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

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's a Baaaad Time for It, But...

SayUncle points to a new anti-gunblogger, Robyn Ringler, who blogs at the Albany, N.Y. Times-Union newspaper's website. Apparently they allow outsiders to use their bandwidth if the author's blog topic is approved by the paper.

Somehow I doubt they'd approve of The Smallest Minority, so it's probably a good thing I have no plans to move.

Ms. Ringler is both a nurse and a lawyer whose claim to fame is that she nursed Ronald Reagan after he was shot by John Hinkley. She started her blog April 17 - the day after the VA Tech massacre. In her second post she wrote:
Blame it on President George W. Bush–it's all his fault. It may be considered in poor taste to talk about gun control right now, but he started it.

I first heard about the shooting on Monday while driving in the car. NPR reported that a gunman had killed multiple students at Virginia Tech. In the same broadcast, President Bush's first reaction was released.

The president is "horrified" at the shootings, said a White House spokesperson, but he is still in favor of a constitutional right to bear arms.

Hearing that while driving a car was far more dangerous than any cell phone. If I could have fallen off the seat, I would have.
Translation of the president’s message: You can kill all the kids you want. I never have and never will do anything to prevent a mentally disturbed, violent person like Cho Seung-Hui from getting all the semiautomatic handguns and ammunition he or she wants.
(*sigh*) Oh, boy. In a later post she wrote:
The question is not, "Who should own a gun?" The question is "Who should NOT have a gun?"

There is no way to know by looking at a person and having a two-minute conversation. Here, in the motel lobby, I think, I NEED MORE INFORMATION.

Has a judge or magistrate ever committed that person to a mental institution because he posed an imminent threat to himself or others? Has he been convicted of a felony? What if he wasn’t convicted, but there were significant complaints against him or what if he plea bargained down from a felony to a misdemeanor? Is he a stalker? An abuser? Someone who doesn’t know how to use a gun safely? Or store it properly?

We need to take the time to ask the important questions. Our LEGISLATORS need to take the time to ask the important questions. They are our leaders. They are who we turn to in a crisis. They are the ones who need to act on our behalf. Where are they?
Ms. Ringler is obviously someone convinced that other people are responsible for her protection.

In the post that SayUncle points to first in his piece, he notes that Ms. Ringler, like essentially all anti-gun activists, is very poorly educated on her topic of passion. It seems that she wants to ban the .50 caliber BMG rifle. Apparently she believed (she has since retracted) that Muhammed and Malvo used a .50 in the D.C. Sniper shootings, among other things.

So, I have invited her to debate.
Let me be up front and state that I am an advocate for individual rights in general, and the right to keep and bear arms in particular. I would ask you to please not dismiss me out of hand because of that, however.
I’ve read several posts here, and have reached the conclusion that you are well-meaning, but misinformed. Obviously as a nurse and a lawyer, you have a good brain between your ears, but you’ve been mislead(sic). I understand what it is that you believe you are advocating, but I don’t believe you’ve thought out the actual implications of those positions.
I would very much like to debate the topic with you, either here or at my blog or even privately via email (though, obviously I’d prefer to have the discussion be public) on the topic of gun control. (Note to self: Proofread, proofread, proofread before hitting "submit." - Ed.) I believe you would find it enlightening. Though I honestly doubt I would “convert” you to a gun-rights position, I know that you would receive a different perspective that would at least moderate your position.
In a public forum our debate would offer an opportunity for others to see both sides of the argument, discussed rationally and in a civilized manner, backed with facts and links to source information to allow readers to see and decide for themselves.
Thank you for your attention. I await your response.
Kevin Baker - proprietor, The Smallest Minority
I'm going to be busy as hell for the next, oh, eight weeks, so debating will be difficult at best, but to be honest I don't expect her to respond. She certainly needs more information, but I don't think she's really interested in hearing from the other side.

UPDATE, 6/1: I'll be damned. I left another comment at Ms. Ringler's site, answering her list of ten questions. At the end of that comment, I left another invitation to debate, (note the "more on this below" in response #5) but it was edited out. It would appear that she is not at all interested in any kind of honest exchange with her opposition. I'm so disappointed.

Unsurprised, but disappointed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dept. of Our Collapsing Schools, Higher Education Div.

(via Instapundit)

Author and City Journal contributing editor John Leo riffs on writing and higher education in On Good Writing, a speech he gave in 2006. Excerpts:
George Orwell, at the beginning of his essay, “Politics and the English Language,” made clear that he thought the language had become disheveled and decadent. That was in 1946. Intending shock, Orwell offered five examples of sub-literate prose by known writers. But these examples don’t look as ghastly to us as they did to Orwell, because language is so much worse today.


Several kinds of writing heresies are thriving in the universities. One is that the ability to write is so unimportant that it should be expected only in the humanities department, maybe just in English courses. Another is the romantic notion that rules, coherence, grammar and punctuation are unimportant. What counts is the gushing of the writing self. One adherent of this school of thought told me that we should no longer talk about misspellings, but personal spellings. The self decides what is right and wrong. Writing in the Public Interest magazine, Heather Mac Donald reported that “students who have been told in their writing class to let their deepest selves loose on the page and not worry about syntax, logic, or form have trouble adjusting to their other classes—the ones in which evidence and analysis are more important than personal revelation or feelings.”

Grammar and clear expression are under another kind of attack as well. Rules, good writing, and simple coherence are sometimes depicted as habits of the powerful and privileged. James Sledd, professor emeritus of English at the University of Texas, writes in the textbook College English that standard English is "essentially an instrument of domination." If proper English is oppressive, what could be more logical that setting out to undermine it? English Leadership Quarterly ran an article urging teachers to encourage intentional writing errors as "the only way to end its oppression of linguistic minorities and learning writers." The pro-error article, written by two professors at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, actually won an award from the quarterly, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English. So you can now win awards for telling the young to write badly. (YU CAN NOW WIN A WARD IF YU CAN TELL YOUNG TO BADLY WRITE.)
When George Orwell wrote 1984 the "Big Brother" government controlled the language with specific intent. The control of language was termed "Newspeak," and the purpose behind Newspeak, as Orwell explained in an appendix, was:
...not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc (English Socialism), but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought - that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc - should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. To give a single example. The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as ‘This dog is free from lice’ or 'This field is free from weeds'. It could not be used in its old sense of ‘'politically free' or 'intellectually free' since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless. Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.

Newspeak was founded on the English language as we now know it, though many Newspeak sentences, even when not containing newly-created words, would be barely intelligible to an English-speaker of our own day.
The man was truly prophetic. Later in that appendix:
When Oldspeak had been once and for all superseded, the last link with the past would have been severed. History had already been rewritten, but fragments of the literature of the past survived here and there, imperfectly censored, and so long as one retained one’s knowledge of Oldspeak it was possible to read them. In the future such fragments, even if they chanced to survive, would be unintelligible and untranslatable. It was impossible to translate any passage of Oldspeak into Newspeak unless it either referred to some technical process or some very simple everyday action, or was already orthodox (goodthinkful would be the Newspeak expression) in tendency. In practice this meant that no book written before approximately 1960 could be translated as a whole. Pre-revolutionary literature could only be subjected to ideological translation—that is, alteration in sense as well as language. Take for example the well-known passage from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government. . .
It would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping to the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up in the single word crimethink. A full translation could only be an ideological translation, whereby Jefferson's words would be changed into a panegyric on absolute government.
I quoted Thomas Sowell a couple of posts ago:
A recently reprinted memoir by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) has footnotes explaining what words like 'arraigned,' 'curried' and 'exculpate' meant, and explaining who Job was. In other words, this man who was born a slave and never went to school educated himself to the point where his words now have to be explained to today's expensively under-educated generation.

There is really nothing very mysterious about why our public schools are failures. When you select the poorest quality college students to be public school teachers, give them iron-clad tenure, a captive audience, and pay them according to seniority rather than performance, why should the results be surprising?

Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of our enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.

In a democracy, we have always had to worry about the ignorance of the uneducated. Today we have to worry about the ignorance of people with college degrees.
For those of us with a modern public-school education and a college degree, a "panegyric" is defined as "a lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing". Orwell published 1984 in 1949. It is fascinating that he put the target date for the end of "Oldspeak" and the complete adoption of Newspeak to be about 2050.

We seem to be right on schedule.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

This memorial day, I'm posting a bleg. Not for me, but for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are stationed all over our country, and all over the world. And not for just them, but also their families. This year, in addition to that moment of silence, or that moment of appreciation for what our military secures for us, give something back - voluntarily.

Printed below is a list of charities dedicated to helping members of the military and their families. They are presented in no particular order. Choose one (or more than one) and donate what you can to them. Some will accept material goods, some will accept airline miles, all will accept cash donations.

The Fisher House:
The Fisher House™ program is a unique private-public partnership that supports America's military in their time of need. The program recognizes the special sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and the hardships of military service by meeting a humanitarian need beyond that normally provided by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Because members of the military and their families are stationed worldwide and must often travel great distances for specialized medical care, Fisher House™ Foundation donates "comfort homes," built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times - during the hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease, or injury.
If you donate unused airline frequent-flier miles this weekend, the airlines will match your donation.

Soldier's Angels:
Soldiers Angels has been supporting our nation's military men and women since 2003. Our mission is to provide aid and comfort to the military and its families, provide immediate response to hard situations, and make sure no soldier feels unloved.We start with letters, care pacakges, and comfort items to our deployed. We also help their families here at home as requested.

