratic state says: don't worry, you're not responsible, leave it to us, we know best. The social democratic state is, in that sense, profoundly anti-social and ultimately anti-democratic.
That goes for everyone from petty criminal to Member of Parliament.

Please, please, PLEASE let us not take that path here.

Here's an Interesting Complaint About British Policing.

I wonder what David Copperfield has to say about it? From The Telegraph, in its entirety:
'Police aware' - but not, apparently, of you and me

By Charles Moore
(Filed: 21/05/2005)

Driving along, you see a car, possibly stolen, abandoned by the side of the road. You slow down to look, perhaps intending to report the vehicle. A piece of paper is stuck on the windscreen which says "POLICE AWARE". This reassures you. But suppose you drive past again next week, and then again next month, and the vehicle is still there, your attitude to the notice changes. If the police are aware, you think, why aren't they doing anything about it?

Gradually, a still more irritating thought dawns. You realise that the police declaration that they are "aware" is considered enough. It is not a prelude to doing something about a crime: it is a substitute for it.

This does not apply only to cars. You or a friend or a family member report a fairly minor but upsetting crime - a bag snatch, a break-in, a drug deal on the corner. Oh yes, you are told, there's a lot of this around, we think we know who's doing it, it's just a matter of getting the evidence. POLICE AWARE.

Sometimes this goes on for years, and with much more serious crimes. Several people I know suffered from a spate of very nasty antique thefts in the South-West. The gang were expert, and violent. They carefully chose elderly people in quite remote places, came in the small hours, and sometimes let off smoke bombs to confuse their victims into thinking their house was on fire. For ages, the police said they knew the large criminal family behind it all, but they were reluctant to close in. They did so only after determined and prolonged protests from rich and influential people in several counties. So how much worse it is for "your poor, your huddled masses".

Again, crime late at night in the West End of London is huge because of the people who go there to get drunk. The police are "aware", of course, but they believe that the problem is so great that their only practical tactic is dispersal of the troublemakers rather than large-scale arrests. An eccentric and brave Westminster city councillor called Ian Wilder has made a habit of photographing crimes being committed. Recently he snapped an attack in which an innocent passer-by died: Wilder's lens captured the poor man lying on the ground. Far from thanking him for his public service, many police were furious at his drawing so much attention to the trouble - POLICE AWARE, but they do not want others to be.

I do not believe this happens because British policemen and women are useless people. Most of the officers one meets try to be helpful and some are outstanding. It is a problem deep in the way public services - not only the police force - are run.

A friend of mine is a police officer at "the sharp end", though, far more often than he wants, he is actually at a desk. The Home Office targets come down to him and his colleagues. They demand, for instance, X numbers of detections per month. So it is hard not to go for those detections that are easy rather than the ones that are most important. And once a force has these targets imposed, it turns inwards upon itself, setting itself targets for its targets, reprimanding people not for failing to go on patrol, but for failing to write the necessary report in the prescribed time.

In real life, explains my friend, the proper pursuit of crime can play havoc with targets. Suppose, to take an extreme example, that the police were after a psychopathic killer of six children. That would require, rightly, huge amounts of money and men but, if successful, it would show up simply as six detections.

All the other detections that were put on one side to concentrate on the crime that mattered most would skew the statistics: so the force that caught the murderer would fail to meet its targets.

My friend and his colleagues were also compelled to do long hours of "community awareness training".

He thinks it is important not to offend ethnic minorities through ignorance, but the area he polices is more than 98 per cent white and so it may not matter very much to know the difference between a Buddhist and a Dravidian. When the police "stop-check" someone in the street, they have to ask them their ethnicity, and send the record to the Home Office. Funnily enough, says my friend wryly, stopping people in these circumstances is not like market research: "Most of them don't want to stand around and have a chat about ethnic issues." You don't get proper answers and so you end up consuming your energies in "a process just to show you're doing it".

Now the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, admits to the Police Federation that his office imposes too much bureaucracy on its members. But this is not the sinner that repenteth so much as the alcoholic who promises to reduce his intake to one bottle of whisky a day. For the fault is not in Mr Clarke's civil servants, or even in Mr Clarke, or even in New Labour (though none of these helps). It's in the system. It's the question of who's boss.

The Met's case is the most extreme. It is accountable to the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership, the Community Safety Plan, the Mayor of London, the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Home Secretary. So the confusion is complete. The only clear thing is that the Met is not accountable to the public through their votes.

