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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cheap Shot (No Pun Intended).

(Via Rodger)
Carnivore sex off the menu

Vegansexuals are people who do not eat any meat or animal products, and who choose not to be sexually intimate with non-vegan partners whose bodies, they say, are made up of dead animals.


Christchurch vegan Nichola Kriek has been married to her vegan husband, Hans, for nine years.

She would not describe herself as vegansexual, but said it would definitely be a preference.

She could understand people not wanting to get too close to non-vegan or non-vegetarians.

"When you are vegan or vegetarian, you are very aware that when people eat a meaty diet, they are kind of a graveyard for animals," she said.
Here are Nichola and Hans:

This begs one question: Being vegan, does she swallow?

You know all that overtime I worked during the last few weeks? Here's what I did with some of it:

I picked it up yesterday. It's used, apparently very gently (which I hope does not mean "returned because it doesn't work") and in excellent condition. Yes, it's got the firing pin safety. Yes, it's got an external extractor. No, John Moses Browning is not spinning in his grave over the sacrilege. It's a beautiful piece. Here's Kimber's (much better) photography and description:

Eclipse pistols have such a striking appearance that it is easy for features and performance to take a back seat. All business right down to the core, Eclipse frames and slides are machined from solid stainless steel. Frontstraps have 30 lines-per-inch checkering for a positive grip. A match grade Premium Aluminum Trigger from the Custom Shop is tuned to release at 4-5 pounds. Breech faces are polished to ensure flawless feeding. Barrels and chambers are carefully machined to match grade dimensions.

The Eclipse finish brings out the classic lines of a 1911 better than any other process. The slide and frame are finished in a tough matte black oxide then all flat surfaces are brush polished, leaving recessed and curved surfaces dark and contrasting. Laminated gray/black wood grips checkered in the traditional double diamond pattern and matte black small parts round out the package.

The Eclipse Pro II™ and Eclipse Pro Target II™ have 4-inch match grade bushingless bull barrels fitted directly to the slide.
Being used, I obviously didn't pay full list for it, but it was still pretty pricey. They're right about one thing, it's damned pretty. Hopefully this weekend I'll get a chance to take it to the range and run a few hundred rounds through it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


I've decided to make this a category of its own, since I've done several posts on the topic before; one very recently. Every time there is a breakdown in civil order or a heinous crime is committed a few people wake up to the fact that they are responsible for their own protection. Some of them decide that purchasing a firearm is a good idea, and often only then do they learn the state of gun laws in their particular jurisdiction.

Earlier this week a pair of...

Words escape me. "Goblins" is too trite. "Inhuman excrement" is the closest I can come. A pair of soulless inhuman turds broke into the home of a family in Connecticut, raped and murdered the mother, raped both the 17 and 11 year-old daughters repeatedly, beat the father brutally with a baseball bat, and set the girl's bedrooms on fire with them tied to their beds to cover their escape. The mother was strangled. The daughters died of smoke inhalation. The father was rescued by responding officers before he, too, could succumb. Thankfully, the vicious bastards did not succeed in escaping. Unsurprisingly, these slime had long rap sheets and were both out on parole, having served only part of longer sentences.

The reaction of the community is unsurprising. Shock, fear, and the sudden realization that yes, it can happen here - and that the police generally come in to take a report after the fact. They don't prevent things like this from happening.

I don't know how I missed the story before today, but on the evening news I was somewhat surprised to see that at least two networks saw fit to mention that gun sales in the area had spiked. A little Googling brought me a story from the Hartford Courant: After Killings, Fear Drives Alarm Sales. That's not all they drove:
While home security systems may be in demand, it appears that much less interest has been shown in guns as security-related purchases.
But wait!
"The middle-class and upper-class Simpsons aren't looking to shoot anybody," said Roger Picerno, proprietor of Guns and Safes Unlimited in Milford.

Most people are more likely to install locks and alarms, he said.

But Scott Hoffman of Hoffman's Gun Center in Newington said his Berlin Turnpike store has received "seven or eight times" the normal number of inquiries about gun permitting, gun safety classes and weaponry, including more than a dozen calls on Thursday, he said. Sales are up, he said, but he would not provide any data.
"Much less interest"? Based on what? This is not what the network news reported.
An unusually high proportion of this week's calls came from women, Hoffman said.

"On an ongoing basis, I get people coming in who have been robbed, raped, mugged, whatever," said Hoffman. "And they come into the store days later wanting something to protect themselves."
Here's the kicker:
Many leave with pepper spray instead of firearms after learning that legally acquiring a weapon typically takes weeks or months. Obtaining a pistol permit - required for handguns - typically takes 90 days or longer, gun dealers said. Some shotguns can be obtained in about two weeks.
So, gun sales didn't spike - because of permitting, restrictions and waiting periods? I wonder what sales are going to look like in 14-90 days.

Remember my post from July 4? I excerpted a bit from a post at Seraphic Secret, an exchange between the author and a young woman who was the victim of a stalker:
"I can't believe I'm here. I've been against guns and violence my whole life."
"Did Ned threaten you, physically, I mean?"
"Said I belong to him and no one else. That's about it. But I know what he means."
"What did the police say?"
"The last cop, as he was leaving, whispered for me to get a gun."

I tell her that owning a gun isn't sufficient. She has to take safety classes, self-defense classes. She has to know what she's doing. I grab NRA brochures from the counter, make her promise that she'll sign up as soon as she gets her gun in ten days.

"Ten days?" she cries.

"First you have to take a test, here in the store, a written test. They'll give you a booklet to study from. Then you get a certificate making you eligible to buy a weapon in California. After you purchase the gun there's a ten-day waiting period until you take possession."

"But why?"
"Background check. To make sure you're not a felon, a psychopath, an illegal immigrant, a terrorist, a drug addict; it's the law."
Apparently in Connecticut, it's ninety days for a handgun, and two weeks for a long gun.

Because a lot of people up there have been "against guns and violence" their whole lives, and the "middle and upper-class Simpsons aren't looking to shoot anyone." Or at least they weren't.

Still, the gun shop owner gives excellent advice, and the paper reported it:
Hoffman, who wore a pistol in his belt during an interview Thursday and said he keeps pistols and a shotgun at home, said guns don't guarantee safety.

"You could have 100 guns in your house strategically placed and not be able to save yourself," he said.
Absolutely correct. Even carrying one on your hip is no guarantee that you can successfully defend yourself.

But it gives you a chance. I mentioned earlier that I've ordered a copy of Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes. Each portrait is accompanied by a statement from the subject(s). This one seems most apropos:
“ time out of a 101 where having a gun would have meant saving your own child – you would sell your soul, or trade everything you have to do that."
For at least the chance...
Looking for a New Pistol?.

Interested in contributing to a good cause? Check out this raffle:
LTW (, short for Actions Speak Louder Than Words, is a consortium of custom shops from around the country who specialize in the 1911 pistol. We collaborate 2-3 times a year on a custom gun, raffle it off, and donate the proceeds to a selected charity. We are proud to announce that our first project for 2007 will be for the benefit of!
And what are they raffling off for $10 a ticket? Well, here's just the pistol, a very customized Springfield 1911:
The enhancements include, in order of progression through the LTW shops:

Legacy Custom Products has expertly fitted the BarSto barrel and optimized the slide to frame relationship. He has also done one of his signature magwell treatments wherein a special mainspring housing of his own manufacture is utilized, enabling him to open the magwell out towards the rear without creating a knife-edge from the magazine chute's rear wall. This magwell treatment does not add any parts, weight, or bulk to the pistol but seriously augments the user's ability to get a fresh magazine in place, fast.

Rogers Precision: Chuck's reputation and abilities for building hard-core working guns that look great is being taken full advantage of here. His "Golfball" treatment of the frontstrap and on the mainspring housing on the back, are likely the ideal gripping pattern for a true, in-the-fray pistol. This pattern gives a very positive grip when a firing grasp is exerted, and yet doesn't "lock in" the user to the point that he can't shift the pistol slightly if need be. Moreover, the pattern is "open" and does not tend to fill with dirt and debris--one might even say it is self cleaning. Chuck has also machined sand cuts into the frame/slide sliding interfaces, allowing the pistol to run longer in sandy or muddy conditions. Sand cuts are nothing new in the world of small arms, some of the most-issued military weapons in the world have them, the FAL rifle and Sterling submachinegun to name a few. Chuck has also added a recessed lanyard point to the butt-- one that does not protrude but is there and ready whenever needed.

