Monday, December 31, 2012

... and a Happy New Year

As long as the world doesn't end within the next 6 hours, we'll finally be seeing 2013.

Thank. Fucking. God.

Not that 2012 didn't try to redeem itself at the end. Cancer is in remission, in 103 days we're expecting a baby boy (whose gestation is now past the most dangerous parts), and we've managed to spend the last 5 days in kind of a mini-vacation. I spent 3 days in Reno staying with my best friend and her parents for part of the holidays while Chris stayed with friends in Spokane and we're staying in Spokane through to tomorrow morning. Getting away for a bit helped with the need for perspective.

Of course that was the idea. Maybe it was my nervous breakdown over needing RAI treatment or my nervous breakdown over the car being repossessed (not sure which ended in being gifted plane tickets to Reno) but the need for a break was rather overwhelming.

Maybe there is such a thing as being too responsible and too goal-oriented. Maybe.

But despite 2012 trying to pull it out and the end, 2012 just really really sucked. Not just for us either, many of those attached to us by friendship, blood, or internet went through major tribulations.

2013 is almost guaranteed to be better.

We're more than happy to give it a chance.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Some Very Good News for Christmas

Friday was Chris's second post-radiation follow up. Last Tuesday he'd gone through the thyroid bed ultrasound and a full panel of blood tests. Earlier he'd gone through a radioactive scan to see where the radioactive iodine had picked up.

According to his endocrinologist Chris does not have any distant masses anywhere in his body, or any masses on the thyroid bed. He's been declared either cancer free, or close enough that more radiation can be put off. The tests will be run again in June. But nuking it from orbit seems to have stopped the progression of the cancer in its tracks and may have killed all but the tiniest little speckles off completely.

He's also extremely hypothyroid (which is an odd term for someone without a thyroid) and his adrenals and pituitary are still fairly messed up. Oddly enough this is a good sign, as that means there's not enough thyroid cells left to make enough hormone to even semi- keep up with him. The doc thinks the hypothyroid might be responsible for the messed up adrenals and pituitary so our highest priority is getting the thyroid hormone levels under control.

He'd been on 400 mcg of levothyroxine which should have been the absolute max for his body size but his TSH is at 6.06, well outside of the normal functioning range (anything over 5 is considered hypothyroid) and considerably too far over the goal of under 2 (in order to suppress any remaining cancer from multiplying). The doc has upped him to 600mcg, a quantity so high that insurance won't even cover it and the pharmacist checked with me to make sure there wasn't an extra 0. Thank God it's on the $4 list.

So while he is either cancer-free or out of danger, there's still much to be fixed. He's experiencing all of the normal hypothyroid symptoms plus some of the less well-known. His sleep schedule is non-existent and he's experiencing peripheral neuropathy from various hormone and vitamin deficiencies, as well as not losing the weight. We're working on that. Even now his TSH gap is much higher than the gap I'd experienced when first diagnosed with hypothyroidism 2 years ago and fixing my levels had a dramatic effect. We're hoping the same happens for him.

So why isn't Chris writing this? His symptoms are pretty severe today (peripheral neuropathy sucks) so he's been sleeping it off.

Which means, of course, that's he's actually SLEEPING, which is a huge improvement over the last few weeks and not something I'm keen to interfere with.

So there is our very good news for this Christmas.


Merry Christmas

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

"Fear not then," said the Angel,
"Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan's power and might."
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Monday, December 24, 2012

Treaties, Executive Orders, and the NRA

So... It seems that a lot of folks understand that the electoral math of the question makes any significant federal gun control in the near future unlikely.

Unfortunately, many still hold the idea that somehow, the Obama administration doesn't need congress to implement gun control; that they could do so by executive order (or that the ATF would do so without congressional action, at Obamas direction), or by signing the UN arms treaty; and that they would of course, do so at their earliest opportunity.

... I guess because Obama is the living earthly incarnation of satan or something?

Comics from the new and so-far very good web comic Failure to Fire

Finally, these same folks mostly seem to believe that the NRA is useless, or worse, actively conspiring with the evil one to take away our guns etc... etc...

All three of these ideas are entirely incorrect, as I have written here and on other blogs many times before (as this is a commonly held mistaken idea that has come up often).