Through special projects, dedicated teams and individuals supporting our troops we hope to make a difference in the lives of our soldiers. Find out how you can get involved!

Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund:
Since September 11, 2001, United States Marines have been on the front line
of the War on Terror. Their bravery and dedication have had a price. Many have been wounded, some seriously, and some resulting in lifelong disabilities.

Because of medical advances, Marines are now surviving injuries that were not survivable in past wars. They face extended hospital stays and months if not years of recovery and rehabilitation.

Few families are prepared to deal with the personal and financial disruption associated with leaving their home, their family, and their job to be with their loved one through long months of hospitalization, rehabilitation and recuperation.

The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund provides financial assistance to:

·Marines injured in combat and in training

·Other service members injured while in direct support of Marine units

·Their families.

This assistance is in the form of a grant with no expectation of repayment. Grants may help with immediate financial needs such as travel, childcare, lodging or problems resulting from lost wages. Assistance is also given for long term needs such as modified homes and vans.

Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund:
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is a leader in supporting the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families. Begun in 2000 under the auspices of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, and established as an independent not-for-profit organization in 2003, the Fund has provided close to $60 million in support for the families of military personnel lost in service to our nation, and for severely wounded military personnel and veterans. These efforts are funded entirely with donations from the public, and hundreds of thousands of individuals have contributed to the Fund. 100% of contributions raised by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund go towards these programs; all administrative expenses are underwritten by the Fund’s Trustees.

From 2000 to 2005 the Fund provided close to $20 million to families of United States military personnel lost in performance of their duty, mostly in service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Fund provided unrestricted grants of $11,000 to each spouse and $5,000 to each dependent child; and $1,000 to parents of unmarried servicemembers. The payments were coordinated with the casualty offices of the Armed Forces, to ensure all families received these benefits. In 2005 federal legislation substantially increased the benefits granted to these families. With that mission therefore accomplished, the Fund redirected its support toward the severely injured.

Special Operations Warrior Foundation:
Special Operations personnel are conducting more missions, in more places, and under a broader range of conditions than ever before. These missions entail high operational tempos, heavy and unpredictable deployment schedules, personal hardships and, by their very nature, inordinate casualties both in operations and training. Unfortunately these casualties occur at an early age, at the beginning of their careers, thus leaving behind families who have yet to accumulate the resources to provide for their surviving children's college education.

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation strives to relieve Special Operations personnel of the one concern, their families, that might distract them from peak performance when they need to be - and when America needs them to be - at their very best.

Today, more than 700 such deserving children exist who should not be denied the education their fallen parent would surely have wanted for them. With nearly 100 children eligible each year for college in the upcoming years, the Foundation's estimated financial need through 2018 is $60 million.

The Army Emergency Relief Fund:
AER is a private nonprofit organization incorporated in 1942 by the Secretary of War and the Army Chief of Staff. AER's sole mission is to help soldiers and their dependents.

AER is the Army's own emergency financial assistance organization and is dedicated to "Helping the Army Take Care of Its Own". AER provides commanders a valuable asset in accomplishing their basic command responsibility for the morale and welfare of soldiers.

AER funds are made available to commanders having AER Sections to provide emergency financial assistance to soldiers - active & retired - and their dependents when there is a valid need.

AER funds made available to commanders are not limited and are constrained only by the requirement of valid need.

For these reasons, the AER assistance program is conducted within the Army structure by major commanders and their installation/organization commanders through AER sections and other related organizations.

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society:
Founded in 1904, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is a private non-profit charitable organization. It is sponsored by the Department of the Navy and operates nearly 250 offices ashore and afloat at Navy and Marine Corps bases throughout the world. The Society was incorporated in the District of Columbia and has its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. It is managed by a Board of Directors whose members are active duty or retired members of the Naval Services, or spouses of active duty or retired members of the Naval Services.

The mission of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is to provide, in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, financial, educational, and other assistance to members of the Naval Services of the United States, eligible family members, and survivors when in need; and to receive and manage funds to administer these programs.

The Air Force Aid Society:
The AIR FORCE AID SOCIETY (AFAS) is the official charity of the U.S. Air Force. It promotes the Air Force mission by helping "to relieve distress of Air Force members and their families and assisting them to finance their education". It is rooted in the original Army Air Corps and the World War II Army Air Forces, whose members wanted to "take care of their own." Through the years, AFAS has become increasingly effective in helping individuals with personal emergencies-- as well as extremely useful when used by commanders to help solve personnel problems in their units.

The AIR FORCE AID SOCIETY, since its creation in 1942 as a non-profit organization, has helped countless members of the Air Force community. Strong support for AFAS programs and objectives is reinforced each year by the substantial personal contributions made by the active force, all of which are used solely for Emergency Assistance. Although AFAS receives no appropriated or non-appropriated funds, close ties are maintained between the Society and Air Force officials.

The Armed Services YMCA:
The Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, is a national member association of the YMCA of the USA and works with the Department of Defense. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the ASYMCA has provided support services to military service members and their families for more than 140 years, particularly focused on junior-enlisted men and women – the individuals on the front lines defending our nation and their families. ASYMCA operates at 16 dedicated branch locations and nine affiliated community YMCAs, as well as six Department of Defense/Department of Homeland Security affiliates worldwide.

ASYMCA offers essential programs such as childcare, hospital assistance, spouse support services, food services, computer training classes, health and wellness services, and holiday meals, among many others. In 2006 alone, more than 9,133 individuals nationwide volunteered their time to the ASYMCA, logging 214,622 volunteer hours.

The Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund:
The Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that was founded October 23, 2003 by Rebecca Campbell and is based in the D.C. Metropolitan area.

After the attacks on our nation her youngest son enlisted in the U.S. Army and served with the 82nd Airborne out of Fort Bragg, N.C. Her nephew was already serving in the USMC and was deployed to Afghanistan as well as other close friends. In February 2003 her son was deployed to Baghdad and later that year with the help of family and friends she organized a fundraiser to help children affected by the loss of a parent. The idea was to help one or two children who had lost their parent(s) overseas during his or her deployment with college assistance. The first fundraiser was held two weeks later and was a big success! She simply cannot stop and with the help of volunteers and the public we continue with our mission of support. Her son, nephew and other close friends did come home, however, others have not and with the continual support from the public the dream to help our families in need is becoming a reality. As of today, April 24, 2007 Fort Bragg has lost 119 troops in the Iraq war.

Our Mission:

The CFSRF was founded in order to provide support to surviving U.S. Military children and spouses that have lost a loved one in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars or whose service member has sustained a serious disability.

Our objectives are to help U.S. Military children and spouses with College Grants as well as provide financial assistance to those families in need of help with housing, utilities, food and clothing. Often, when a loss occurs in these families what was a two person income becomes one. The financial hardships placed on these families are very difficult to deal with. Their lives are devastated and forever changed.

We are determined to help make the last wishes of those lost to the casualty of war possible by assisting their families with their needs. However, we can only do this through the help of others.

The AdoptaPlatoon Soldier Support Effort™ founded in 1998 is a nonprofit 501C-3 organization managed nationwide by volunteer mothers to ensure that deployed United States Service members in all branches of the military are not forgotten by providing needed mail support and to promote patriotism in our schools and communities. To provide a better deployment quality of life, lift morale, and assist military families, the AAP created projects that meet the need of military requests, established special projects for holidays, and assigns individual morale lifting mail support to service members of all branches of the U.S. military serving their Nation around the world.

AmericanSnipers (formerly Adopt a Sniper):
We are active local, state, and federal police snipers as well as snipers from the various military branches.

We are a tight-knit group that believes strongly in supporting our brothers that are deployed to the front lines. In return for that support, they then pass on their gained knowledge upon their return.

We work hard and believe in our missions.

We train hard so that when the time comes, we can accomplish our missions to the fullest of our abilities.

We are snipers that need support in the form of advanced gear as well as "creature comfort" items to help us pass the time while we are away from our jobs and our families.

We are the ones putting our lives on the line to help keep this great country safe and free from terrorism. We are your sons, your brothers, your husbands, your fathers, as well as your friends.

We invite you to directly support the effort of those that are going in harms way on your behalf.

Any Soldier:
Sergeant Brian Horn from LaPlata, Maryland, an Army Infantry Soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade was in the Kirkuk area of Iraq when he started the idea of Any Soldier® to help care for his soldiers. He agreed to distribute packages that came to him with "Attn: Any Soldier" in his address to soldiers who didn't get mail.
Brian later completed a tour in Afghanistan and is now home, but continues larger then ever.

Any Soldier Inc. started in August 2003 as a simple family effort to help the soldiers in one Army unit, thus our name. Due to overwhelming requests, on 1 January 2004 the Any Soldier® effort was expanded to include any member, of any of the Armed Forces in harms way.

Books for Soldiers:
During the first Gulf War, several of my friends from school were in the reserves and were activated to fight the Iraqis. CNN reported that once the soldiers were deployed, they were faced with massive downtime and were restricted to their base due to the travel limitations set by the Saudi government.

I am a voracious reader and at the beginning of the Gulf War, I had a closet full of paperback books. Books that were not being used. So instead of selling them at the used book store, I packed them up in small care packages and sent them out to all the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen I had addresses for.

Within a few weeks, I ran out of books before I ran out of addresses. Friends and family members began donating their paperback books and in the end, over 1000 books were sent to the Gulf.