Don Williams brings to bear his considerable talents in fine-tuning the internals of this pistol for maximum safety, reliability, and precision. Hammer, sear, disconnect, mag release, trigger (triggers, actually; one long and one short)..... none will escape his expert attention. In addition, Don is fitting two spare extractors with and to a super-tough EGW oversized firing pin stop.

Ned Christiansen will be fitting the sights, which will start out as Yost-Bonitz Professional Grade sights. The YoBo PG rear sight is made with a front face that is vertical, providing a surface with which the user can perform one-handed manipulations such as chambering a round, by hooking the sight on something. Ned will modify these in "Shield Driver" fashion, where the front face of the rear sight is made even deeper, and is serrated, creating a hard-to-miss surface for racking the slide, on, say, the side of a ballistic shield. Ned will also fit and TIG weld in place the plunger tube, match the slide rear surface to the frame and texture it along with all three extractors, and ensure that the VZ grips are a great match to the pistol's final lines. Ned will also be fitting the pistol with a light rail.

The shop of Yost-Bonitz Custom will be responsible for etching the LTW and logos. They will also fit the (Wilson Combat) safeties (one ambidextrous and one single-sided), and do a precise dehorning of the pistol. Yost-Bonitz is the nerve center of LTW and is also handling some of the administrative duties related to the raffle, and YoBo's Steve Bailey's itchy shutter-button finger will be putting this pistol and its accoutrements on film.

Final finish for the pistol is still TBD but a few different hard-knocks-proof options are being considered.
My chances are probably better than they are of winning the Powerball so I could afford to have something similar built. The drawing will be at the February, 2008 SHOT show. Winner need not be present to win.
Quote of the Weekend.
I think much of the greatness went away when we were all encouraged to turn inward and question America in general.

The days of swagger, of press on regardless, the "let's give THIS a try!", the "sure! We can do that!" have been left behind in favor of how awful we are, how badly we treat the rest of the world, how this and how that. How all of our manufactured goods are crap (we keep telling ourselves). Our children are now taught how bad we are and how much we pollute, how evil our founders were, etc.

We are, in short, buried in an era of angst, nannyism, and self-loathing. I put much of that right at the feet of my own generation, the boomers. We went from being a nation of John Waynes and Robert Mitchum strength and bravado to one of Alan Alda wussiness and Rosie O'Donnell nation-hating. - the friendly grizzly
Can I get an "Amen!"?
That Reminds Me....

Dr. Sanity recently penned a piece The Cost of Freedom that reminded me of something I wrote last year, The United Federation of Planets. The two pieces are not really parallel, but much of what she says echoes the theme of my piece. For example:
If we continue on the path of appeasement we will be defeated by the enemy's unrepentant ruthlessness and their endless love of death. Thomas Sowell once remarked that, "If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are going to win", and he is most certainly correct.

The cost of this war will ultimately be more than all the lives lost; it will also be for the humanity and civilization we must temporarily abandon to win.

When we are finally cornered and must allow our own barbarism to surface to combat theirs head to head, then we must be prepared to live with the consequences, including the agonizing guilt that will ensue--or everything we hold dear, everything we aspire to become, will forever perish from this earth. - (Dr. Sanity)
(My emphasis.) An excerpt from United Federation, (much, much longer, naturally):
We like to pride ourselves that American society is different, superior, more "true" than all other preceding societies. After all, what other polity has accomplished what we've accomplished in the mere two centuries we've existed on the planet? We enjoy an unprecedented standard of living (even our poor people are fat!) Americans invented powered flight. We broke the sound barrier. We went to the moon! And who has a higher moral hill to stand atop? Twice in the last century we've ended Europe's bloody wars. We stopped the expansion of fascist, imperialist, and communist forces, defeated their sponsor governments utterly, and have more than once reconstructed former enemy nations into peaceful, productive democracies. As then-Secretary of State Colin Powell stated so eloquently:
We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we've done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home... to live our own lives in peace.
But to do that, we've sometimes put aside some of our beliefs in the face of hard reality, only to take them up again once the crisis was over.

All societies change, and what changes first is their commonly held beliefs. Robert Heinlein wrote once:
Roman matrons used to say to their sons: “Come back with your shield, or on it.” Later on this custom declined. So did Rome.
Ours is not immune. In 2004 I wrote "While Evils are Sufferable" wherein I said:
The "Right," in the overwhelming majority, believes that America, the United States of, is the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. We're the Sword of Justice, defenders of the oppressed from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, from sea to shining sea (so long as it's in our National Interest to be.) As long as this belief represents the dominant paradigm, that is the way our nation will act, in the main. We are human, of course. We're not perfect. We will make mistakes, but as I wrote in That Sumbitch Ain't Been BORN!, those mistakes are just that. They are not evidence of our evil Imperialist nature, just mistakes. The "Left," quite simply, thinks we've left the tracks if we were ever on them to begin with. To them, we're oppressive, racist, imperialistic warmongers out to take what isn't ours and distribute it unfairly among the white males. After all, they have centuries of European exploitive colonization to point to, don't they? The Greens think we need to give up industry so that we can "save the planet." They don't hate America, they hate humanity. Of course, the Anarchists see both sides as delusional and dangerous. They believe that the Free Market is the answer to it all, and that we need to give up this nationalistic fantasy crap and start dealing with objective reality.

As if objective reality would appeal to people who voluntarily share common delusions.
Appealing or not, objective reality is again raising its ugly head, and we must wake up to it if we wish to survive.
Anyway, I found the parallels interesting. YMMV.
And Now for Something Completely Different.

It's beyond anything I've experienced in over four years of blogging, anyway. I invite implore you to read the three-part story Perspectives authored by three different bloggers, told from their individual points of view. It's the story of a rollover traffic accident in Smalltown U.S.A. from the perspective of the first cop on the scene, the first responding EMT, and the ER nurse who cares for two of the victims.

I promise you, it's worth your time.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Quote of the Day

From the Harvard Law Bulletin, Summer 2007 edition article "Lawyers, Guns and Money":
No gun-control strategy with any chance of surviving the political process would have a significant effect on overall gun violence or crime, (Harvard Law Professor Mark) Tushnet believes. To say so publicly would be the boldest and most honest stand that a major politician or candidate could take, he adds.
First runner up, from the same piece:
In the past 20 years, several prominent legal scholars known for liberal views, including Professor Laurence Tribe '66, have come to believe that the Second Amendment supports the individual-rights view. In the 2000 edition of his treatise "American Constitutional Law," Tribe broke from the 1978 and 1988 editions by endorsing that view. Other liberal professors, including Akhil Reed Amar at Yale Law School and Sanford Levinson at the University of Texas at Austin, agree.

"My conclusion came as something of a surprise to me, and an unwelcome surprise," Tribe said in a recent New York Times interview. "I have always supported as a matter of policy very comprehensive gun control."
Intellectual honesty will sometimes lead you places you'd rather not go.

Now, to repeat something I've quoted several times before. From the conclusion of a 1983 meta-study of all the available research on gun control legislation at that time, authors James Wright and Peter Rossi wrote in Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime and Violence in America:
The progressive's indictment of American firearms policy is well known and is one that both the senior authors of this study once shared. This indictment includes the following particulars: (1) Guns are involved in an astonishing number of crimes in this country. (2) In other countries with stricter firearms laws and fewer guns in private hands, gun crime is rare. (3) Most of the firearms involved in crime are cheap Saturday Night Specials, for which no legitimate use or need exists. (4) Many families acquire such a gun because they feel the need to protect themselves; eventually they end up shooting one another. (5) If there were fewer guns around, there would obviously be less crime. (6) Most of the public also believes this and has favored stricter gun control laws for as long as anyone has asked the question. (7) Only the gun lobby prevents us from embarking on the road to a safer and more civilized society.