Oh and an aside: anyone who is getting their information or opinions (on any subject whatsoever) from reading things like Alex Jones, Joseph Farrah, World Net Daily, or anything that Larry Pratt or the GOA put out... you should really just stop. They’re about 90% full of it, and the 10% that isn’t, is overblown.

Before we get get into the legalities of the first two ideas, let's talk about the politics for a second...

For those that do, please tell me... Why do you believe so strongly that, against all evidence, gun control is the hill the democratic party wants to die on?

Because, make no mistake, that's what it would be; even if the gun control was Obama and his administration alone, without the action of congress.

If Obama really cared that much about gun control, he would have done it already.

If you think that "He was just waiting for his second term. Now that he doesn't have to be re-elected, you'll see, he'll do all the things we've been saying he was going to since 2008"...

...You're an idiot.

Oh it's absolutely true that Obama will be more liberal/progressive/socialist etc... this term; and will get more aggressive about what he wants etc... (or perhaps more to the point, his far more radical appointees, who he can sacrifice if necessary, will do so).

It's this ridiculous argument that somehow Obama is special, specially evil etc... and that by virtue of this he has some magical ability to completely ignore the realities of law, the constitution, government, politics... physics... that makes these folks idiots.

Perhaps there are some rational arguments to be made that perhaps Obama want's gun control bad enough to commit politicial suicide, or to have his party do so; but I haven't seen them being made. Just this idiotic "because he's Obama, that's why" crap.

Yes, Obama want's more gun control (though not to the extent that some seem to think), but in order to do so, he needs to deal with CONGRESS.

Obama wants a lot more things, a lot more than he wants gun control; and he isn't going to waste any political capitol whatsoever on a subject he doesn't really care about that much.

Why do you think he put Joe Biden in charge of the "special comission"?

If he was serious, he'd be leading the charge himself. He'd be on television twice a day with specific ideas, and demonizing opponents etc...

If it works out, hey, great, he can claim credit. If it fails (and it will), he doesn't get any of the blame.

What Obama really wants is to raise taxes, cut the military, increase social spending etc... He's not stupid, he knows that he's going to need congress to do it.

What Obama absolutely does NOT want, is to see Obamacare repealed (for which he's going to need to have at least the senate stay under democratic control); and that trying to shove gun control down our throats would just about guarantee all the vulnerable Democratic senators would lose their seats.

There are maybe a dozen truly committed, truly anti-gun senators, and maybe two dozen in the house... plus another dozen completely safe seats in the senate and maybe 50 or 60 in the house. No-one else is going to put their seat on the line over an issue that they either don't care about all that much, or that they don't see any major advantage in supporting.

Now, on to the legal question

Neither treaties nor executive orders can violate the constitution (including the court decisions interpreting the constitution).

First, treaties:

Some seem to believe that a double evil combination will occur, where Obama signs a treaty that will unconstitutionally ban small arms; and by doing so while congress is in recess, he can immediately implement the provisions of the treaty to do so.

If you believe this, let me say to you, right now, without any hesitation...


Or, at the very least, you have no business having an opinion on this subject, since you have no idea how our government works, or anything about law, or the constitution.

Treaties cannot be implemented without the approval of congress. They must be ratified by the senate, and their implementation must be enabled by house legislation (approving the funding for implementing the provisions of the treaty).

If a treaty is signed, but never ratified, the executive branch cannot implement any of its provisions.

However, that's entirely irrelevant because...

Treaties don't trump the constitution, nor do they override court decisions interpreting the constitution.

Ever, under any circumstances.

Treaties can supersede state and federal law, but not the constitution.

Any provision of any treaty that would do so, is automatically null and void.

Here are the relevant supreme court decisions:

Amaya v. Standard Oil:
"the treaty-making power does not extend ‘So far as to authorize what the constitution forbids.’"