After the war, we received many thank-you notes from soldiers who got one of our books. Unless it was time for them to fly back home, mail-call days were one of the most anticipated events of deployment. Regardless of why the military is deployed, the men and women of our armed services are there for us. They deserve our support and if we can make their deployment easier, then all the better.

Operation Give, founded by MilBlogger Paul Holton, "Chief Wiggles":
The most unique aspect of Operation Give is that it not only supplies humanitarian aid to civilians in combat zones, but it also provides US military personnel who are deployed in those areas with the opportunity to connect with the civilians. Through our connections and contacts in the military, we desire to provide them with the resources needed to accomplish their mission of winning the hearts and minds of the people. This mission is just as important to us as providing much needed supplies and resources for the children of the countries where the military are stationed.

The Mission Statement:
The mission of Operation Give is to bring hope and happiness to struggling people the world over by helping them to gain access. Through servicing the requests of caring soldiers and civilians, we are working towards bringing disconnected economies into the global community, that all may experience the benefits and the peace that comes from economic connectivity and world-wide trade. As a bastion of freedom we, through kind and generous donations will provide the U.S. soldiers and indigenous civilians with the resources they need. Our focus will be greatest on children in these areas.

The philosophy:
We believe the key to peace throughout the world comes only through the eradication of poverty. By linking the isolated economies to the global trade community, internal rule sets within these countries will find a working equilibrium with the rest of the world. This will greatly decrease the likelihood of military conflict and terror world wide.

Operation Quiet Comfort:
Our Purpose :

Established for the purpose of honoring and comforting members of the U.S. Armed Forces injured while in harm's way, and providing support to those who care for them.

Our Mission:

We're creating care packages to be sent to "Any American Hero" at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany and other medical care facilities abroad.

Often our injured men and women arrive for medical care without their belongings. Even when injured, our troops need access to items like hygiene and grooming products, clothing, entertainment, and communication.

Many of these men and women have families and friends who face challenges at home and aren't able to do all they would like to provide support.

It is the mission of this effort to help assure those individuals are honored for their sacrifice and comforted by creating "GO BAGS", or transition kits. These kits include comfort items like our "Four Freedoms Gratitude Quilt", personal care items, and products that entertain and provide "down time" for their spiritual, emotional, and physical healing.

Wounded Warrior Project:
The mission of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is to raise public awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, to help severely injured service members to aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.

WWP accomplishes this mission by providing programs and services to severely injured active service members and their families during the critical time between their initial rehabilitation while on active duty and their eventual transition to civilian life. WWP employs staff with over 55 years of combined experience in providing direct services to active duty service members and disabled veterans, including benefits counseling, representation before the department of veterans affairs, bringing public attention to the needs of wounded service members, and advocating for regulatory and statutory changes beneficial to veterans and active duty service members.

The USO:
The USO is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide morale, welfare and recreation-type services to our men and women in uniform. The original intent of Congress — and enduring style of USO delivery — is to represent the American people by extending a touch of home to the military. The USO currently operates more than 130 centers worldwide, including ten mobile canteens located in the continental United States and overseas. Overseas centers are located in Germany, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Qatar, Korea, Afghanistan, Guam, and Kuwait. Service members and their families visit USO centers more than 4.7 million times each year.

This is just a short list. There are many more. Pick one you like, and make a donation of time, material or money this Memorial Day.

UPDATE: Reader Rumpshot recommends Packages from Home, a local Arizona charity:
Packages from Home began as a mother's labor of love for her son, a soldier with the Army's 1st Infantry Division. Kathleen Lewis's son Christian was deployed to Iraq in March 2004. She began sending care packages to her son on a regular basis. She received a phone call from Christian and was thanked for all the comfort items from home, but she also found out that her son was the only soldier in his squad receiving any packages from home. Kathleen and some friends decided to adopt his squad, and began shipping packages to the men in his unit. This is the point where "Packages from Home" was born.

Kathleen, along with her friends and neighbors, began having "packing parties" in her garage every month or so, sending requested and needed items to her son's squad. As we all know, volunteerism for a good cause is contagious. As the small group of volunteers kept sending packages, more and more people began to get involved. In October 2004, the small organization received a call from a local a.m. radio talk show host. Bruce Jacobs from KFYI Radio invited Kathleen to be on his morning talk show to talk about her cause. After the appearance on his show, her phone lines lit up. Some people wanted to donate money, others wanted to donate items to support the troops, and others volunteered their time to help.

The grassroots effort began to grow in leaps and bounds from November 2004. By then we realized that the amount of donated goods, and the money coming in to ship the items, would require us to request charitable status with the IRS. Packages From Home is now a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

We are an all-volunteer group, with NO paid Officers and NO paid staff except for a nominal amount paid to a part-time bookkeeper. Our sole purpose is to provide food, personal care, seasonal comfort items and recreation items to deployed American troops, at no cost to the troops. With the one exception of the bookkeeper/CPA, none of us are paid, no one receives compensation of any sort.

UPDATE II: Markadelphia recommends Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America believes that Troops and Veterans who were on the front lines are uniquely qualified to speak about and educate the public about the realities of war, its implications on the health of our military and on the health of our country. These Troops & Veterans should be given a voice in the national dialogue and connected to the American public.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America believes that issues concerning our Troops & Veterans, the health of our Military, and our National Security are all interrelated. The IAVA philosophy/platform is that:

* A healthy, well-manned, well-equipped, and properly used Military is vital to our national security, but with substantial priority placed on personnel, not high-end weapons systems
* Our Troops must always be provided a clear mission (with goals and an exit strategy), be properly trained for the tasks it is given, and not be overextended in order to ensure success of the mission and to keep the military healthy.
* Our Troops must always be provided the best equipment and operating conditions that provide for the greatest level of safety and morale within reason.
* Veterans must be properly provided for, not only for moral reasons, but because it directly and significantly impacts recruitment and morale for the overall armed forces.
Now you may have perceived that this group is not exactly like the others, and you might be right about that. The most obvious difference I see is illustrated by this apparent dichotomy:
IAVA is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization. Your tax-deductible contributions are vital to our success.


As the Iraq War enters its fifth year, our obligation to show real support for our troops and veterans is both a moral duty and a crucial component of our national security. For 2007, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has developed the comprehensive IAVA Legislative Agenda to help legislators honor our men and women in uniform by addressing the real issues facing troops and new veterans. We look forward to working with the 110th Congress.

The IAVA Legislative Agenda covers four key areas: mental health, homecoming, health care, and government accountability. From these areas, we've chosen seven IAVA Legislative Priorities: actions Congress can take this session to show that they really support the men and women who have served and continue to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This charity, it seems, has a political agenda. Seeing as how they changed their name from "Operation Truth" much like "Handgun Control" changed their name, a rose by any other name...

Quelle surprise. But I assume they actually do some good.
Good Guys 1, Bad Guys 0.

From comes a "coulda ended worse" story. Let's start with the post:
Ok so the other day i posted about a guy buying a gun wearing pink crocs...

The reason he wanted a gun was because a former employee stole from them and then he was fired. The employee then said they would hurt his family, throw acid in his wife face etc So he wanted to buy a gun for protection. No CCW so he has a 3 day wait. His Glock is still sitting on my shelf.

Yesterday two guys approached him in the drive way in the AM and pointed a gun at him and told him to go back inside the house. His wife was inside so he wasn't going to do it. he jumped the guy with the gun and disarmed him and shot him. Killed the guy right there. The other guy took off.
Now the media's version of the story:
Two arrested in connection with Cape homicide

Two people have been arrested in connection with a Cape Coral homicide, according to Cape Coral Police. But the man who pulled the trigger is not one of those charged with murder.

Damion Jordan Shearod, 20 of 3900 Central Ave., Fort Myers, and Jazzmyne Rahshel Carrol-Love, 19 of 611 Rabbit Road, were both charged with second-degree murder and robbery with a firearm. Shearod was also charged with trespassing. Both are in custody at the Lee County Jail.

Police spokeswoman Dyan Lee said Carrol-Love drove Shearod and the shooting victim to the address to commit an armed robbery. But a struggle ensued, the gun was dropped and the robbery victim fired at the suspects as they feld(sic) the scene.

The shooting victim still has not been identified.

From earlier today

Cape Coral police are currently investigating a shooting death at 2125 Northeast 1st Ave, just east of Santa Barbara Boulevard and north of Pine Island Road.

The unidentified victim, a black male in his 20s, police said, was face down on the driveway of the home when police arrived. Police said he died of a gunshot wound. Several neighbors reported hearing gunshots. The victim was not carrying any identification, police said.

Police have not officially ruled it a homicide, calling it a death investigation.

The victim does not appear to be a resident of the home, police said. Two other people — Jacob Sechler and Elizabeth Elizabeth Kachnic — are involved, but police are not sure in what capacity. According to the Lee County Property Appraiser's website, the home is owned by Kachnic. The home, according to the website, was built last year for $297,000.

Kachnic was taken by police for questioning. Sechler was treated at the scene for injuries and released.He also was questioned by police. Sechler did place a 911 call about a disturbance at the house at 11:22 a.m.

Police believe the victim was running from the home prior to his death.

If it is officially ruled a homicide, it would be the third in three weeks in the city, after going almost the first four months of the year without one.
"Jazzmyne Rahshel Carrol-Love." Sounds like a winner from one of Mostly Cajun's Sunday birth announcements. Note the story indicates that the wealthy victim assailant shot that poor assailant victim in the back!