The more deeply we have explored the empirical implications of this indictment, the less plausible it has become. We wonder, first, given the number of firearms presently available in the United States, whether the time to "do something" about them has not long since passed. If we take the highest plausible value for the total number of gun incidents in any given year - 1,000,000 - and the lowest plausible value for the total number of firearms now in private hands - 100,000,000 - we see rather quickly that the guns now owned exceed the annual incident count by a factor of at least 100. This means that the existing stock is adequate to supply all conceivable criminal purposes for at least the entire next century, even if the worldwide manufacture of new guns were halted today and if each presently owned firearm were used criminally once and only once. Short of an outright house-to-house search and seizure mission, just how are we going to achieve some significant reduction in the number of firearms available?
Professor Tushnet just restated those two paragraphs with a simple observation: There is no politically acceptable legislation that can be passed that will have any significant effect on gun violence or crime in this country. This is why our opponents try everything to avoid having to submit to the political process. This is why their referendums almost always fail, and badly. This is why they have taken to the courts to achieve their ends, still unsuccessfully as exhibited by these quotes from several decisions dismissing such suits:
"In the view of this Court, the City’s complaint is an improper attempt to have this Court substitute its judgment for that of the legislature, which this Court is neither inclined nor empowered to do."

"In substance, the City and its Mayor opt to engage in efforts at arbitrary social reform by invoking the process of the Judicial Branch of Government, where apparently the City perceives, but fails to allege, irreversible failures in the appropriate Legislative Branch(s) of Government…. The City should not be permitted to invoke the jurisdiction of this Court to overlay or supplement existing civil and criminal 'gun' statutes and processes (either state and federal) by means of a series of judicial fiats which, when taken together, would only create a body of ‘judge made gun laws’." – Special Judge James J. Richards, Lake Superior Court, County of Lake, City of Gary v. Smith & Wesson, Cause No. 45D05-005-CT-243, slip op. 7 (Ind. Super. Ct. Jan. 12, 2001).


"The County's request that the trial court use its injunctive powers to mandate redesign of firearms and declare that the appellees' business methods create a public nuisance, is an attempt to regulate firearms and ammunition through the medium of the judiciary…. The County's frustration cannot be alleviated through litigation as the judiciary is not empowered to 'enact' regulatory measures in the guise of injunctive relief. The power to legislate belongs not to the judicial branch of government but to the legislative branch." – Judge J.J. Fletcher, District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District, Penelas v. Arms Technology, Inc., 778 So.2d 1042, 1045


"Although this public nuisance lawsuit is brought by the Attorney General on behalf of the State of New York - while the Hamilton action was one initiated by private parties for negligent marketing - both were brought against handgun manufacturers and sellers. Plaintiffs attempt here to widen the range of common-law public nuisance claims in order to reach the legal handgun industry will not itself, if successful, engender a limitless number of public nuisance lawsuits by individuals against these particular defendants, as was a stated concern in Hamilton (96 NY2d at 233). However, giving a green light to a common-law public nuisance cause of action today will, in our judgment, likely open the courthouse doors to a flood of limitless, similar theories of public nuisance, not only against these defendants, but also against a wide and varied array of other commercial and manufacturing enterprises and activities.

"All a creative mind would need to do is construct a scenario describing a known or perceived harm of a sort that can somehow be said to relate back to the way a company or an industry makes, markets and/or sells its non-defective, lawful product or service, and a public nuisance claim would be conceived and a lawsuit born. A variety of such lawsuits would leave the starting gate to be welcomed into the legal arena to run their cumbersome course, their vast cost and tenuous reasoning notwithstanding. Indeed, such lawsuits employed to address a host of societal problems would be invited into the courthouse whether the problems they target are real or perceived; whether the problems are in some way caused by, or perhaps merely preceded by, the defendants completely lawful business practices; regardless of the remoteness of their actual cause or of their foreseeability; and regardless of the existence, remoteness, nature and extent of any intervening causes between defendants lawful commercial conduct and the alleged harm." - from the appeals court decision upholding the dismissal of New York v. Sturm Ruger et. al.


"Knives are sharp, bowling balls are heavy, bullets cause puncture wounds in flesh. The law has long recognized that obvious dangers are an excluded class. Were we to decide otherwise, we would open a Pandora's box."

"The city could sue the manufacturers of matches for arson, or automobile manufacturers for traffic accidents, or breweries for drunken driving. Guns are dangerous. When someone pulls the trigger, whether intentionally or by accident, a properly functioning gun is going to discharge, and someone may be killed. The risks of guns are open and obvious.

"We hold that the trial court properly dismissed the city's complaint. The city's claims are too remote and seek derivatively what should be claimed only by citizens directly injured by firearms. The city cannot recover municipal costs. We overrule its assignment of error and affirm the judgment of the trial court." - Judge Ralph Winkler, Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals in the decision upholding dismissal of Cincinnati's lawsuit.
What we have is a stalemate in which one side (with the singular exception of the Violence Policy Center) will not admit to its endgame, which is obvious to those of us on the opposing side who are paying attention. Constantly we are told that "the number of guns" is the problem. Not culture, not revolving-door prisons, not poverty, not "the War on (some) Drugs," not anything but "the number of guns." As Say Uncle has pithily stated, "Gun control is what you do about crime instead of something." Yet we are also constantly told that our opponents don't want to ban anything. Well, except for "Saturday Night Specials." Or "Pocket Rockets." Or ".50 Caliber Sniper Rifles."

But nothing short of a real ban, and its accompanying confiscation, can actually reduce "the number of guns."

In the hands of the law-abiding.

And that's not politically achievable. Nor does it seem to be achievable through the courts. (And, as we've seen with England, it wouldn't help anyway - but then it's not my philosophy, it's theirs.) So short of that their tactics have become: "We don't want to ban guns, we just want to make possessing them so legally and financially burdensome that people will voluntarily give them up." Do that long enough and what wasn't politically achievable eventually becomes possible, because the people who used to know better - we gun owners, the "gun lobby" - become overwhelmed by those who have never so much as seen a firearm other than in the hands of a government employee or a criminal thug.

After all, it worked in England!

Not on my watch.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Out of Town Again.

I'll be spending the next couple of days in lovely Bagdad, AZ. Posting may be minimal to non-existant.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thirty-Eight Years Ago Today.
"One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
At 02:56 GMT, July 21, 1969 astronaut Neil Armstrong spoke those words and placed the first footprint in the lunar dust of the Sea of Tranquility some six hours after touching down the Lunar Module Eagle on the surface. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin departed barely fifteen hours later with about 45 pounds of lunar samples, leaving this plaque attached to one leg of the descent stage of the LM:

Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were followed by five successful and one unsuccessful missions. On December 14, 1972 as Eugene Cernan climbed back aboard Challenger for the last time, leaving the last human footprint in the lunar dust, he said:
As I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I'd like to just say what I believe history will record — that America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.
It's been too long.
Quote of the Day.
In a democracy, people must have faith in their institutions. In a totalitarian government, fear will do.

Don Surber, Democrats 'achieve' 14 percent approval, Charleston WV Daily Mail, 7/21/07

Friday, July 20, 2007

Armed America2

I've got two books coming in the mail with quite similar titles. The first is Clayton Cramer's rebuttal to Michael Bellesiles' discredited text, the second is a coffee-table book of portraits. Clayton's book is entitled Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie, the second is entitled Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes.

As Clayton is a well-known supporter of the Second Amendment, I expect no surprises from his book other those resulting from his typical exhaustive scholarship. The second book I've known about for a while now, as the author/photographer has been working on it for over two years and links to his book web site and photos like this one have been common at places like I stumbled across his YouTube promotional video earlier today. I hadn't realized the book was finished.

During the time when he was posting his photos, I wondered what the end result would be, and what it would engender in the public (if anything). It would appear that the result is not negative in the least. At the moment there are 14 comments about the book at, and a few reviews from such diverse people as Jim Petzal of Field and Stream:
...when I opened a package the other day and saw a book inside called America Armed: Portraits of Gun Owners in their Homes, what came to mind was the acronym BOHICA—Bend over; here it comes again.