Reid v. Covert (which is controlling in this question):
“No agreement with a foreign nation can confer power on Congress, or on any other branch of Government, which is free from the restraints of the Constitution. 
There is nothing new or unique about what we say here. This [Supreme] Court has regularly and uniformly recognized the supremacy of the Constitution over a treaty.” – Reid v. Covert, October 1956, 354 U.S. 1, at pg 17.
And the summary of the majority opinion:
“The United States is entirely [354 U.S. 1, 6] a creature of the Constitution. Its power and authority have no other source. It can only act in accordance with all the limitations imposed by the Constitution. 
(Quoting Article VI, Clause 2…)
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land … ” 
There is nothing in this language which intimates that treaties and laws enacted pursuant to them do not have to comply with the provisions of the Constitution. 
Nor is there anything in the debates which accompanied the drafting and ratification of the Constitution which even suggests such a result.”
Treaties MAY NOT supersede the constitution; however, it is important to note that the constitution does not necessarily apply to actions outside our borders and not concerning our citizens (US v. Curtis Wright).

The ratification of a treaty is an act of congress, and no act of congress, or its effects, may supersede the constitution. Article II and Article VI are mostly clear, and what ambiguity there is has been clarified numerous times by the supreme court.

Treaties CAN AND DO trump previous federal laws, and both state laws and state constitutions; which was clarified in Gibbons v. Ogden.

...And on to the executive orders...

Now, there's some important language I quote above:
"The United States is entirely [354 U.S. 1, 6] a creature of the Constitution. Its power and authority have no other source. It can only act in accordance with all the limitations imposed by the Constitution."
As this applies to acts of congress, it also applies to the executive branch and its agencies.

The substance and authority of the government exists solely in the constitution; therefore no agency of it may act outside of its authority.

Because great power and discretion are given to the president (and by extension the executive branch) in foreign affairs, executive orders can ignore the constitution outside the borders of the country and when acting on non-citizens; but they cannot ignore the constitution inside our borders, or when dealing with American citizens.

"It doesn't matter if its unconstitutional, Obama is evil and doesn't care, and he's going to do it anyway"


Rather than address this whole thing again on the politics side, I'll just refer you back to the politics section above, and say...


Or at the least, without any knowledge or understanding, you're parroting misinformation spread by either morons, or by those who are deliberately manipulating you (most likely for fundraising purposes).

But since we're in the legal section, let's get back to that...

I can see that there are some arguments (other than the "but he's evil" one that is), where its plausible the Obama administration might decide to attempt some blatantly unconstitutional garbage...


Why do you believe that if the Obama administration suddenly decides to do various clearly and obviously unconstitutional things, that they'll actually be allowed?

That they'll have funding to do so?

That they won't be stopped by the courts?

That there won't be a million lawsuits?

That the various officials of the executive branch will go along with it?

That the enforcement agents of the executive branch will implement and enforce these new unconstitutional measures?

Again, I'm not talking about the possibility that they may attempt minor and lesser executive action to restrict guns in some ways (more on that below); just the idea that somehow, because Obama is extra special magic evil; that he can all of a sudden magically seize or ban all our guns (or all our evil black guns etc...)

Ok... the NRA

Right now I'm rather irritated with the NRA.

Not because they are "evil, ineffective, compromising backstabbers", but because of this:

This statement... Much of it is reasonable, true, good, useful helpful; unfortunately, some is very much not:
And here's another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people. 
Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?
Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like "American Psycho" and "Natural Born Killers" that are aired like propaganda loops on "Splatterdays" and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it "entertainment." 
But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?
In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with oneanother to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes — every minute of every day of
every month of every year. 
A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000
acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. 
And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate
owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not
complicit co-conspirators. 
Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.
Ahhh yes... it's all the medias fault, especially that nasty TV and those awful video games.

Not only is this not helpful, in context it is both idiotic, and actively HARMFUL.

Not intentionally so of course; but in spectacular arrogance and ignorance.

I think the Penny Arcade response to this is appropriate here:

Lord knows, this isn't the first time the NRA was harmfully wrong (their entire history on the Heller case for example)... and it won't be the last.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't generally support the NRA.

I'm a life member, and I won't be resigning my membership over this stupidity (though I will be letting them know how I feel; and unlike most gamers, I know people inside NRA management... I would suggest everyone else who does as well, also make their displeasure known).

The NRA are by far the most effective organization for protecting our rights surrounding firearms and self defense (as I have written many times before, for example:

The GOA has been promoting the idea for years that the NRA are the bad guy... but frankly, the only thing Larry Pratt believes in is Larry Pratt... And the only thing the GOA is effective at is spreading  unreasonable fear, and disinformation, aimed at increasing their fundraising.

Without the NRA our right to keep and bear arms would be fully abrogated by government... and would have been long ago.