But here's an update on the story:
Man shot dead in botched Cape robbery ID'd
Cape shooting has many unanswered questions

Police have identified the victim (editor's note: No, the police have identified the dead alleged perpetrator. The victim pulled the trigger.) in a fatal shooting on Wednesday as John Patrick Moore Jr., 20, of 2616 Jean Marie Court in Fort Myers.

He was one of three suspects in a botched robbery attempt.

At approximately 11:22 a.m. Wednesday, police said Moore and two other suspects,
Damion Jordan Shearod, 20, and Jazzmyne Rahshei Carrol-Love, 19, drove from Fort Myers to 2125 NE 1st Avenue, where, police said, they planned to rob Jacob Seckler. He lived at the residence with the home's owner, Elizabeth Kachnic.

Carrol-Love, the driver, remained in the vehicle as Shearod and Moore exited the vehicle.

Moore was armed with a gun and both men went to confront Sechler and tried to force him into the home, but a struggle ensued. Moore dropped the gun during the struggle and Sechler picked it up.

Both Moore and Shearod continued to struggle with the victim to regain possession of the gun, but the attempt failed, and Sechler fired at the suspects, striking Moore.

Moore fell and died in the victim's driveway.
Note that there is now no "shot in the back" inference.
Damion Jordan Shearod and Jazzmyne Rahshei Carrol-Love were arrested Wednesday and charged with homicide and robbery with a firearm. Sechler was not charged.

Updated 10:45 a.m.

When two Fort Myers youths were arrested Wednesday night in the Cape Coral shooting death of a friend during a botched robbery, it was a familiar scenario for one of the suspects. (My emphasis.)

Police said Damion Jordan Shearod, 20, Jazzmyne Carrol-Love, 19, and an unidentified male were involved in an attempt to rob a Cape Coral couple at 2125 N.E. 1st Avenue Wednesday morning. But when one of the suspects dropped the gun, the would-be victim grabbed it and shot one of the suspects, killing him in the driveway. Police still have not released that man's identity pending notification of his family.

While it doesn't appear Shearod pulled the trigger on his friend in that shooting, he and Carrol-Love have been charged with second-degree murder and robbery with a firearm. The Cape homeowners, Jacob Selack and Elizabeth Kachnic, were not arrested by police.

But Shearod had been convicted two years ago for pulling the trigger on another friend, Giannis Avrampoulos, killing him, on Jan. 6, 2005.

The News-Press archives indicate he should have been sentenced to 24 years to life in prison. It was not immediately clear why he did not remain in prison. (Again, my emphasis)

Originally, Lee County Sheriff's deputies charged both Shearod and his brother, Euric Thomas, then 17, of Avrampoulos' killing, in which he was choked, shot multiple times and then robbed. Charges were later dropped against Thomas, but Shearod was convicted for the killing on July 12, 2005.

Shearod was acquitted by a judge four months after he was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison, court documents show.

It was not immediately clear why Lee Circuit Judge James Thompson reversed the jury’s decision to convict Shearod of shooting Avrampoulos, but the state was appealing the decision.

Updated 7:40 a.m.

One of the two youths in jail today on murder and robbery charges had been charged with another murder in January 2005, Lee County Sheriff's Office booking records show.

Damion Jordan Shearod, 20, was arrested Jan. 10, 2005 in the murder of his friend Giannis Avramopoulos, 18, of Lehigh Acres, according to the Lee County Sheriff's Office.

Shearod was accused of getting into an argument with Avramopoulos, pulling a gun out of his waistband and shooting the teenager, the report said. Shearod was released by court order later.

Shearod's court appearance for Wednesday's charges is scheduled June 18. His last known address is 3900 Central Ave. #308, Fort Myers. He is also known as DJ.

The second youth arrested, Jazzmyne Rahshel Carrol-Love, 19, has no prior record with the Lee sheriff's office. Her last known address is 611 Rabbit Road, Sanibel. She is also scheduled to appear in court June 18.

The identity of the third suspect, who died at the Cape Coral home, still has not been released.

Posted Wednesday

After a botched robbery attempt, two Fort Myers youths were arrested Wednesday night in connection with the shooting death of their friend in Cape Coral.

Both suspects are charged with second-degree murder and robbery with a firearm.

According to Cape police spokeswoman Dyan Lee: Damion Jordan Shearod, 20, and Jazzmyne Rahshel Carrol-Love, 19, along with an unidentified man, drove to the home of Cape couple Jacob Seckler and Elizabeth Kachnic at 2125 N.E. 1st Avenue with the intent to rob them.

But when the unidentified man tried to force one of the would-be victims into the home, he accidentally dropped the gun, Lee said.

“The unidentified (deceased) male dropped the gun during the struggle and (Seckler) picked it up,” Lee stated.

Shearod, Seckler and the unidentified male wrestled for control of the weapon, but Seckler ultimately overpowered the two and fired at the suspects, killing one at the edge of his driveway.

Lee said the deceased man is not yet being identified pending notification of his family.

It is the third homicide for the city in as many weeks following four months without one.

“I’m horrified,” neighbor Maralee Haldeman said. “I heard about four or five gunshots, and at first I thought it was fireworks or something. I rushed outside and that’s when I saw (the deceased) there.”

Initially, police responded to what they thought was a disturbance at 11:22 a.m., Lee said, but officers found the man dead when they arrived. He was not carrying identification.

Seckler was the one who called police.

Neighbors said Seckler, who is in his late 40s, moved into the home with his girlfriend Kachnic, 37, in January. Kachnic is the owner of the home, which was built last year.

Police questioned both Kachnic and Seckler, who was treated for minor head injuries caused by a scuffle on the scene.

A connection between the couple and the gunshot victim was not immediately clear.

Kachnic had contacted police Tuesday to report her housekeeper stole a $5,800 watch and checks worth $480. Kachnic told police her former employee admitted to taking the items, but then left several vulgar messages on her voice mail.

In one, the accused woman reportedly said, “Tell Elizabeth to come to Fort Myers and get her watch. When she gets here, I will whack her (expletive).”

“Elizabeth feels very threatened and wants her watch back,” reporting officer R. Schilke wrote. “But she doesn’t want trouble.”

Haldeman described the neighborhood as quiet, and Kachnic and Seckler as “very nice.”

“They didn’t have any enemies,” she said. “They didn’t live here long enough to know many people at all. That’s why I think this burglary has something to do with it.”

Records show the couple moved to Florida from New Rochelle, N.Y., about 20 miles outside New York City.

As for the suspects, Carrol-Love does not appear to have a prior criminal record, but Shearod was arrested in the past for another homicide in 2005, as well as burglary and vehicle theft. It was not immediately clear why he was released after the 2005 homicide charge.
Yep. Those waiting periods really help keep the public safe, don't they? One wonders if the dead perp had to wait three days before he took possession of the revolver that ended his life.

The original poster updates with this:
A person who worked the scene and who is a good customer here shared some awesome info.

The dead bad guy was wearing a shirt that said "Murder King, Have it your way"
I guess he had it his way....
he had baggy pants on and when he started to run his pants fell down around his ankles and tripped. He was NOT shot in the back. he was shot in the side. It was a 38spl s&w. One round entered the left lung and continued into his heart.
Who says that the .38 Special isn't enough round? Defensive shooting is like real estate: location, location, location! And another update:
The gentleman came to pick up his gun today. Went it and shot it a bit. Did very well. Picked up a holster and some ammo. he was pissed... his eye had swelled up . he more upset about the black eye than anything.
here's somethig pisses us off. the PD told him not to go home for 2 months. Told him to take a vacation. they searched the dirt bags house and found quite a few firearms there. Told him not to go home and he doesn't want to go there alone. I gave my cell number and said i was off the next two days and i would go with him ,clear his house so he and his wife could get whatever they needed and check on their house. Don't go home for 2 months. Thats a damn joke.
Another member here graciously offered to cover a course for him and his wife at Front Sight. i let him know and he said he would love to. i forwarded the e-mail to him.
Please note that is a message board. The finer points of capitalization, punctuation, and grammar are lost to a large portion of humanity. Still, it was an interesting story, and one with even a better ending: As I understand it, Florida recently passed a law protecting people from civil lawsuits if they are involved in a justifiable homicide. The victim here will not be further victimized by the legal (not "justice") system. In England I have no doubt that Mr. Sechler would be sitting in a jail cell while the Crown Prosecution Service did their best to prove that he used "excessive force." He would at least suffer a six week murder investigation as did Thomas O'Connor. Interestingly enough, Mr. O'Connor was advised to move away after his incident as well.
The 30th Anniversary of Star Wars.

I have to comment. I was 15 (!) when Star Wars hit the theater. I was then (and remain) a major fan of Science Fiction, but I had been burned by so many bad SciFi movies that I was not one of those who saw the film in its opening week. Actually, it took about three weeks before the word-of-mouth was irresistible and I went.

Just... wow. The opening scene was awesome, and it just got better from there. I've been a fan of the original trilogy ever since. I cite as evidence my "Han Shot First" t-shirt that it just so happens I am wearing as I write this. But I lost interest when Lucas ruined the trilogy with his "director's cut" versions for the first DVD and theatrical re-release, and I was further put off by the prequel trilogy that - to put it bluntly - just sucked. This is best exemplified by the PVP cartoon strip that said it all:

Joss Whedon, for those of you who don't know, is responsible for the outstanding but ill-fated TV series Firefly and the feature-film Serenity.