But I was wrong. This coffee-table book is the child of Krause Publications, which puts out (via its imprint F+W Publications) the Gun Digest. So it seemed highly unlikely that they would be doing a hatchet job on us. And they didn't. What we have here folks, between two covers, is that greatest of rarities, a fair picture of who owns guns.
and The New Homemaker:
Avery, Miles, Gregg and Theresa from Arizona chose to pose with their dog Ginny, two AR-15s, an M1 Garand and supressed Ruger 10-22's for the boys. In their kitchen. Barefoot. Says Gregg: " time out of a 101 where having a gun would have meant saving your own child – you would sell your soul, or trade everything you have to do that."
There are some telling quotes from the reviews as well. "A. Justice" writes one of the more predictable:
I hope this book brings insight and provokes discussion on both sides of the subject because like it or not, we are all americans and have an obligation to look out for each other as well as ourselves.

Your government is not capable of protecting you every moment of your life nor is it obligated to do so. Those of us who are responsibly armed may have an opportunity to help, but the only one who can ensure your own safety is you, and that goes far beyond just owning a firearm.

As I said, this book captures a glimpse of a private part of the daily lives of many americans that has become far too controversial and vilified by many who dont understand their own rights and responsibilities as citizens of this once great country.
But this one surprised me as much as the book surprised him/her. "Spleen" wrote:
I am embarrassed that I started out with such a small-minded view of gun ownership. I thought I was against guns and seeing pictures of them was viscerally disturbing them to me. However, reading what people actually had to say about their gun ownership did make me open my mind on the issue.

I appreciate that the book portrays first and foremost the people and does not slant or objectify them (there is no political agenda) which leaves me able to digest the contents for myself.
William D. Nelsch wrote:
It reached me on so many different levels: the 'familial' based on one of our LUG family creating a masterpiece; the photographic, based on the technique in achieving the images - bounce flash, rear fill flash, and the inadvertent (?) self portrait on page 127; the contextual notion that the Second Amendment (I am a left wing Democrat, christian more of an Episcobuddhist, anti-war, anti-violence, etc. ) must be always enforced, and in light of the recent idiocy in the WH seems ever more important; and finally the sub-context of all of the animals is just delightful.

This is so much different, and better, than what I had expected after reviewing the online images. Seeing the images in print form allows for so much more detail; the messiness/neatness of the subject environs; the additional items, or lack thereof, in their living areas adds so much more to the meaning of each photo. I can't help but wonder how much of the shoot was staged vs. their actual environment. And the captures of the animals are priceless. This was no easy task.

I was also struck by the verbosity or lack thereof of the subjects when commenting on their gun ownership and what stuck me most was the argument that the Second Amendment, like all of the Amendments, must be upheld against the moneyed interest purchasing politicians attempting to take away ANY freedoms. This is akin to the NRA, ACLU and Sierra club all agreeing on the same thing.

I don't like guns. I was going to say I don't have any guns but that isn't exactly true - I have an old flintlock from the Spanish American war that belonged to a relative of mine standing in the corner of my living room. Why? It just looks neat. This book doesn't necessarily change my need to have or not have guns but it does cause me to rethink any notion of banning guns.
Mouth. Hangs. Agape.

What has Kyle Cassidy wrought here?

Another comment, this one from James M. Safley:
This is an important book. It makes no editorial statement, proffers no venomous rhetoric. It simply puts a human face on the typically abstract and much maligned "gun owner." They are our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers. We normally would not fear these people, so why should we fear them with guns?
Or this one by Jennifer A. Summerfield:
As someone who has always regarded guns with apprehension and never considered firing one, let alone owning one, "Armed America" has forced me to reconsider my stance. There is such a broad cross-section of the American population represented that each page seems to bring a different revelation. The fact that the subjects are allowed to speak for themselves, their words printed below their image, allows you to draw your own conclusions, without the photographer's own views, (which remain a mystery,) getting in the way.

It's a fascinating document of American culture... both past and present... and in turning each page, you feel you're on a journey with the photographer, rediscovering this vast, complex country.
If it can do that, I had to buy a copy. You might want to consider buying one too.
You've Got to Admit, It Beats That Other "Award" I Got!

I just noticed that I've been tagged with the "Thinking Blogger Award" by fellow blogger Conservative UAW Guy. (Full disclosure: we've met, at the inaugural Gunblogger's Rendezvous in Reno last year. Nice guy, charming wife.) I'm honored, really.

It beats the hell out of my last blogging "award."

Anyway, this is another meme-thing. Here are the rules:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.
Err, I think something got scrambled there, but click the award icon for a link back to the originating post.

Here's my list of five bloggers who make me think:
1. Steven Den Beste - Yes, I know he no longer posts as USS Clueless, but there's stuff in his archives that still makes me go "Ah!"

2. American Digest. Gerard Van der Leun doesn't post as much now that he's a muckety-muck at Pajamas Media, but he still writes a few that stimulate the grey matter.

3. Bill Whittle's Eject3. No explanation necessary. If you haven't read him, start with "Honor" and work your way up the archives.

4. Wretchard at The Belmont Club. Thinking is what he does.

5. A Day in the Life of an Ambulance Driver. Read posts like this one and tell me they don't make you think.
Thanks for the nod, JimmyB.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hillary? Obama? Thompson? Iowahawk? Like Hell!

Reynolds-Lucas '08, baby! A good idea whose time has finally come. We need bloggers in the White House, but it ain't Burge. Rachel Lucas is back, and Glenn never left us. It's time to get this freight train rolling. Elect the Great in 2008! We had this all planned out in 2003! Complete with (now slightly dated) campaign poster, penned by none other than Chris Muir!
It's time to open a campaign headquarters and start raising some money!

Since I'm so obviously link-whoring, here's the complete list of my posts on this from 2003:

Glenn Reynolds for President!

Denizens of the Blogosphere! I Present to You the Nominees for the 2008 Administration as Selected by YOU!

ALREADY the Reynolds/Lucas Ticket has Competition!

The Reynolds/Lucas 2008 Ticket Picks Up Steam!

Elect the Great in 2008?

Ah, ancient internet history. Don'tcha love it?
Too Bad They Didn't Have a Wheelchair.

Unix-Jedi sent me an email with a link to this short, succinct story:
Couple admit using pepper spray

Jul 18 2007
Ellesmere Port Pioneer

A COUPLE have found that using pepper spray in self-defence is as illegal as firing a sub-machine gun.

Under the Firearms Act, it is ranked alongside rocket launchers in that using it carries a 10-year prison sentence.
Remember, everyone: England is held up as the golden standard of "reasonable restrictions" and "common-sense" laws. "England can do it! Australia can do it! We can too!"

Not here. Not on my watch.
Chester, Ellesmere Port and Neston magistrates heard Sally Arcari, 21, didn't know pepper spray was illegal. Her boyfriend, Neil Marchant, 29, used it in self-defence outside The Platinum Lounge in Ellesmere Port before handing it to her.

The couple, of Newton, Chester, admitted possession of and discharging a noxious liquid or gas on April 29. They now face a three-week wait for sentencing.
Too bad they were unaware of the law. Had they known, they might have bought a wheelchair to go along with. That apparently saved Mr. Nicholas Ashworth in 2004 from prosecution for using teargas in self-defense, but not possessing it in the first place. I mentioned that case here, but the story is no longer available at the original site. It's been reprinted here, and I'll copy it for posterity as well:
I acted in self-defence says disabled robbery victim

A DISABLED man who used CS spray to fight off a robber is now facing the threat of legal action.

Wheelchair-bound Nicholas Ashworth, aged 22, sprayed his alleged attacker in the face with the CS spray.

He then climbed out of his wheelchair and limped across the road as the man screamed in pain. A passing police patrol spotted him in distress and stopped at the scene. Officers then arrested both men.

Today after being released on police bail pending further inquiries -- which could result in police prosecution -- Mr Ashworth defended his use of the CS spray. He said he bought it to protect himself after being attacked in Bridgeman Street three weeks ago. On that occasion his attacker hit him in the face before pinning him back in his chair. The man then rifled through his pockets and stole £100.

Mr Ashworth, of Fletcher Street, Bolton -- who can walk just a short distance without his wheelchair -- said the incident left him feeling vulnerable.
Can't imagine why...
Only days later he used it when a would-be robber confronted him as Mr Ashworth made his way to a nearby supermarket.

Mr Ashworth said the attacker held a knife at his throat and threatened to stab him.
Boy, those anti-weapon laws really work, don't they?
When he refused to hand over his money the man pushed him across the road and into bushes on the other side of the carriageway.