Are they perfect? No. But they're the best we've got, and they do the best they can; and they are certainly NOT "part of the problem".

All that said... there's still some potential problems (of course)

I don't mean to suggest that there isn't any possible thing that the Obama administration could do on its own, or headaches, irritation, delays and difficult etc... they could cause.

For example, through executive orders and "administrative procedures", "administrative rules", "executive agency regulations" etc... the import of some firearms... possibly even all firearms, and ammunition... could be accomplished.

That is a foreign policy action, which has what could be interpreted, in principle, as having enabling legislation, depending on interpretation.

The administration couldn't ban the domestic manufacture, sale, or possession of any particular type of firearm; nor could they establish standards through the ATF or DOJ that would have the effect of doing so (there is specific legislation addressing this issue, and executive orders cannot counter that).


That doesn't mean they couldn't make life immensely more difficult; applying maximum scrutiny to every manufacturers, distributor, FFL etc...

Some have suggested they could simply order the NICS system shut down; but there's actually a default out for that. Even if there wasn't, this would clearly be an action intended to ban further sales of firearms, and the courts would be on that in a heartbeat (with the SAF, SAAMI, the NSSF the NRA, and every firearms manufacturer behind it).

...But they could make every transaction go through enough scrutiny to make the 3 day delay/proceed limit; backing the system up, and preventing sales entirely in some gun control states.

They could also go for some restrictions that may be allowed under existing law, and wouldn't be clearly unlawful or unconstitutional... The evil mind can think up lots of scenarios where some restriction could happen...

But again, the politics of the situation militate against it; except possibly in a minor way.

So, to appropriate the meme:

Keep Calm and Carry One... or More... Guns...

MHI Santa Cookies

Because normal Christmas sugar cookies are boring:

MHI Santa cookies made with the Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie recipe with about 1/2 tbsp of cinnamon added, because normal sugar cookies are also tasteless. Chocolate is much better.

Boxes of assorted Christmas cookies (including a fair number of these) ended up at Malmstrom AFB and Fairchild AFB. Luckily we got the opportunity to drop them off in person at Fairchild and visit with a certain author:

Mike Kupari, co-author of Dead Six.

A box will be on its way to Larry shortly, because we can.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stupidity, Politics, and Math


I REALLY didn't want to write anything about the Connecticut school shooting... Frankly, it may sound callous, but we've seen this before, we've seen this worse.

It's truly awful...

...but sometimes truly awful things happen; especially when mental illness is involved.

That's not why I'm writing though... Or even exactly what I'm writing about...

What has basically forced me to write about this, is the outright stupidity that much of the pro-gun side is exhibiting at the moment.

Stupidity, paranoia, histrionics.... whatever you want to call it, it's irritating me enough that I had to write this little 3800 word rant.

The world is not ending.

The sky is not falling.

This is not the "American Dunblane".

No-one is coming to take our evil black rifles.
No... It's not.

Why not?

Because, much as abortion is for the right, gun control is something the left talks about to get column inches and screen time, to win the approval (and money) of single issue voters from your own side; and of course, to feel morally superior... It's not something you actually DO.

... If you actually DID it, it would end up hurting you... Again, much like abortion....

Pro gun folks, please stop screaming about how all the fun guns are going to be banned, Obama tyranny, etc... etc...

It's not going to happen.

There will be no new gun control of any kind (except perhaps, at worst a symbolic gesture, though I doubt even that), never mind a new so called "assault weapons" ban, or a magazine capacity ban.

Not that I wouldn't strongly oppose such a thing, but:
  1. I'm pretty sure such a thing would never get voted on at all.
  2. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't even get debated in committee.
  3. I'm pretty sure if it was, it wouldn't be voted on in committee.
  4. I'm pretty sure if it ever made it to the floor, it wouldn't get a floor vote.
  5. I'm pretty sure that if it did, it wouldn't pass...
  6. Actually, I'm pretty sure such a thing wouldn't get more than about 25% behind it... 40% at worst
  7. I'm pretty sure if it did somehow pass in one house, it wouldn't get through both houses.
  8. I'm pretty sure if it did, it wouldn't make it through conference or reconciliation.
  9. I'm pretty sure even if it did, current jurisprudence would prevent such a thing from ever being implemented.
  10. If there were any kind of "ban" passed, and it were to somehow make it through the courts, it would have to be so restricted, narrow, and limited as to  be meaningless
I repeat, there will be no meaningful or significant gun control legislation of any kind even voted on... or likely even debated in open hearings, never mind passed.