It follows from this, with an iron logic which no amount of personal niceness by individual officers can break, that the public become a nuisance to the police. Their orders don't derive from the public, and no punishment comes from displeasing them. The top jobs come from pleasing Mr Clarke, not the widow cowering behind her window grille or the corner shop owner watching the youths sprinting off with his takings.

That is why the police like to say that it's not crime but the fear of crime that is the problem: it's a polite way of saying that the customer is always wrong. Thus Neighbourhood Watch becomes a bore, private security becomes a menace, concerned citizens who ring the police with information are just clogging up the switchboard, "have-a-go" heroes are breaking demarcation lines. Go away - POLICE AWARE.

They can only say that because they are not answerable to the customer - not in the Met, neither in leafy Surrey, nor in gritty Liverpool, not in the outer Hebrides. From time to time, you see television interviews with American lawmen - a sheriff in Arizona who has chain gangs, a Mr Big from New York who has cut crime in half. They are presented strangely - half-mocking their sheer American-ness, half-admiring their tough talk. But the real point is not that these men are better or worse or braver or cruder than our own: it is that their careers as policemen depend on the communities they serve. Ours don't.

My friend the police officer says that the police need to "find out who the local community are and what they want". How poignant, how tragic, that, for all their efforts, they don't know already. We must be given the power to tell them.

I can't add anything to that.

Stand Up To the Yobs, Get Attacked.

Great society they're building over there in Britain. Once again, an armed man who confronted a group of teens ends up with a severe head injury.
Father of four 'critical' after confronting yobs in street

A father of four was critically ill last night after being attacked by a gang of youths who he confronted after a stone was thrown at his car.

Phil Carroll, 48, suffered serious head injuries. He was struck twice and knocked to the ground.

His assailants, two boys and a girl, may be as young as 14.

As he remained in a critical but stable condition at Hope Hospital, Salford, Greater Manchester, Mr Carroll's wife, Jean, appealed for the public's help in catching his attackers.

"We are all devastated by what has happened,'' she said. "Phil is such a good person and is well liked.

"He went out to his car and a minute later he was lying in the street. Somebody must know who did this.''

Mr Carroll's brother, John, 34, who witnessed the attack, said: "We need to know who these people are to get them off the streets.

"Phil said youths in the area were always causing unruly behaviour during the night. Being the person he is, he will always confront them and now it has ended up like this."

Mr Carroll, a company director, went to his brother's house in Lower Broughton, Salford, to help with his car satellite navigation system.

"He was due to start work on a large contract for Barclays Bank in Aberdeen today and wanted to make sure he wouldn't get lost in the city.

"As we walked towards the car for a test drive Phil spoke to a girl and two lads he felt were trespassing as they were stood inside his gate. The youths walked off without any problems but when Phil asked them to close the gate the girl told one of the lads not to.

"One of the lads threw a stone at the garage which ricocheted and hit the car. Phil ran over to the youths who had been joined by a group of around 20 who were hanging around in the street.

"He only went to find out who threw the stone but before he could do anything one of the lads punched him in the face and as he fell backwards he was hit again by another youth.

"Phil hit his head really hard on the pavement and just lay there. I wanted to confront the lad that hit my brother but by just looking at him I knew he was in a bad way.

Juuuust marvelous.

Hey, gang, let's try England's crime-control methods here! They're so successful, after all.

In a related piece, read Mark Steyn's analysis of why the "hoodie culture" has grown across the pond. Here's a taste:

From my own personal observation of sullen teens in ghastly clothing loafing about dreary British shopping malls, I'd say a lot more of them seem to be hooded than their equivalents in dreary American or dreary Canadian shopping malls. It's some while since I've been to a dreary Fijian or dreary Uzbek shopping mall, so I don't want to overstate my case but there seems to be some indication that the United Kingdom is becoming a world leader in hooded teenagers. Why should this be?

Obvious answer: CCTV. The British are the most videotaped people in the history of mankind, caught on camera by official surveillance devices as they go about every humdrum public manoeuvre. If you're a grown-up, this might not seem a big deal: you can go back to your pad, collapse on the sofa and pick your nose far from Tony Blair's prying eyes, though doubtless this chink in the 24/7 monitoring system will eventually be rectified.

But, if you're an adolescent, far more of your social rituals take place in public - meeting friends at the bus stop, enjoying a romantic moment by the non-operative ornamental fountain outside the KwikkiJunk Centre, etc - and it seems entirely reasonable that adolescent garb has artfully evolved to provide its wearers with such privacy as can be found under the constant whirr of the Big Blairite Brother's telly cameras.