He said when he was threatened again he grabbed the CS canister and sprayed the man in the face.

He said: "I knew it was wrong and against the law but in my view I was acting in self defence. I thought the man was going to kill me.

"It is a sad state of affairs that disabled people like me have to carry such things like CS sprays for protection."
Well, it's a sad state of affairs that you're victimized for defending yourself. It's a really sad state of affairs that the government has pretty effectively disarmed you while leaving your attackers pretty much unaffected.
A police spokesman said that they were investigating the illegal use and possession of CS spray. He also revealed that a man was on police bail pending further inquiries into the attempted robbery of Mr Ashworth.
The stupidity coming out of Albion never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Quote(s) of the Day.

I'm sorry I missed this last week while I was working, but July 7 was the 100th anniversary of Robert Anson Heinlein's birth. RAH is, as I have previously noted, one of the people most responsible for the development of my personal philosophy. His writing influenced me greatly as an adolescent and into adulthood. As Dale at Mostly Cajun wrote last week, "He’s categorized as a science fiction writer, but if you’re looking for rayguns and spaceships, Heinlein is not what you read. You read Heinlein for people and philosophy, the kind of people who stand on their own two feet, who shoulder the load, who believe, who love life and have passions, people who draw lines and say, this far, and no further." But that's not the QotD. The next line in that post is:
The nation could do a lot worse than require Heinlein to be promoted in schools instead of Maya Angelou.
Roger that.

Dale selected his favorite quote from the book The Notebooks of Lazarus Long - a collection originally printed as "intermissions" between chapters in the novel Time Enough for Love. There are so many excellent quotes in that book that a single favorite is very hard to come by, but here's three of mine:
Political tags -- such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth -- are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.


The two highest achievements of the human mind are the twin concepts of "loyalty" and "duty". Whenever these twin concepts fall into disrepute -- get out of there fast! You may possibly save yourself, but it is too late to save that society. It is doomed.


Do not confuse "duty" with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.

But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants "just a few minutes of your time, please -- this won't take long." Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time -- and squawk for more!

So learn to say No -- and be rude about it when necessary.

Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you.

(This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even for a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don't do it because it is "expected" of you.)
Damn, I miss that man.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Quote of the Day.

No, I'm not back. I am, as a matter of fact, still in a hotel room in Willcox, AZ. I am not without internet service. It is just agonizingly slow service. Consequently, web surfing is not the joyous thing it is at home with 3.0Mbps download speed. Plus I've been working 12 hour days since 7/5. I will get this Sunday off (at home) but I'll be doing laundry and catching up on my sleep. Monday I'm back at it.

Anyway, all that is just a prelude to this. In the hotel room, scarfing down some KFC carryout, I moseyed (and I do mean moseyed) over to Tam's to catch some of the latest snark, and found an out-of-the-park homerun: You say "selfish" like it's a bad thing... Please read it before continuing. Unlike me, Tam is brief and to the point.

Done? Good.

She's almost exactly right. Here's my single exception to Tam's righteous smack-down: she wrote;
I am not concerned one iota with your safety. After all, I don't know you from Adam's housecat, so how does your fate affect me?
Actually, I (me, personally) am concerned about other people's safety. The difference is, (and Tam groks this, too - I'm positive) I understand what Kelli and those like her refuse to accept. They refuse to accept that they are responsible for their own safety. So I care about their safety. I care that they continue to have access to the tools that can help them protect themselves. I care that they understand that when someone is intent on harming them, the only one that can protect them at that moment is themselves. And right then it doesn't matter if that attacker is armed with a firearm, an axe handle, a broken bottle, or a pair of fists - the best defense to have is a firearm. Not a cell phone, not a bright orange whistle, not a loud scream, not a good pair of running shoes. A firearm and the skill and willingness to use it.

I do care about Kelli and her ilk. I want them to understand who it is who bears primary responsibility for their own protection. Far too many people find out far too late. How does their fate affect me? If they are not able to defend themselves, the predator that preys on them remains safe and free to prey on others. Possibly me and mine. Why else do you think Kim du Toit reports on each new goblin he hears about that achieves room temperature? Somebody else who won't be preying on good citizens.

Once again, I go back to my essay "Is the Government Responsible for Your Protection?" where I concluded:
(The) majority is largely unaware that they are the ones responsible for their own safety. They depend on the police almost exclusively for their safety and protection from crime. In their fear of violence, they fear the other "herbivores" with guns, too. They do so because some gun owners are idiots, but mostly because they’re told that guns are the cause of crime, and they don’t know any better. They don’t accept that general citizens who are willing to resist crime are an asset, not a liability to society.

So what am I advocating? I am advocating educating the citizens of our society as to their rights and attendant duties. That way they can make educated decisions as to their own protection, and that of their fellow citizens. Then if they decide that, for them, actively opposing crime is not an option, they won’t be so eager to deny the means to those who decide it’s the moral thing to do.
Anyway, hiatus continues. Thanks for checking in.

UPDATE: Via Irons in the Fire, a perfect example of what I'm talking about at Seraphic Secret: My Hollywood Gun, Part I, Part II, and Part III. He received his education before it was too late, but it was a close thing.
If the Los Angeles riots taught us anything it's that you're a fool if you count on the authorities to protect you in times of civil unrest -- in fact, at any time. In the end, only I can protect me and my family.

I'm never, ever going to allow myself to be outgunned by the bad guys. All the gun laws that are on the books, and there are thousands of them, just make it that much easier for the barbarians to amass weapons, and for good and law-abiding people like you and me to be at their mercy.

If you outlaw weapons, as so many squishy liberals yearn to do, well then, only the outlaws will possess weapons.

Read 'em all. Pass 'em around.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Validation from the Left

Happy 4th of July to everyone. This will be my last post on TSM for a while, as I'll be out of town without internet access for several days. Others have done a creditable job of writing patriotic holiday posts, so I will forbear doing so in order to write this one. (Warning! 5,900+ words follow.)

Joe Huffman put up another of his "Quote of the Day" posts this morning which reinforced for me something I wrote back in April. Joe's quote is this:
Emotion is what wins arguments, and there is a tremendous amount of emotion among those fighting to reduce gun violence -- there always is when someone gets hurt or must go through the tragedies that we experience in this country as a result of gun violence.


That is important emotion, and it will do more for the argument for stronger gun laws than any facts or figures ever will.


We have to show legislators the human side of this issue, too, and force them to base their own decisions and policies off of that emotion...
I went to the Gun Guys site (no link - on purpose) and ran down the piece referred in it. It's a excerpt from Emory University Professor of Psychology Drew Westen's book The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.

The piece I wrote? Gun Banners Have to Use Emotion...

Let's see what Mr. Westen had to say:
Despite Large Majorities, Democrats Are Chicken on Gun Control
Right off the bat, Mr. Westen bases his entire essay on an incorrect hypothesis - that Democrats are chicken about "gun control." Let's see what he has to say to bolster his erroneous thesis:
On April 16, Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, carried two semiautomatic pistols onto campus and killed 32 people. It was the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

The following week, a nation listened in horror as witnesses recounted stories of how they had barricaded desks against their classroom doors to keep the psychotic young man from entering, only to hear him spend a round of ammo, drop the spent clip, and reload in seconds.

Democratic leaders offered the requisite condolences. But that's all they offered. They didn't mention that the Republican Congress had let the Brady Act, which banned the sale of semiautomatic weapons, sunset in 2004.
True to form, a lie within the first three paragraphs. A blatant, unapologetic, bald-faced LIE. A lie, so far as I am concerned, deliberately written so as to inspire anger in the reader. Remember, this is an excerpt from a published book, and a piece also published in American Prospect. I thought these people had editors?

While most of my regular readers are aware of the facts, let me state them plainly for those who may come here and read this that don't: The bill Mr. Westen refers to is not "the Brady Bill." It's the 1994 "Assault Weapons Ban" that wasn't. That law did not "ban the sale of semiautomatic weapons." It banned the sale of a small number of specific firearms - mostly rifles - and some semiautomatic firearms with certain specific features. Semiautomatic firearms were still perfectly legal to sell, and sell they did. I happen to own a "post-ban" semi-automatic AR-15 rifle I had legally custom built during the period that law was in effect.