I'm sure several bills will be introduced... Carolyn McCarthy, Frank Lautenberg, and Dianne Feinstein need to get their fawning press... and in an attempt to appear "reasonable" some republicans will talk about talking about it... but they'll never be slated for conference. They'll just be symbolic gestures by congresscritters in pro gun control districts.

In fact, there will most likely be several conflicting bills introduced by several different people in each house.... Intentionally so. This allows the politicians in question to pretend THEY were trying to get the GOOD bill passed, but couldn't, so they wouldn't vote for the BAD bill... etc... etc...

Nothing but red meat for the base... Just like every other time this has happened since 1996.
"...But.... But.... How can you possibly say that? Awful media screaming.... Gaaahhh!!! SCARY BLACK MILITARY STYLE RIFLES!!!!!, Dead CHILDREN!!!! PELOSII!!! FEINSTEIN!!! OBAMA!!!! GAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!"

Politics, and Math.

Fox news was reporting that this morning, Rasmussen released a poll conducted after the shootings:

Only 27% of the population support additional gun control. Over 60% believe that additional gun control won't stop things like this from happening. Over 70% believe that this is a mental health issue, not a gun issue.


This IS a mental health issue. A major one. And a cultural issue (the part of the culture that turns guns into a magic rod of power in their heads, and denigrates and degrades the value and nobility of human life).

If you haven't already, you should read Clayton Cramers book about mental illness and how poorly we deal with in this country "My Brother Ron"... We basically have NO way of dealing with the mentally ill at this point, and it's a major problem.

... and a lot of folks know this, and understand this.... Though I don't think anyone has a really good idea what to do about it.

Occasionally, "the people" are not mindless sheep. Occaisonally they're actually surprisingly wise... Especially after decades of obvious garbage being shoved down their throats, is utterly contradicted by just a few minutes of real world experience, or the tiniest bit of basic logic and reason.

... And yes, "the people" can, on occaision, exhibit the ability to reason using facts and logic.

It's rare I admit...

So... as far as "more gun control" goes, the people don't want it, it won't work, and everyone not operating on a predetermined agenda (or through naive idealism, or blind ignorant fear) already understands that...

Because, as any advocate for the legalization of drugs will tell you, banning only stops the law abiding. It doesn't eliminate either the use, or desire, for the banned subject.

Because of course the argument makes sense when it's applied to something you support, but is utter twaddle when it's something you don't support... Of course...

...No, of course not...

Gun control is exactly as good an idea as banning drugs, or alcohol, or knives, or cars, or any other damn thing that requires an adult level of responsibility to manage properly.

Of course, that hasn't ever stopped politicians before.... like, well... for example, prohibition.

And much like prohibition, something like half the households in this country have guns in them.

When you account for the fact that very few of the households in the urban northeast, midwestern industrial cities, or coastal California, are among that number (and that's about 1/3 of Americas households)... and it actually works out to something more like 3/4 of households outside of the big anti-gun constituencies.

...and for the past 8 years, the second most popular gun in America, is what our president has been calling a "Military style Assault Weapon" (which in and of itself is a delberate fraud, but that's another issue entirely).

Since 2004, manufacturers have sold between 500,000 and 1 million AR-15 type rifles a year. While there are certainly lots of folks who have three or four of them, most folks only have the one...

They sell them at WAL-MART now. And not just one model, covered in mossy oak for the hunters... The last time I looked into the WallyWorld gun section a few weeks back, they had FOUR different models, including ones with rails, collapsible stocks, flash hiders, 30 rounds magazines...

You can't demonize the rifle that the guy takes to the range for his 12 year old daughter to shoot. The scare tactics only work on people who don't know any better...

...and more than half the country now knows better.

But I digress...

Basic truism of politics: Politicians never do anything unless they think it is to their advantage.


...and outside those few districts that are strongly pro gun control (about 20% of the population, but only about 2% of the area) there is no advantage in gun control.

Plenty of advantage in talking about it... Talking about it helps liberals raise money...

But actually DOING something?