So, in celebration of this momentous anniversary I give you the best piece of satire I have ever seen from the Star Wars universe: Darth Vader calls the Emperor after the destruction of the Death Star:

Oh, and don't forget the Femtroopers and . . .

. . . the abomination below her. (That post is still drawing hits today.)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Movie Review: Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End

My wife had made noises about wanting to see this movie when it opened. On Thursday when I got home, she asked me if we were going to see it that night. I told her that I didn't think the first show was until midnight, so we'd have to wait. At about 2 o'clock Friday afternoon, my daughter called me at work and asked what time the three (3) of us were going to the movie.

I guessed that meant I'd better get tickets.

Y'know, Fandango works pretty good. I bought three tickets for the 7:40 showing, in DLP digital. I got home, we loaded up, went to dinner and then arrived at the theater about 6:30. Yeah, we were pretty early, but we weren't the first in line, either. We got the seats we wanted, which was the important thing, and the house was eventually FULL.

Let me say right off the bat that in Dead Man's Chest I'm pretty sure the editors could have cut half an hour to 45 minutes out of the beginning and it wouldn't have adversely affected the film. At World's End runs 2:48, and I never once looked at my watch to see how much time was left. Once again, Johnny Depp IS the show. Well, him and Keira Knightley's eyes. The supporting cast, however, is every bit as good. Geoffrey Rush reprises his role as Captain Barbossa with the same "Arr, matey" accent, Chow Yun-Fat plays Chinese pirate captain Sao Feng with just the right touch of excess. Bill Nighy once again pulls off the part of Davy Jones, with that incredibly awesome full-head prosthesis that had to tie up an additional two or three puppeteers.

And Keith Richards.

When I heard they were going to cast Keith Richards as Jack Sparrow's father, I had my doubts.

He was perfect. puts the critical reviews at about 48% positive.

This goes to show you that professional film critics are self-important idiots.

This is the essential Summer Blockbuster - it's just supposed to be entertaining, and it is very entertaining. The special effects are excellent, though a bit overwhelming, and I had a great time.

This is not, however, a film for the kiddies. It's rated PG-13, and I suggest you follow the recommendation.
Better Late than Never.

But still about 20 30 years too late: The UK Countryside Alliance organizes the First-ever National Shooting Week.
The first-ever National Shooting Week was launched on Monday 21st May at the National Shooting Centre at Bisley, known as ‘the home of shooting’.

From Saturday May 26th to Sunday June 3rd, thousands of people across the UK will try one of the most exciting Olympic sports during National Shooting Week.

Shooting schools and clubs are putting on more than 200 open days across the country so the public can try shooting for the first time.
I will be fascinated to see what the turnout for this looks like.

(via Uncle.)

UPDATE, 5/28:
Minister urges teenagers to take up shooting

(UK Telegraph, 5/27/07)

Anti-gun campaigners have accused the Government of making a U-turn on firearms after a minister urged teenagers to take up shooting to improve their behaviour.

Richard Caborn, the sports minister, has backed a drive by shooting groups to increase participation in the sport among children as young as 12. He believes that the sport helps young people to become more responsible and disciplined, and vowed that significant funds would be made available to help boost participation.
I'll believe that when I see it.
Handguns were banned in Britain in 1996 following the Dunblane massacre, in which 16 children and their teacher were killed at a primary school.

Previously, the Government has taken steps to crack down on shooting by increasing the age limit for buying air weapons, as well as banning handguns.

After five gun murders in February in London alone, Tony Blair warned that 17-year-olds could face mandatory five-year sentences for possessing illegal guns.
What? The ASBOs are proving ineffective?
"We want to boost the number of people who take part in shooting sports, particularly among young adults," Mr Caborn told The Sunday Telegraph. "We are investing £600 million in developing medal winners for 2012 and shooting will benefit greatly from that."

Schools have been encouraged to increase the involvement of young people in shooting sports and Mr Caborn welcomed the first National Shooting Week, which begins this weekend, as a good way to raise levels of participation.
Though according to the first commenter to this post, none of that £600 million apparently went towards advertising National Shooting Week.
He has already upset the anti-gun lobby by supporting moves to relax the ban on handguns in the hope of boosting Britain's chances of winning pistol-shooting medals at the 2012 London Olympics. Lending his support to the week-long campaign has raised its fears further. However, a Labour Party document, for which he wrote the foreword, argues that there is a need to work with shooting organisations to develop ways "to demystify firearms".
How did this guy end up as a minister in Britain's government?
The party has published a Charter for Shooting, which it released after promising in the 2005 general election to ensure that country sports would be protected.

In the charter, it says that Labour is fully supportive of shooting organisations. -"Government ministers have noted the benefits of introducing young people to the sport in terms of developing habits of safety, self-discipline and responsibility," it says.

However, Gill Marshall-Andrews, the chairman of the Gun Control Network, said that she was alarmed by Mr Caborn's backing for National Shooting Week, which aims to introduce people to shooting for the first time and improve people's understanding of guns.

"The Government should be ashamed of itself for putting its energies into encouraging people to take up shooting when we should be ensuring that there are fewer and fewer guns available," she said. "By backing this initiative they're sending out the wrong message."
Ms. Marshall-Andrews? They've tried that. And failed miserably. Repeating the same actions over and over while expecting a different outcome is defined as "insanity."
Mrs Marshall-Andrews accused the Government of helping to make guns seem acceptable and of creating a society in which they will become prevalent.
And this is the part I love:
Since 1997, firearms crimes have risen from 12,410 to 21,521 in 2005/06 (an increase of 73 per cent), including incidents involving handguns, which have nearly doubled in this period, from 2,636 to 4,671, despite their being banned.
(Emphasis mine.) "Will become prevalent"?
However, according to David Penn, the secretary of the British Shooting Sports Council, an umbrella body for shooting groups, there is no correlation between gun crime and the level of gun ownership.

"To own a gun, people have to go through rigorous checks and it takes a long time," he said. "People who argue that these guns are falling into the wrong hands obviously don't understand the real statistics."

• Ministers are dragging their feet over the introduction of laws to tackle imitation firearms, campaigners claim. Legislation banning the import or manufacture of realistic fake guns, of the kind used by criminals to threaten victims, was approved by Parliament last year. However, the measure is not due to take effect until this autumn.
Yes, banning look-alike guns is really going to help. What's next? Banning "super-soaker" squirt-guns?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Nasty Factses. Ugly Factses. We HATES 'Em!

The Anchoress authors a thoroughly link strewn post, Let's do it; Let's Impeach Bush, that I strongly recommend to everyone - especially those suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome. For one thing, I love watching people experience cognitive dissonance - they're so cute when they deny reality - and for those who can't quite manage it, watching blood leak from their eyes and ears as their systolic pressure spikes into the stratosphere is almost as rewarding.

Yes, by all means! Let's have hearings!

UPDATE, 5/28: Roger puts it all together in a video:

Replay video | Share video | Watch more videos

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ah, No. I Don't Think So.

For some reason my urge to add a Browning Hi Power to my collection has returned. I looked at an inexpensive Inglis model at a gunshop a couple of days ago, but it was a bit on the worn out side. So I did a little research looking for new ones. Sportsman's Warehouse had a two-tone .40S&W about six months ago that I passed on. It (of course) is gone now. So I did a little web shopping.

It would appear that the only version currently available (25 in stock at the distributor) is this model:

As Rachel Lucas put it so politely: I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Ah well. It's less expensive than this Cylinder & Slide custom job:

Which I absolutely lust after, but cannot afford.

Still, I think I'll pass on the camo. I'd probably set it down somewhere and never find it again.
First I've Heard of It.

Remember last year's Rocky Balboa? A pretty good flick, really. Small, unpretentious, well acted, good story. Nothing surprising about it other than it was good. Well, through Ian Hamet comes a clip for Silvester Stallone's latest explanation for his possession of Human Growth Hormone, and another character-titled film, John Rambo. It looks like a good old-fashioned Lone Wolf movie, an action-packed butt-kicker where John Rambo once again puts the hurt on an entire army single-handedly. Very, very un-PC.

And there is no squeamishness about the gore. (After "Saw," and the other similar splatfests, I should hope not.)

Check out the trailer while it lasts.

Tagline: "When you're pushed, killin's as easy as breathin'."

"Unlimited Potential for Insidious Mischief"

Perusing Clayton Cramer's blog this evening, I stumbled across this statement:
The M249 was so light and cute that I could see having one, if the 1986 ban on new manufacture of machine guns for civilians ever gets struck down by the Supreme Court. If that seems improbable--see U.S. v. Rock Island Armory (C.D.Ill.1991)--where the government lost such a case, and decided not to appeal, for fear that they would lose on appeal, too.
Well, I've made a (masochistic) hobby out of reading court cases, so I clicked on through (it's a .txt file) and read that very well annotated and referenced 1991 District Court decision by Judge Michael M. Mihm, Chief Judge of the Central District of Illinois at that time. I don't know how I missed this one. It's all over the web. A somewhat more readable HTML version is available here.

The long and short of it is that Rock Island Armory and one David R. Reese were charged with illegally manufacturing machineguns for non-government use in 1987 and 1988 after passage the 1986 ban on all new machineguns for private possession that was tacked onto the Firearm Owner Protection Act (FOPA). Judge Mihm dismissed the charges, saying after a long exposition on the precedents:
In sum, since enactment of 18 U.S.C. sec. 922(o), the Secretary has refused to accept any tax payments to make or transfer a machinegun made after May 19, 1986, to approve any such making or transfer, or to register any such machinegun. As applied to machineguns made and possessed after May 19, 1986, the registration and other requirements of the National Firearms Act, Chapter 53 of the Internal Revenue Code, no longer serve any revenue purpose, and are impliedly repealed or are unconstitutional.
In other words, the $200 transfer tax was constitutional only so long as the government was actually collecting revenue. When the law changed banning any trade in new machineguns, that transfer tax on new machineguns became moot, and the law no longer was constitutional. His argument is quite logical and convincing, and contains many citations from the original congressional debates over the 1934 National Firearms Act before its passage.