What that law most emphatically did not do was place any restrictions whatsoever on the types of firearms used by Seung-Hui Cho - a Glock Model 19 9mm semiautomatic handgun and a Walther P22 semiautomatic handgun. While the law did affect the availability of new "standard capacity" 15-round magazines for the Glock, it did not affect the availability of used ones. At this point I am unsure whether Mr. Cho used 15-round or post-ban 10-round magazines in his shooting spree, but realistically it hardly matters. No, the point here was to lie to the reader, and induce strong emotion. In addition, from the reports I've seen Mr. Cho had only two magazines for each weapon, so he hardly was able to constantly "drop the spent clip, and reload in seconds." He had to stop and reload the magazines, too - a relatively slow process. But this fact detracts from Mr. Westen's narrative.

They didn't mention that in the decade or so after the passage of that act, 100,000 felons lost their right to bear arms, but not a single hunter lost that right.
Unless, of course, some of those felons were, you know, hunters too.
Instead, the Democrats ran for political cover, waiting for the smoke to clear.

This wasn't the first time Democrats scattered when threatened with Republican gunshots. They were silent as the Beltway sniper terrorized our nation's capital a month before the midterm elections of 2002. And they have been silent or defensive on virtually every "wedge" issue that has divided our nation for much of the last 30 years. When the Republicans tried to play the hate card again in 2006, this time under the cover of immigration reform, Democrats scrambled to pull together a "policy" on immigration, instead of simply asking, "What's the matter, gays aren't working for you anymore?"
What I find really interesting here is just who's "playing the hate card." Apparently (according to Mr. Westen) the Rethuglicans hate gays and brown people, as that's the only conceivable reason they would support or oppose legislation on those topics. I'd say that's "hate speech" on the part of Mr. Westen, myself, but what do I know? I'm one of those oppressive white conservative types who likes guns.
So how did we find ourselves where we are today, with an electorate that has finally figured out that the once larger-than-life Wizard of Terror was nothing but a projection on a screen -- and an opposition party that can't seem to find its heart, its brain, or its courage, and instead wonders what's the matter with Kansas?

And most importantly, how do we find our way back home?


Visions of Mind

Behind every campaign lies a vision of mind -- often implicit, rarely articulated, and generally invisible to the naked eye. Traces of that vision can be seen in everything a campaign does or doesn't do.

The vision of mind that has captured the imagination of Democratic strategists for much of the last 40 years -- a dispassionate mind that makes decisions by weighing the evidence and reasoning to the most valid conclusions -- bears no relation to how the mind and brain actually work. When strategists start from this vision of mind, their candidates typically lose.
Mustn't. Lose. Self. Control... BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! "Weighing the evidence and reasoning to the most valid conclusions"??? We're talking about legislators here - a group of people at best only tenuously tethered to reality! Regardless of which side of the aisle they sit on.
Democrats typically bombard voters with laundry lists of issues, facts, figures, and policy positions, while Republicans offer emotionally compelling appeals, whether to voters' values, principles, or prejudices. As a result, we have seen only one Democrat elected and reelected to the White House since Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Clinton, who, like Roosevelt, understood how to connect with voters emotionally) and only one Republican fail to do so (George Bush Senior, who ran like a Democrat and paid for it).
G.H.W. Bush lost for one reason and one reason only: "Read my lips. No new taxes." Had it not been for that, I believe, not even Ross Perot would have derailed his re-election. Note also that, while Bill Clinton did win twice, neither time did he win a majority of the vote. He might have been able to "connect with voters emotionally," but he didn't reach most of them.
Our brains are nothing but vast networks of neurons. Of particular importance for understanding politics are "networks of associations" -- bundles of thoughts, feelings, sounds, images, memories, and emotions that have become linked through experience. People can't tell you much about what's in those networks, or about what's likely to change them (which happen to be the central determinants of voting behavior). They can't tell you because they don't have conscious access to them, any more than they can tell you what's going on in their pancreas. And if you ask them, they often get it wrong.

In polls and focus groups, voters told John Kerry's consultants that they didn't like "negativity," so the consultants told Kerry to avoid it. To what extent those voters just didn't know the power of negative appeals on their own networks, or didn't want to admit it, is unclear. What is clear is that George W. Bush won the election by spending 75 percent of his budget on negativity against a candidate whose refusal to fight back projected nothing but weakness in the face of aggression -- precisely the narrative Bush was constructing about Kerry.
Oh, please. "I actually did vote for the $87 billion dollars before I voted against it" had nothing to do with that image? "Christmas in Cambodia"? Even über-lefty blogger Markos Moulitsas understood how bad a candidate John "Reporting for Duty" Kerry was, and said as much in his 12/24/04 piece What the Hell Happened
Of course, there's a silver lining to all of this. A Kerry presidency would've been an unmitigated disaster, with a hostile congress, budget woes, the mess in Iraq, etc. Not a good time to be in charge.
Actually, I think it's remarkable he got as many votes as he did, because I think a lot of people understood what an unmitigated disaster a Kerry presidency would have been. But no, according to Mr. Westin, it's all because George W. Bush (more likely Karl Rove) spent 75% of his campaign money on "negative ads."

The American electorate are such mindless sheeple.

If you start with the assumption of a dispassionate mind -- of voters who weigh the utility of each candidate's stand on a range of issues and calculate which candidate has the greater utility -- you inevitably turn to pollsters as oracles to divine which issues are up, which are down, and which are best avoided. The vision of the dispassionate mind represents public opinion in one dimension -- a straight line, from up to down, high to low, pro-choice to anti-abortion, anti-gun to pro-gun.

But this is a one-dimensional rendering of three-dimensional data. If you start with networks, you think very differently about campaigns, from the way you interpret polling data to the way you handle the wedge issues that have run Democratic campaigns into the ground for decades. On virtually every contentious political issue -- abortion, welfare, gay marriage, tax cuts, and, yes, guns -- polls show a seemingly "mixed" pattern of results, with the electorate endorsing what seem like contradictory positions. The vast majority of Americans support gun regulations but also support the right to bear arms. So are Americans pro-gun or anti-gun?
The majority is pro-gun, Mr. Westen. They're anti-CRIME.
That's the wrong question. And it inevitably leads Democratic strategists to the wrong answer: "Take the issue off the table -- it's radioactive."

This kind of one-dimensional thinking fails to appreciate that voters may be of two minds about an issue. The same issue often activates two or more networks that lead to different feelings in the same person (e.g., concern about guns in the hands of criminals, and support for the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect their families), and different groups of voters may have radically different associations to the same thing (whether to guns, gays, abortion, or immigrants). Unfortunately, these are just the kinds of issues that arouse the most passion and, hence, have the biggest impact on both voting and get-out-the-vote efforts. And they are generally the issues Democrats try to avoid.

If you cede the contentious issues, you cede passion to the other side. And given that people vote with their "guts," if you cede passion, you ultimately concede elections.
Wait... wait. NRA membership: approximately 4 million. Brady Campaign membership: ?? Who's ceding what? It's a numbers game, Mr. Westen. And people don't like being lied to (see paragraph 3 above.) They really don't like it when they realize they've been manipulated. But that's what you're advocating here, isn't it? For our own good, no? Because you know better than the voter, and they should just do what you tell them without complaint, no?
Republicans go straight for these gut issues, and they now have the confidence that they can do so even when support for their position is in the range of 30 percent, as is the case with their absolutist stance on abortion (that abortion is murder and should be illegal under all circumstances) and guns (that the right to bear arms is inviolable, no matter what the death toll). Democrats usually don't contest them, the public never hears a compelling counternarrative, and public opinion gradually shifts to the right.
WHAT? You mean all that television time, all those prime-time episodes of Law & Order and CSI Paducah where gang-bangers buy full-auto weapons from eeeeevil neo-Nazi licensed gun dealers, and Desperate Housewives accidentally (?) shoot their lovers, and all the news coverage of 19 year-old "children" gunned down doesn't count as "compelling counternarrative"?

I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!
If you understand how networks work, you understand that candidates should never avoid anything -- particularly when the other side is talking about it. Doing so gives the opposition exclusive rights to the networks that create and constitute public opinion.