This is the usual law of unintended consequences. Just as the increasing sophistication of home-security systems has led burglars to conclude that it's easier to wait till you're in, knock on the door and punch you in the face, so the ever-present 24-hour surveillance devices have ensured that, even if you get a look at your assailant, you'll never be able to pick him out of a police line-up.
RTWT. It's worth it.

Goin' Shootin'.

I'm headed out to the range this morning to burn a little cordite with Cowboy Blob. This afternoon my family is having a birthday picnic to celebrate my daughter's 26th. And it should only be about 103º! What a great plan!

Anyway, no posting until this evening, if then. See ya!

Friday, May 20, 2005

This is the Result of a "Decades-Long Slow-Motion Hate Crime," Ms. Whittenburg

I have said that sometimes gun owners are our own worst enemies, but I have to admit that this story I ran into last week in Houston left me ambivalent:
Gun 'bullies' spread fear in Augusta

© 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

She knows that simply asking the question is enough to set them off. But Cathie Whittenburg, executive director of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, can't help herself.

"What ever happened to civility?" Whittenburg asked Tuesday as her group's legislative agenda - or what's left of it - limped toward the end of the session. "There's a level of anger here that you don't see with other bills. And these people, you know, are armed!"
Yes, and you're pissing them off! It's been going on for decades now, and all of us are tired of it. We've figured out that "sensible gun laws" means "gun bans" and some have decided that "civility" isn't going to stop it, so perhaps harsh language might be called for.

I don't feel that way myself (often), but I certainly understand the sentiment.
Responsible gun owners, step away from your computer keyboards. Whittenburg is the first to acknowledge that the nasty e-mails and telephone messages surrounding Maine's never-ending debate over firearms come not from mainstream hunters or target shooters or collectors. Rather, she blames them on "the bullies" who attack anything they consider a threat to their beloved Second Amendment.
I suspect that more than a few of them are mainstream hunters or target shooters or collectors. They're the ones, after all, actively engaged in the shooting sports.
But lately, those bullies have Whittenburg worried. Last week's story out of Augusta - that state Sen. Ethan Strimling, D-Portland, had forwarded three pieces of hate mail to the Attorney General's Office, including one from the "No Warning Headshot Photo Lab for Freedom" - is but one example of what Whittenburg calls a stepped-up offensive against anyone who dares submit a bill containing the word "firearm." (Strimling apparently put himself in the cross hairs by proposing that Maine adopt a statewide ban on assault weapons.)
And you wonder just exactly what the Second Amendment was put there for, don't you, when you get a reaction like that?

Let me be clear here: I neither advocate nor endorse such actions. They're stupid, they're illegal, and anyone who does it to that extent ought to be arrested. But on the other hand I used to think that Claire Wolf's statement about government, "It's too early to shoot the bastards," was on the money. I no longer do. I'm conviced now that Jefferson, as radical as he was, had the right of it:
And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The past which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive; if they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.
It's not too early, it's too late. We've passed the point where it would be at all effective. Too much of the population would reject any such action, and it would result in more government interference, not less.
"It's really unfortunate for people who are brave enough to sponsor these bills," Whittenburg said. "If your name is on a (firearms) bill, you get slammed."
But not shot. Yep, you certainly are brave to be bearding the lion in its den, aren't you?
"Absolutely," agreed Rep. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, during a break at the State House. It wasn't long after she submitted a bill last January calling for a 10-day waiting period on firearms sales to anyone younger than 22, Craven said, that she began getting cryptic calls and e-mails telling her, "You're going to be sorry you did this."

Granted, that could mean her bill, which by Tuesday had been watered down almost beyond recognition, could cost Craven re-election. Or it could mean something else.

"I grew up in Ireland, where you get very sensitive to threats and anything involving weapons," said Craven. When the first threats began showing up on her phone machine and computer last winter, she said, "I became very concerned. I remember thinking, 'Gee, I even have these legislative plates on my car . . .' "
And we all know just how effective gun control laws have been in Ireland, don't we?

So "let's do it over here" strikes you as a good idea?
Rep. Deborah Pelletier-Simpson, D-Auburn, knows the feeling. She sponsored a bill this session that would tax firearm sales and use the money to improve security in Maine's courthouses. As a victim of domestic violence six years ago, Pelletier-Simpson knew firsthand what it's like to sit in the courthouse lobby afraid that all hell might break loose.
I imagine she knows all too well what it's like to sit in her home, afraid that "all hell might break loose." Yet she seems to think that attempting to disarm other people will somehow make her safe. Sheesh. And she's an elected representative of the People. She should read TFS Magnum. Maybe she'd get a clue.
Earlier in the session, Pelletier-Simpson's response to one nasty e-mail about her bill (the tax part has been stripped out, she said, while the rest of the proposal is "on life support") found its way to an ultra-conservative Web site. She came home from a weekend away to find her answering machine full of messages - all from men, all screaming, all saying "I had no right to represent people. I should resign my office ..."
I understand the sentiment. I disapprove of the style.
"They were all kind of veiled threats," said Pelletier-Simpson. "By the time I finished listening, I was in tears. It was frightening."
But I bet you'll be brave as hell next session, and try to introduce more gun-control legislation, won't you?
Then there's Rep. Carole Grose, D-Woolwich, who co-sponsored Strimling's assault-weapons bill - but isn't sure she'd do it again.