Now the interesting thing, as Clayton pointed out, is that the .gov didn't appeal. However, several other post-'86 machine gun cases have gone to the appeals courts where Rock Island has been brought up as precedent. Of course, in none of them did the courts do or even refer to the research performed by Judge Mihm, and they, almost uniformly, found for the State rather than the defendant.

The best dissent I've read concerning this comes from U.S. v. Ardoin and Judge Jacques Loeb Wiener, Jr. He wrote in part:
Until the enactment of section 922(o) of the FOPA, a citizen could legally make, transfer, or possess a machine gun, as long as he complied with the relevant registration and tax provisions of the NFA. Simply put, since 1934 the NFA has said to such a citizen, "You may manufacture, transfer, or possess a machine gun if (but only if) you register and pay taxes on it." Then along came section 922(o) of the FOPA (some fifty-two years later) and declared to that same citizen, "You may not manufacture, possess, or transfer machine guns - period." What sense does the NFA make now? The BATF operates as though Congress has passed two separate laws each criminalizing the mere possession of machine guns, leaving the BATF with the discretion to prosecute citizens' possession under either statute (or both). But that is not - and cannot be - the case.

There is no evidence that Congress ever adverted to the effect that the enactment of section 922(o) would have on related provisions of the NFA. But undeniably the enactment of section 922(o) did affect the NFA - enormously. Because the NFA forbids the BATF to register and accept taxes for illegal firearms,18 the enactment of section 922(o) - which basically made the mere possession of machine guns by private citizens illegal - rendered the extensive registration and tax provisions of the NFA essentially meaningless. Indeed, the NFA's regulation of machine gun-ownership by private citizens was made instantly obsolete by the advent of the FOPA. There is no longer any place for those provisions in the present legislative scheme for regulation of most prospective machine gun-owners. Their vestigial existence on the statute books analogizes perfectly to the human appendix: no useful function whatsoever, but unlimited potential for insidious mischief.

Moreover, section 922(o) reflects Congress' judgment concerning the correct statutory formulation and the appropriate level of punishment for mere possession of a machine gun. Thus, if we uphold the continued application of the NFA to citizens who transfer, make, and possess machine guns))even though the NFA no longer serves any revenue-raising purpose))we are altering that congressional judgment. Why then does the BATF continue to prosecute citizens under NFA solely for the possession of machine guns, rather than resorting to section 922(o), which Congress expressly designed for that purpose? Perhaps because the statutory maximum fines for violating the NFA are greater than those provided under the FOPA. More likely, BATF agents and prosecutors find it easier to get convictions under the NFA, both because it appears to have an easier mens rea requirement, and because the laundry list of possible statutory violations is so very long. But Congress clearly did not intend for its passage of the FOPA to transform the preexisting NFA into a more severe ban against the simple possession of machine guns, for such a mutation of the NFA makes section 922(o) of the FOPA superfluous: what the BATF is supposed to do under the FOPA can be done more easily (and with the majority's blessing) under the "new," transmuted NFA, which has been administratively (and now jurisprudentially) shorn of the registration and taxation provisions that once were its whole raison d'etre.

The obsolescence of the NFA provisions at issue here is also exposed by the fact that - although expressly enacted to raise revenues from private citizens - those provisions no longer raise any revenue from the possession, transfer, and making of machine guns by private citizens. The suggestion that a tax measure can somehow have continued vitality when it no longer taxes certainly tests one's imagination. Although implied repeals are disfavored, I firmly believe that the sections of the NFA at issue here are so utterly irreconcilable with section 922(o) of the FOPA as a means of regulating private ownership of machine guns that they were impliedly repealed by FOPA's passage: with respect to the regulation of machine guns, the latter has superseded and supplanted the former.
I recommend you read the whole thing, as Judge Wiener illustrates very well how the other members of the Court, as 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski put it, "constitutionalize their personal preferences."

And Dave Kopel has a related piece from 2005 at The Volokh Conspiracy.

And bear in mind: This is the same law that put Hollis Wayne Fincher in jail.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dept. of Unfortunately Hilarious Headlines.

Royals To Get A Taste Of Angels' Colon

(*sigh*) First Diana dies, then Fergie gets a divorce...

Oh, wait. Not those Royals. And not that kind of Colon.
Bartolo Colon attempts to win his third consecutive start off the disabled list tonight for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who will be aiming to continue their recent dominance of the Kansas City Royals.

After missing nearly nine months to rehab a partially torn right rotator cuff, Colon returned to a major-league mound on April 21 and delivered an outstanding performance against the Seattle Mariners. The former American League Cy Young winner allowed just one run on seven hits to lead the Angels to a 7-6 victory.

You have to wonder who approved that headline?

Via Icelandic blogger Arni of Meinhornið. (And no, I have no idea how to pronounce it or what it means.)
"The big problem for the GOP leadership is that they've lost their credibility. "
And they still don't understand it. This was clear a year ago when we talked to then-GOP chair Ken Mehlman, and it's much, much truer now. As a reader emails: "No credibility to fall back on. No reserve of good will to fall back on. No record to fall back on. No successes to fall back on."

And as Dan Riehl said earlier this week, Republicans were given a wakeup call with the 2006 elections, and they opted to hit snooze.
Via Instapundit.

With nothing to fall back on, perhaps they should consider falling forward.

As in, "on their swords."
Rachel Lucas is BACK!.

One post at Eject3, and her own blog once more.

And she's single again.

That is all.

UPDATE: Not quite all. Oh yeah, she's definitely back.

Friday, May 18, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different....

You know, this is supposed to be a gun blog. Well, sort of. I am a gun-nut, after all. However, I don't post on the topic of boomsticks, their accessories, and the shooting hobby all that much. I think the last post was about my new gunsafe.

Well, I just ordered another doo-dad. I'm a handloader, but like most the part of the job I find most tedious is measuring out powder charges. With a progressive press there's an automatic powder measure, but those really only function well with ball, small flake, and very short extruded powders. Hand-operated powder measures aren't much better. With stick powders and some flake powders, the consistency can be very poor. Since the purpose of handloading ammunition is to build better-than-factory quality ammo and not blowing your gun up, consistent powder charge weights are a must. This means, generally, weighing out each individual charge.

A while back I bought an electronic scale and a powder tricker which allows me to throw an underweight charge with a hand measure, then "trickle up" the charge to the desired weight. That works well. It also takes for goddam ever.

So tonight I dropped a chunk of change on one of these:

That's an RCBS Chargemaster dispenser and electronic scale package. Just plug it in, run the calibration setup (60 seconds), load the powder hopper, set a charge weight, and you're off! It dumps a perfectly measured weight of powder, ±0.1 grain, in about 20 seconds. It's gotten terrific reviews at MidwayUSA, and it's on sale.

Mine should arrive about next Thursday, which is good, because I've got about a thousand rounds of .45LC that need to be loaded, and another thousand 5.56x45.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Al Gore's Internet

Al Gore has another book coming out. This one's not about how the world is going to be destroyed by Global Climate Change if we don't immediately cut back to a subsistence agriculture society. No, this one is about how stupid we Americans are. It's entitled The Assault on Reason. Time magazine has a short excerpt from the book, and you know what? I actually agree with some of what Al has to say - just not necessarily for the same reasons. Let us fisk:
Not long before our nation launched the invasion of Iraq, our longest-serving Senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor and said: "This chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing. We stand passively mute in the United States Senate."

Why was the Senate silent?

In describing the empty chamber the way he did, Byrd invited a specific version of the same general question millions of us have been asking: "Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?" The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of massive and well-understood evidence to the contrary, seems to many Americans to have reached levels that were previously unimaginable.
And he writes this with (one assumes) a straight face!
A large and growing number of Americans are asking out loud: "What has happened to our country?" People are trying to figure out what has gone wrong in our democracy, and how we can fix it.
A somewhat smaller, but hopefully growing number of people are asking "What has gone wrong with our REPUBLIC?"
To take another example, for the first time in American history, the Executive Branch of our government has not only condoned but actively promoted the treatment of captives in wartime that clearly involves torture, thus overturning a prohibition established by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but during the Revolutionary War our opponents wore uniforms and fought in accordance with the rules of honor. If you want a more apt comparison, you need to go back and look at what our government did against the American Indian population before, during and after the Revolutionary War.

How quickly we forget, when it's convenient.
It is too easy -- and too partisan -- to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes. We have a Congress. We have an independent judiciary. We have checks and balances. We are a nation of laws. We have free speech. We have a free press. Have they all failed us?
It sure looks that way.
Why has America's public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned? Faith in the power of reason -- the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power -- remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.

American democracy is now in danger -- not from any one set of ideas, but from unprecedented changes in the environment within which ideas either live and spread, or wither and die. I do not mean the physical environment; I mean what is called the public sphere, or the marketplace of ideas.