Hunting for principles

If ever there was an issue on which Americans are of two minds, it is guns. Most Americans believe in the Second Amendment, but most Americans also support a host of restrictions on gun sales and ownership. In the 2004 pre-election Harris poll, slightly more than half of Americans reported favoring stricter gun laws, but far fewer -- only one in five -- wanted to relax the current laws. (When Harris framed the question more specifically in terms of handguns, the percentages became even more lopsided, closer to 3-to-1 in favor of stricter regulations.) Only a small majority, however, supports tougher gun regulations, and many of these people are clustered in large urban areas and on the coasts. This is one of those mixed pictures that lead Democratic strategists to run for the hills.
The point so often (always) left out here is that so few people actually know what the existing restrictions on gun sales and ownership are. By far the best current example comes from this piece at Seraphic Secret:
“I can't believe I'm here. I've been against guns and violence my whole life.”
“Did Ned threaten you, physically, I mean?”
“Said I belong to him and no one else. That's about it. But I know what he means.”
“What did the police say?”
“The last cop, as he was leaving, whispered for me to get a gun.”

I tell her that owning a gun isn't sufficient. She has to take safety classes, self-defense classes. She has to know what she's doing. I grab NRA brochures from the counter, make her promise that she'll sign up as soon as she gets her gun in ten days.

“Ten days?” she cries.

“First you have to take a test, here in the store, a written test. They'll give you a booklet to study from. Then you get a certificate making you eligible to buy a weapon in California. After you purchase the gun there's a ten-day waiting period until you take possession.”

“But why?”
“Background check. To make sure you're not a felon, a psychopath, an illegal immigrant, a terrorist, a drug addict; it's the law.
And because people like her have "been against guns and violence" - and in support of "stricter gun laws" - their whole lives.

Revelations like this come as a shock quite often when people finally understand who it is that's responsible for their protection.
Al Gore epitomized Democrats' discomfort with guns in an exchange with Bush in their second presidential debate in 2000:
Moderator: So on guns, somebody wants to cast a vote based on your differences, where are the differences?

Gore: ... I am for licensing by states of new handgun purchases ... because too many criminals are getting guns. There was a recent investigation of the number in Texas who got, who were given concealed-weapons permits in spite of the fact that they had records. And the Los Angeles Times spent a lot of ink going into that. But I am not for doing anything that would affect hunters or sportsmen, rifles, shotguns, existing handguns. I do think that sensible gun-safety measures are warranted now.

Look, this is the year -- this is in the aftermath of Columbine, and Paducah, and all the places in our country where the nation has been shocked by these weapons in the hands of the wrong people. The woman who bought the guns for the two boys who did that killing at Columbine said that if she had had to give her name and fill out a form there, she would not have bought those guns.
Behind this response we can hear the whirring of the dispassionate mind -- the gratuitous reference to the Los Angeles Times, the reference to Columbine without offering an evocative image. But what is most striking about this response is the lack of any coherent principle that might explain why Gore would place restrictions on new handguns but not on old ones. (Are the existing ones too rusty to kill anybody?) Nor does he justify why he is excluding hunting rifles, although the viewer can infer (correctly) that he wants to get elected.

Bush couldn't respond to the most powerful part of Gore's response, about the woman who had handed the guns to the Columbine shooters. So after reiterating his opposition to requiring gun purchasers even to show photo identification, he switched to a "culture of life" message (aimed at activating anti-abortion networks under the cover of guns) and a "culture of love" message (suggesting that somewhere out there there's a child longing to be told he's loved -- which would presumably prevent massacres like Columbine). Bush's message was not only cognitively incoherent; it was actually lifted from a phenomenally moving eulogy Gore had delivered at Columbine.

True to the dispassionate vision of the mind, Gore failed to mention that he had been at Columbine. With all their debate preparation, his campaign strategists never realized that the vice president's best weapon on guns was that magnificent eulogy, in which he artfully invoked "that voice [that] says to our troubled souls: peace, be still. The Scripture promises that there is a peace that passes understanding."

Bush presented Gore with a golden opportunity to personalize the issue, to put the face of a child on it. With a response like the following, he would have placed in bold relief the extraordinary indifference implicit in Bush's response and the extremism of the conservative narrative Bush was embracing:
Governor, I walked with those shocked and grieving parents, teachers, and children at Columbine; I shed tears with them; and I delivered a eulogy that Sunday by their graveside. I remembered with them the heroism of their beloved coach and teacher Dave Sanders, who bravely led so many to safety but never made it out of the building himself. I remembered with them a young girl named Cassie Bernall, whose final words were "Yes, I do believe in God."

I just told you how the woman who bought the guns that took the lives of Dave Sanders and Cassie Bernall wouldn't have done it if she'd just had to fill out a form and show a photo ID. And you still can't feel for Coach Sanders' wife and children, who'll never wrap their loving arms around him again? You still can't weep for Cassie's parents? You still think it's sensible to require someone to show a photo ID to cash a check but that it's too much to ask that they show an ID to buy a handgun?

Americans do have a clear choice in this election. And it is about a culture of life. They can do something to honor the lives of those who died that day at Columbine. Or they can vote for a man who, as governor of Texas, signed a law allowing people to bring guns into church.
Right. Texas, where seven defenseless people were shot dead in a church in 1999. Boy, those "gun free zones" really do make people safer, don't they? That law allowed the law abiding to legally carry a defensive firearm. It did nothing to help or inhibit the shooter that day.

But to people who see firearms as totems of evil, it doesn't matter who has the firearm (unless they wear a uniform and collect a government paycheck). Guns are bad, mmmmkay?
Although most Americans were much closer to Gore than Bush on guns in the 2000 Harris poll, they thought Bush was stronger on gun control. Although Kerry had hunted all his life,
"Can I get me a huntin' license here?"
Bush was the overwhelming choice of American sportsmen, even though he'd purchased his Crawford ranch as a prop only two years before running for president -- something Democrats never thought to mention in two presidential campaigns. Nor did they mention, as James Carville and Paul Begala have pointed out, that Bush had stocked his ranch's man-made lakes with fish because the river running through it was too polluted.

These are just the kinds of facts and images that win elections. And they are just the kinds of facts and images that should win elections, because they tell where a candidate really stands, not just where he stands for photo ops.

This is precisely the kind of information that informs the emotions of the electorate.
Then why didn't it?

Gunning for common ground

To understand the poll numbers on guns in three dimensions, you have to consider the different associations the word "gun" evokes in urban and rural America. If you prime voters who have grown up in big cities with the word "gun," you are likely to activate a network that includes "handguns," "murder," "mugging," "robbery," "killing," "crime," "inner-city violence," "machine guns," and "criminals." If someone in New York City is packing a piece, he isn't hunting quail.
No, but that someone might be Margaret Johnson, a resident of Harlem who defended herself from a mugger with her .357 Magnum. Or Ronald Dixon, a resident of NYC who shot an intruder in his child's bedroom.

You don't hear much about these people because it's so damned hard and expensive to get a permit to possess a firearm in New York - unless you're famous or politically connected. Of course, that difficulty doesn't seem to affect the criminals....
But now suppose we prime a group of voters -- let's make them men -- in rural America with precisely the same word, "gun." This time, the associations that come to mind include "hunt," "my daddy," "my son," "gun shows," "gun collection," "rifle," "shotgun," "protecting my family," "deer," "buddies," "beer," "my rights" -- and a host of memories that link past and future generations. A voter who lives in a rural area knows that if an armed intruder enters his house, it could take a long time before the county sheriff arrives. The notion of being defenseless doesn't sit well with southern and rural males, whose identity as men is strongly associated with the ability to protect their families.
An idea apparently stripped from the metrosexual urban male?