Perhaps it's more effective a tactic that I gave it credit for...
The bill died before a legislative committee on Friday - yet Grose's telephone rang every 15 minutes all weekend ("Sometimes I listened. Other times I just held the phone out and let them go.") and her e-mail inbox was still smoking as late as Monday night.

"One of them called me an 'enemy of the country,' " Grose said, adding that by the time she had waded through the page-and-a-half diatribe, "I felt like I had a target on my back."

"For what we get paid up here, it's not worth it to me," said Grose. "How do I know there isn't some radical person out there who's actually going to do something?"
And aren't those the ones you're trying (with complete lack of success) to disarm? No, you're trying to disarm people like me.
It's not a rhetorical question. Whittenburg, of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, has a story in her news archives about 20-year-old Michael Breit of Illinois, who in November was convicted of illegally receiving explosive materials with intent to kill, injure or intimidate people.

It seems Breit accidentally discharged his AK-47 in his apartment a year ago, and police who responded found a hit list of public figures who were, he later told police, "marked to die" for their liberal or anti-gun views.

"I truly believe we're talking about a minority here," Whittenburg said. "But it can be a real threat."

That's exactly what Strimling thought when he forwarded his hate mail to the AG's office last week. The postcard from the "No Warning Headshot Photo Lab for Freedom" not only called him a "treasonous Jew," he said, but it also ended with the words, "Triangulation squad at hearing on Monday 10 a.m. In your face debate, traitor."

"I didn't get it until after the hearing," Strimling said. "Had I gotten it before, I probably wouldn't have gone."
Back in 2000, Dr. Michael S. Brown of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership wrote The Radicalization of America's Gun Culture from which I got the "decades-long slow-motion hate crime" quote. Dr. Brown said then:
Members of the great American gun culture who actively enjoyed their sport and celebrated their firearms heritage were once considered the backbone of America, both for their militarily valuable shooting skills and for their patriotism. Decades of deliberate attacks by politicians and the media have slowly relegated this important group to the status of a subculture that now feels out of place and at war with its own government.


Since the National Firearms Act was signed into law in 1934, the number of gun control laws at all levels of government have multiplied exponentially. So has the overall crime rate, which some argue is a direct result of gun control laws that discourage self-defense.

Although none of these laws reduced crime, each new law creates another way that a well intentioned gun owner can inadvertently end up in prison or ruined by legal costs. Some have been killed in raids by government agents. Much like laws passed to promote the failed war on drugs, each new gun law gives the police additional powers that threaten basic constitutional rights.

America's lawful gun owners are painfully aware of these facts. Since gun laws don't reduce crime, they wonder, what is the real purpose? This question has led to numerous theories that attempt to explain why the "ruling elite", which includes the media and many politicians, would want to eliminate civilian gun ownership in America.

American gun owners feel as if they are being slowly crushed. One writer recently described this decades-long campaign as a slow motion hate crime.

Frustration has been building in the gun culture for thirty years and has been accelerating with the faster pace of anti-gun attacks and the dramatic improvement in communications. Stories of outrageous persecution by government agencies now circulate like wildfire via the internet. Anti-gun bills introduced in any legislature are instantly made known to millions.


Some observers of this cultural war wonder why large numbers of gun owners have not yet resorted to violence to preserve their way of life. Civil wars have started over less.


Nobody knows if, when or how this group will reach its breaking point, but one must question the wisdom of infuriating millions of armed citizens.
You want to know where civility went, Ms. Whittenburg? Ask Eleanor Holmes Norton. Ask Joseph Pelleteri. Ask Lester Campbell. Ask Bruce Louis Bartos. Ask Christopher and Trudy Sherburne. Ask Al Woodbridge. Harry & Teresa Lamplugh. Jerry Michel. (And read the follow-up.) Ask...

Well, you get the idea. The list is nearly endless. And infuriating.

You reap what you sow. Sow the wind, ...