It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong. In 2001, I had hoped it was an aberration when polls showed that three-quarters of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on Sept. 11. More than five years later, however, nearly half of the American public still believes Saddam was connected to the attack.
What, no mention of the percentage of people who think that the U.S. Government was complicit? Or directly involved?
At first I thought the exhaustive, nonstop coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial was just an unfortunate excess -- an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. Now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time: the Michael Jackson trial and the Robert Blake trial, the Laci Peterson tragedy and the Chandra Levy tragedy, Britney and KFed, Lindsay and Paris and Nicole.

While American television watchers were collectively devoting 100 million hours of their lives each week to these and other similar stories, our nation was in the process of more quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness. For example, hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake.
Nice to know I sit in the ranks of "hardly anyone." I guess I get to pick a comfy chair, and there's lots of elbow room.
Yet, incredibly, all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time and in hindsight are glaringly obvious.
That is, if your definition of "right" is "leaving Saddam & Sons in power in Iraq after dropping the sanctions against him." Which explains why the majority of Congress voted for the war before they voted against it.
Those of us who have served in the U.S. Senate and watched it change over time could volunteer a response to Senator Byrd's incisive description of the Senate prior to the invasion: The chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere else. Many of them were at fund-raising events they now feel compelled to attend almost constantly in order to collect money—much of it from special interests—to buy 30-second TV commercials for their next re-election campaign.
What?!?! McCain-Feingold didn't work?!?

I'm shocked.
The Senate was silent because Senators don't feel that what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much anymore -- not to the other Senators, who are almost never present when their colleagues speak, and certainly not to the voters, because the news media seldom report on Senate speeches anymore.
In no small part because of the speeches of Senators like Robert Byrd.
Our Founders' faith in the viability of representative democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry, their ingenious design for checks and balances, and their belief that the rule of reason is the natural sovereign of a free people. The Founders took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas so that knowledge could flow freely. Thus they not only protected freedom of assembly, they made a special point -- in the First Amendment -- of protecting the freedom of the printing press. And yet today, almost 45 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers. Reading itself is in decline. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by the empire of television.
Which doesn't cover Senate speeches. And your point is?
Radio, the Internet, movies, cell phones, iPods, computers, instant messaging, video games and personal digital assistants all now vie for our attention -- but it is television that still dominates the flow of information. According to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of 4 hours and 35 minutes every day -- 90 minutes more than the world average. When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time the average American has.

In the world of television, the massive flows of information are largely in only one direction, which makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation.
And this was different when newspapers ruled... how, exactly? Because they'd publish your (heavily edited) letter to the editor, maybe, a few weeks after it was no longer timely?
Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They hear, but they do not speak. The "well-informed citizenry" is in danger of becoming the "well-amused audience." Moreover, the high capital investment required for the ownership and operation of a television station and the centralized nature of broadcast, cable and satellite networks have led to the increasing concentration of ownership by an ever smaller number of larger corporations that now effectively control the majority of television programming in America.
"In danger," hell. We're already there. And a "smaller number of larger corporations?" Same for newspapers. And, if you'll notice, television news is hemorrhaging viewership too.
In practice, what television's dominance has come to mean is that the inherent value of political propositions put forward by candidates is now largely irrelevant compared with the image-based ad campaigns they use to shape the perceptions of voters. The high cost of these commercials has radically increased the role of money in politics -- and the influence of those who contribute it. That is why campaign finance reform, however well drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the dominant means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue in one way or another to dominate American politics. And as a result, ideas will continue to play a diminished role. That is also why the House and Senate campaign committees in both parties now search for candidates who are multimillionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources.
Oh, please. The #1 job of the elected official is to keep getting re-elected - either to the same seat, or one higher up the totem pole. Money has always ruled. It just costs more to be a player today. So? Back when Pulitzer was manipulating the electorate, Paddy the Milkman couldn't affect the political system either.
When I first ran for Congress in 1976, I never took a poll during the entire campaign. Eight years later, however, when I ran statewide for the U.S. Senate, I did take polls and like most statewide candidates relied more heavily on electronic advertising to deliver my message. I vividly remember a turning point in that Senate campaign when my opponent, a fine public servant named Victor Ashe who has since become a close friend, was narrowing the lead I had in the polls. After a detailed review of all the polling information and careful testing of potential TV commercials, the anticipated response from my opponent's campaign and the planned response to the response, my advisers made a recommendation and prediction that surprised me with its specificity: "If you run this ad at this many 'points' [a measure of the size of the advertising buy], and if Ashe responds as we anticipate, and then we purchase this many points to air our response to his response, the net result after three weeks will be an increase of 8.5% in your lead in the polls."

I authorized the plan and was astonished when three weeks later my lead had increased by exactly 8.5%. Though pleased, of course, for my own campaign, I had a sense of foreboding for what this revealed about our democracy. Clearly, at least to some degree, the "consent of the governed" was becoming a commodity to be purchased by the highest bidder. To the extent that money and the clever use of electronic mass media could be used to manipulate the outcome of elections, the role of reason began to diminish.

As a college student, I wrote my senior thesis on the impact of television on the balance of power among the three branches of government. In the study, I pointed out the growing importance of visual rhetoric and body language over logic and reason. There are countless examples of this, but perhaps understandably, the first one that comes to mind is from the 2000 campaign, long before the Supreme Court decision and the hanging chads, when the controversy over my sighs in the first debate with George W. Bush created an impression on television that for many viewers outweighed whatever positive benefits I might have otherwise gained in the verbal combat of ideas and substance. A lot of good that senior thesis did me.
While I'm not surprised at Al's self-centered example, the one almost everyone else thinks of first is the televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The people who heard it on the radio thought Nixon won. The people who saw it on TV thought Kennedy did.

"Never let them see you sweat," I believe is the expression.
The potential for manipulating mass opinions and feelings initially discovered by commercial advertisers is now being even more aggressively exploited by a new generation of media Machiavellis. The combination of ever more sophisticated public opinion sampling techniques and the increasing use of powerful computers to parse and subdivide the American people according to "psychographic" categories that identify their susceptibility to individually tailored appeals has further magnified the power of propagandistic electronic messaging that has created a harsh new reality for the functioning of our democracy.

As a result, our democracy is in danger of being hollowed out. In order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum. We must create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science.
AGAIN with a straight face!
We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the rule of reason.
And here I'm going to interrupt Mr. Gore's interesting rant for a bit longer interjection. Gore is blaming the media for taking advantage of the public's gullibility.

He never once questions why the electorate is so gullible. Here's a clue: As Bill Bennett wrote some time back, a hundred years ago our high schools taught Latin and Greek. They taught rhetoric and logic. They taught world geography, and ancient and modern history.

Now our public universities teach remedial English and basic arithmetic to incoming freshmen.

Others have commented on the quality of many of the letters written by Civil War soldiers on both sides of that war - their literary, historical, and biblical allusions, their excellent grammar and punctuation. Have you perused LiveJournal recently? Or randomly sampled some of the personal blogs on Blogger? What language is that?

Thomas Sowell recently wrote:
A recently reprinted memoir by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) has footnotes explaining what words like 'arraigned,' 'curried' and 'exculpate' meant, and explaining who Job was. In other words, this man who was born a slave and never went to school educated himself to the point where his words now have to be explained to today's expensively under-educated generation.

There is really nothing very mysterious about why our public schools are failures. When you select the poorest quality college students to be public school teachers, give them iron-clad tenure, a captive audience, and pay them according to seniority rather than performance, why should the results be surprising?

Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of our enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.

In a democracy, we have always had to worry about the ignorance of the uneducated. Today we have to worry about the ignorance of people with college degrees.
You want to know the main reason for the ills you're protesting against, Al? Our government has destroyed the public education system. It's done it slowly, methodically, systematically and deliberately. And why?


What you're protesting here isn't that the American public is too easily manipulated, you're upset because they apparently can't yet be manipulated into doing what YOU want. As you say, it's too easy - and too partisan - to simply blame George Bush, or even just the Republicans. No, it took both parties, a hundred years, and hundreds of billions of dollars to get to where we are today. It started with John Dewey at about the turn of the 20th Century, and it's gone downhill from there. Formation of the federal Department of Education in 1980 seems only to have accelerated the problem. (There's a surprise.)

You don't want to "create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future." Politicians aren't interested in no longer "tolerating the rejection and distortion of science." They're out to shut up the opposition by labeling them as ignorant drooling boobs who must be led by the hand by our political masters. I said as much in a piece I wrote during that 2000 election debacle, An Uncomfortable Conclusion:
With the continuing legal maneuvers in the Florida election debacle, I have been forced to a conclusion that I may have been unconsciously fending off. The Democratic party thinks we're stupid. Not "amiable uncle Joe" stupid, but DANGEROUSLY stupid.

Lead-by-the-hand-no-sharp-objects-don't-put-that-in-your-mouth stupid.

And they don't think that just Republicans and independents are stupid, no no! They think ANYBODY not in the Democratic power elite is, by definition, a drooling idiot. A muttering moron. Pinheads barely capable of dressing ourselves.

Take, for example, the position under which the Gore election machine petitioned for a recount - that only supporters of the Democratic candidate for President lacked the skills necessary to vote properly, and that through a manual recount those erroneously marked ballots could be "properly" counted in Mr. Gore's favor. They did this in open court and on national television, and with a straight face.

So, it is with some regret that I can no longer hold that uncomfortable conclusion at bay:

They're right. We are.