Just askin.'
There are some voters you just can't win. As my colleagues and I discovered when we scanned the brains of partisans during the last presidential election, roughly a third of Americans' minds won't bend to the left no matter what you do or say (roughly the percent who continue to support Bush). But southern and rural voters are not unambivalent in their feelings toward guns. Rural voters have no fondness for what happened at Columbine or Virginia Tech, and they have little genuine affection for handguns or automatic weapons. If the National Rifle Association scares them into supporting semiautomatics for felons and teenagers with its slippery-slope argument about "taking away your guns," the fault lies as much with the Democratic Party, which has put such a powerful safety lock on its own values that no one knows where Democrats really stand -- on this or virtually any other moral issue.
Ah, more fearmongering! "Supporting semiautomatics for felons and teenagers." Yes, this is exactly what the NRA is doing! As opposed preventing the goverment from taking my private property in violation of the Second Amendment, which is what the Left (and Mr. Westen) is advocating.
When a party finds itself courting potentially winnable voters who have seemingly incompatible associations, the first task of its strategists should be to look for two things: areas of ambivalence and ways of bridging seemingly unconnected networks to create common ground. The areas of ambivalence on guns are clear, but Democrats should be searching for the common ground that connects left to right on guns. One of the most powerful "bridging networks" revolves around law and order. A central appeal of conservative ideology is that it emphasizes the protection of law-abiding citizens. Those in the cities who want gun control for the protection of their families and those in the countryside who decry the lawlessness of the cities share the same concern: the freedom and safety of law-abiding citizens. Democrats should also connect the dots between the extremist message of the NRA and another powerful network: terrorism. You can't fight a war against terrorists if you grant them unrestricted access to automatic weapons on your own soil.
Err, I'm sorry, but isn't this exactly the strategy advocated by the Violence Policy Center in 1988? Aren't they the ones who published a white paper on banning "assault weapons" which included this passage:
It will be a new topic in what has become to the press and public an "old" debate.

Although handguns claim more than 20,000 lives a year, the issue of handgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press, and public. The reasons for this vary: the power of the gun lobby; the tendency of both sides of the issue to resort to sloganeering and pre-packaged arguments when discussing the issue; the fact that until an individual is affected by handgun violence he or she is unlikely to work for handgun restrictions; the view that handgun violence is an "unsolvable" problem; the inability of the handgun restriction movement to organize itself into an effective electoral threat; and the fact that until someone famous is shot, or something truly horrible happens, handgun restriction is simply not viewed as a priority. Assault weapons — just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms — are a new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons — anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun — can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.
There's a lot more, but that's the gist of it. "Get them to vote our way through the exploitation of fear - and to hell with the facts." This is precisely what Mr. Westen is advocating with his language of "granting (terrorists) unrestricted access to automatic weapons on your own soil." Lying to inspire fear. It's not like this is a new idea.
This convergence of networks suggests a simple, commonsense, principled stand on guns that Democrats could run with all over the country:
Our moral vision on guns reflects one simple principle: that gun laws should guarantee the freedom and safety of all law-abiding Americans. We stand with the majority of Americans who believe in the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns to hunt and protect their families. And we stand with that same majority of Americans who believe that felons, terrorists, and troubled teenagers don't have the right to bear arms that threaten the safety of our children. We therefore support the right to bear arms, but not to bear arms designed for no other purpose than to take another person's life.
As someone once said, if the guns I own were "designed for no other purpose than to take another person's life," then all of them are defective. I own an M1 Garand - a weapon designed by a government employee and described by General Patton as the "greatest battle implement ever devised." Was it designed for "no other purpose than to take another person's life"? Should I be allowed to "bear" that arm? I own a 1911-pattern semi-automatic pistol, the sidearm issued to our military for over fifty years. What about it? I own an AR-15 carbine, another semi-automatic firearm that most police departments currently issue to their patrol officers. In fact, many departments issue the fully-automatic M-16 version. Are the police issued arms that have the sole purpose of "taking another person's life"?

Facts are pesky things, aren't they? Emotion is so much easier to manipulate.

Shooting blanks

At Virginia Tech, we witnessed another Terri Schiavo moment, when Democrats could have asserted a progressive moral alternative to an extremist narrative of the far right. But once again, they cowered in the corner, hoping to convince the American public that they're almost as right as the Republicans. Unfortunately, you never win elections by being almost as principled as the other side. If only one side is talking about its values, its candidate -- not the moral runner-up -- will win over voters.

With the polls strongly at their backs, Democrats had a historic opportunity to turn the Republicans' indifference to the suffering at Virginia Tech into a moral condemnation, and to put every Republican in Congress on record as caring more about the blood-soaked dollars of the NRA than about the lives of our children.
Isn't this more "hate speech"? Rethuglicans are "indifferent" to suffering? The NRA's "blood-soaked dollars"? I'm personally pretty pissed off at Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker, who applauded that school's "no guns on campus" policy on the grounds that it made people feel safe, when in fact it made them all defenseless.
Instead, they turned tail and ran, fearing they'd be branded as "anti-gun" and pushed down the slippery slope the NRA has used to pick them off at the ballot box for years: "They want to take away your gun."
Because, in fact, you want to take away our guns. The ones you define as "designed for no other purpose than to take another person's life."

That would be pretty much all of them, I think.
But you only have to worry about getting branded and being pushed down slippery slopes if you're playing checkers while the other side is playing chess -- worrying about their next move when you should be anticipating six moves ahead. Democrats didn't do what they knew was the right thing because of their concerns about the political fortunes of red-state Democrats like Heath Shuler in North Carolina.
Wait! Wrong metaphor. Not checkers, not chess, but three-card-Monty. What, precisely, Mr. Westen, is "the right thing"?

Could it be "taking away our guns"?

Could it be anything else?
But they wouldn't have had to worry -- and they would have picked up a lot of "security moms" and plenty of dads -- if they had simply put Shuler in front of the camera, flanked by a couple of pro-gun Democrats like Montana Senator Jon Tester, with a hunting rifle over his left shoulder and an M-16 over his right, armed with a simple message:
This [pointing to the gun on his left] is a rifle.
This [the gun on his right] is an assault weapon.
People like you and me use this one [left] to hunt.
Criminals, terrorists, and deranged teenagers use this one [right] to hunt police officers and our children.
Law-abiding citizens have the right to own one of these [left].
Nobody has the right to threaten our kids' safety with one of these [right].
Any questions?
Yes, I have a few. Isn't the one on the left a "long-range sniper rifle"? Why are our police armed with the one on the right? And where can I buy a new M16? They've been off the market since 1986. A used one costs in excess of $16,000. That is, if you live in a jurisdiction that will allow you to own one, and you can jump through all the legal hoops - background check, permission of your local head of law-enforcement, $200 transfer tax - to qualify.

Once again, facts are pesky things, aren't they?
If you can't speak the truth and win elections, you need to learn another language. The language that wins elections is the language of the heart.
And here's the heart of it. Translation: If the truth doesn't work, lie. Lie big. The bigger the better. And go on the offensive. Change the subject when challenged on your lies, but never back down from the lies. Make the lies bigger, because you've got to lie in order to frighten the idiot sheeple in the direction you want them to go.

Risking invocation of Godwin's Law, does that remind you of anything?

Let me finish with the conclusion reached by James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi in their 1983 meta-study of gun control laws, Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime and Violence in America - a cold, factual assessment of gun control:
The progressive's indictment of American firearms policy is well known and is one that both the senior authors of this study once shared. This indictment includes the following particulars: (1) Guns are involved in an astonishing number of crimes in this country. (2) In other countries with stricter firearms laws and fewer guns in private hands, gun crime is rare. (3) Most of the firearms involved in crime are cheap Saturday Night Specials, for which no legitimate use or need exists. (4) Many families acquire such a gun because they feel the need to protect themselves; eventually they end up shooting one another. (5) If there were fewer guns around, there would obviously be less crime. (6) Most of the public also believes this and has favored stricter gun control laws for as long as anyone has asked the question. (7) Only the gun lobby prevents us from embarking on the road to a safer and more civilized society.

The more deeply we have explored the empirical implications of this indictment, the less plausible it has become. We wonder, first, given the number of firearms presently available in the United States, whether the time to "do something" about them has not long since passed. If we take the highest plausible value for the total number of gun incidents in any given year - 1,000,000 - and the lowest plausible value for the total number of firearms now in private hands - 100,000,000 - we see rather quickly that the guns now owned exceed the annual incident count by a factor of at least 100. This means that the existing stock is adequate to supply all conceivable criminal purposes for at least the entire next century, even if the worldwide manufacture of new guns were halted today and if each presently owned firearm were used criminally once and only once. Short of an outright house-to-house search and seizure mission, just how are we going to achieve some significant reduction in the number of firearms available? (Pp. 319-320)
Yup. Facts are pesky. Emotion's all they've got.

I'll be back in a while. Thanks for visiting.