Not all of us, of course, but enough. Those of us still capable of intelligent, logical, independent thought have been overwhelmed by the public school system production lines that have been cranking out large quantities of substandard product for the last thirty-five years or so. The majority of three or four generations have managed to make it into the working world with no knowledge of history, no understanding of the Constitution or civics, no awareness of geography, no ability to do even mildly complex mathematics, no comprehension of science, and realistically little to no ability to read with comprehension, or write with clarity. And we seem to have developed attention spans roughly equivalent to that of your average small bird.

After all, about half the public accepted the Democratic premise that we were too stupid to vote correctly because their guy didn't win by a landslide, didn't they? And the other half was outraged, not that they made such a ludicrous argument, but that they didn't want to play fair and by the rules that no one seems to understand or to be able to explain.

The other majority party isn't blameless in this; they like an ignorant electorate too. It's easier to lead people who can't or won't think for themselves. It took both parties and many years of active bipartisan meddling to make the education system into an international laughingstock.
As you can see, I've held this opinion for some time now.

Would you like some example of what I'm talking about here? I have just the thing, thanks to Dr. Sanity. Here are some quotes by psychologists - certainly the recipients of some of the highest levels of education - specifically on what they believe the function of public education ought to be, via
"Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future"
Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Psychiatrist, address to the Childhood International Education Seminar, 1973

"We have swallowed all manner of poisonous certainties fed us by our parents, our Sunday and day school teachers, our politicians, our priests, our newspapers, and others with a vested interest in controlling us. ‘Thou shalt become as gods, knowing good and evil,’ good and evil with which to keep children under control, with which to impose local and familial and national loyalties and with which to blind children to their glorious intellectual heritage… The results, the inevitable results, are frustration, inferiority, neurosis and inability to enjoy living, to reason clearly or to make a world fit to live in."
Dr. G. Brock Chisholm, President, World Federation of Mental Health

Teaching school children to read was a "perversion" and high literacy rate bred "the sustaining force behind individualism."
John Dewey, Educational Psychologist
He says that like individualism is a bad thing.
The school curriculum should "…be designed to bend the student to the realities of society, especially by way of vocational education… the curriculum should be designed to promote mental health as an instrument for social progress and a means of altering culture…"
Report: Action for Mental Health, 1961

"Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their school masters would have wished ... The social psychologist of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at: first, that influences of the home are 'obstructive' and verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective ... It is for the future scientist to make these maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for more than one generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen."
Bertrand Russell quoting (one assumes approvingly - ed.) Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the head of philosophy & psychology who influenced Hegel and others – Prussian University in Berlin, 1810

"…through schools of the world we shall disseminate a new conception of government – one that will embrace all of the collective activities of men; one that will postulate the need for scientific control and operation of economic activities in the interests of all people."
Harold Rugg, student of psychology and a disciple of John Dewey
Dewey raises his ugly head again.
"Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know – it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave."
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) sponsored report: The Role of Schools in Mental Health

"This is the idea where we drop subject matter and we drop Carnegie Unites (grading from A-F) and we just let students find their way, keeping them in school until they manifest the politically correct attitudes. You see, one of the effects of self-esteem (Values Clarification) programs is that you are no longer obliged to tell the truth if you don’t feel like it. You don’t have to tell the truth because if the truth you have to tell is about your own failure then your self-esteem will go down and that is unthinkable."
Dr. William Coulson, explaining Outcome Based Education
These are the kind of people who have been influencing public education for the last century.

And you wonder why so few Americans have critical thinking skills anymore? Let's not blame television. The populace had to be prepped first.

Continuing with Gore's piece:
And what if an individual citizen or group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But too often they are not allowed to do even that. tried to buy an ad for the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast to express opposition to Bush's economic policy, which was then being debated by Congress. CBS told MoveOn that "issue advocacy" was not permissible. Then, CBS, having refused the MoveOn ad, began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the president's controversial proposal. So MoveOn complained, and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporarily, I mean it was removed until the White House complained, and CBS immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the MoveOn ad.
Was the .gov piece run as a "public service" spot? Did CBS run any other paid "advocacy" commercials? I mean besides for excessive beer drinking? Did CBS deny MoveOn commercial time on any evening sitcoms or during its Evening News broadcast?

Sorry, but I'm just not getting all that worked up here. I understand that the SwiftBoat Veterans for Truth had some trouble getting their ads placed on national television as well.
To understand the final reason why the news marketplace of ideas dominated by television is so different from the one that emerged in the world dominated by the printing press, it is important to distinguish the quality of vividness experienced by television viewers from the "vividness" experienced by readers. Marshall McLuhan's description of television as a "cool" medium—as opposed to the "hot" medium of print—was hard for me to understand when I read it 40 years ago, because the source of "heat" in his metaphor is the mental work required in the alchemy of reading. But McLuhan was almost alone in recognizing that the passivity associated with watching television is at the expense of activity in parts of the brain associated with abstract thought, logic, and the reasoning process. Any new dominant communications medium leads to a new information ecology in society that inevitably changes the way ideas, feelings, wealth, power and influence are distributed and the way collective decisions are made.

As a young lawyer giving his first significant public speech at the age of 28, Abraham Lincoln warned that a persistent period of dysfunction and unresponsiveness by government could alienate the American people and that "the strongest bulwark of any government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectively be broken down and destroyed -- I mean the attachment of the people."
Thomas Jefferson beat him to it:
The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive; if they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.
Lethargy we've got, in abundance.
Many Americans now feel that our government is unresponsive and that no one in power listens to or cares what they think.
Case in point: today's "compromise" immigration legislation.
They feel disconnected from democracy. They feel that one vote makes no difference, and that they, as individuals, have no practical means of participating in America's self-government. Unfortunately, they are not entirely wrong. Voters are often viewed mainly as targets for easy manipulation by those seeking their "consent" to exercise power. By using focus groups and elaborate polling techniques, those who design these messages are able to derive the only information they're interested in receiving from citizens -- feedback useful in fine-tuning their efforts at manipulation. Over time, the lack of authenticity becomes obvious and takes its toll in the form of cynicism and alienation. And the more Americans disconnect from the democratic process, the less legitimate it becomes.
"Lack of authenticity" from a guy who did a creditable imitation of a cardboard cutout and had to pay Naomi Wolf for advice on how to act like an "alpha male."

Gore should do standup.
Many young Americans now seem to feel that the jury is out on whether American democracy actually works or not. We have created a wealthy society with tens of millions of talented, resourceful individuals who play virtually no role whatsoever as citizens. Bringing these people in -- with their networks of influence, their knowledge, and their resources -- is the key to creating the capacity for shared intelligence that we need to solve our problems.
Translated: "We need their money."
Unfortunately, the legacy of the 20th century's ideologically driven bloodbaths has included a new cynicism about reason itself -- because reason was so easily used by propagandists to disguise their impulse to power by cloaking it in clever and seductive intellectual formulations.

The 20th century's ideologically driven bloodbaths? I thought television was at fault for all of this. We didn't get TV until the latter half of the 20th century. Prior to that it was newspapers and radio.

Let's put the blame for the 20th century's ideological bloodbaths where it belongs: on the shoulders of failed philosophies that were emotionally appealing, but logically insupportable - communism and fascism. And the majority of the victims of the 20th century's bloodbaths were victims of their own governments - not victims of war between opposing powers. Further, television wasn't all that widespread in those countries. That required the benefits of capitalism.
When people don't have an opportunity to interact on equal terms and test the validity of what they're being "taught" in the light of their own experience and robust, shared dialogue, they naturally begin to resist the assumption that the experts know best.
Err... what? When people DO have the opportunity to interact and test the validity of what they're being taught is when they resist the assumption that the "experts" know best. It's when they're denied the ability that "groupthink" arises. Why do you think there's a press on to reinstitute the "fairness doctrine?" To stifle voices one side doesn't want you to hear - the side questioning the "experts."
So the remedy for what ails our democracy is not simply better education (as important as that is) or civic education (as important as that can be), but the re-establishment of a genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way -- a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response.
Here's where I finally start to agree with Gore.
Fortunately, the Internet has the potential to revitalize the role played by the people in our constitutional framework. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge. It's a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It's a platform, in other words, for reason.

But the Internet must be developed and protected, in the same way we develop and protect markets -- through the establishment of fair rules of engagement and the exercise of the rule of law.

The same ferocity that our Founders devoted to protect the freedom and independence of the press is now appropriate for our defense of the freedom of the Internet. The stakes are the same: the survival of our Republic. We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it, because of the threat of corporate consolidation and control over the Internet marketplace of ideas.

The danger arises because there is, in most markets, a very small number of broadband network operators. These operators have the structural capacity to determine the way in which information is transmitted over the Internet and the speed with which it is delivered. And the present Internet network operators—principally large telephone and cable companies -- have an economic incentive to extend their control over the physical infrastructure of the network to leverage control of Internet content. If they went about it in the wrong way, these companies could institute changes that have the effect of limiting the free flow of information over the Internet in a number of troubling ways.

The democratization of knowledge by the print medium brought the Enlightenment. Now, broadband interconnection is supporting decentralized processes that reinvigorate democracy. We can see it happening before our eyes: As a society, we are getting smarter. Networked democracy is taking hold. You can feel it. We the people -- as Lincoln put it, "even we here" -- are collectively still the key to the survival of America's democracy.
While I agree with what he says here, I cannot help but believe that what he actually intends would have a result counterproductive to his (stated) ends. Or am I exhibiting critical thinking skills here and questioning the expert?

Fool me once, shame on you...