No... that's bad.

Gun control hurts the democratic party. The only places that support it would support democrats anyway, and everywhere else, every single democrat that votes for gun control means thousands fewer democratic voters.

Gun control cost the Democratic party control of Congress in 1996, they know it, and they will NEVER repeat that mistake again.

So, Democratic party politicians will talk about gun control on TV, but they won't actually DO anything that they can get nailed down on, unless they are from one of the (very few) anti-gun districts, or their seat is completely safe (in which case they're playing to the small but wealthy national liberal donor audience).

Hell... there isn't even any money in organized gun control anymore. There used to be big money lobbies behind it, but now almost all gun control is funded out of the Joyce foundations, and they don't have the money to spend on buying either politicians, or media campaigns.

Private individuals rarely donate very much to the gun control cause, if anything; and that has always been the case. A few very rich ideologues, the occasional frothing or crying liberal, and the sad people whose loved ones were killed by lunatics and idiots, and who are now used by the ideologues to put a sympathetic and legitimate face on their actions... and that's really it.

 You can almost always get people to donate "for" something... it's a lot harder to get them to donate "against" something; unless you can make people very afraid, and then convince them you will take their fear away.

Well... most people aren't afraid of guns anymore... and of the ones who are, most don't believe that the government is going to be able to do anything about their fear.

There's just no constituency for gun control.

Just 27%, in a poll after a major emotional event...

Certainly less, when the emotion dies down, and they have to actually commit to something, not just say what they think the guy at the other end of the phone wants to hear...

Ok... so maybe no AR-15 bans... but what about magazine capacity limits?

Not a chance. Any real restriction on people doing something they actually want to do... they remember it. A magazine ban would lose the Democrats every remaining rural house and senate senate seat they have left.

There's literally tens of millions... if not hundreds of millions, of "high capacity" magazines out there. Unless they made ex post facto law criminalizing their possession  then seized all of them (also a constitutional problem) and destroyed them... Which, never mind the legal, constitutional, political, and economic issues surrounding that, is simply PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE...

It's also just plain stupid... People understand and remember stupid. They remember being irritated, and inconvenienced.

Again, this is the kind of idea that only sounds good to the ignorant or the fearful. Those who have no clue... who just don't know any better... And now, more than half the country knows better.

No... A ban of any kind, of any weapon, of any magazine, just isn't going to happen.

No-one who isn't in a guaranteed liberal pro-gun control seat is going to touch ANY gun control of any kind.

Hell, the NRA has had more than 30,000 new members sign up since the shooting, along with over 80,000 renewals, and who knows how much in additional donations (I'm already a life member); and more are coming in every HOUR.

People on the left keep saying "We need to have a conversation about gun control"... 
Well, guess what, we've been having that conversation since 1968; and as of 2008, it's over.  
They lost, and we won. 
That doesn't mean there isn't still work to do of course; there's 150 years of racist, bigoted, fascist, legal kruft to get rid of.

That's going to take decades, and millions of dollars in legal fees, and there will be setbacks along the way...

But, fundamentally, gun control is dead.

I'm going to say this flat out:

There will not be any kind of meaningful, serious, or significant gun control legislation on the federal level within the next 12 years... possibly not ever again.
"...but... but... the Republicans are caving... they're stupid, venal cowards... but.. but... they ALWAYS sell out and screw up. I just KNOW they're going to cave on this like they do everything else and they'll go along with a ban...

...but.... but... DUNBLANE!!!! STOCKTON!!!! AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!"
... OK...

Why would they do that?

Republicans certainly do a lot of dumb stuff... just look at who they ran for president the last two times... but they do it for a reason.

Like all politicians, they only do that which they believe is to their own advantage.

Any vote on gun control at all, never mind a vote FOR gun control?

To what advantage, and for whom?

There is no rationale under which any remaining Republicans (now that Chaffee and Snowe are gone) would vote for any kind of gun control legislation; nor would better than half the democrats. 

It's a losing issue for democrats, it's an even worse losing issue for republicans, AND then the dems get to lord it over the republicans... There's no WAY they'd let that happen. 

However, to avoid fundraising issues, giving the press talking points, or being nailed down on the record, rather than vote yay or nay, they'll just make sure that it never comes to a floor vote. 
  • Just like they did after Aurora (2012, 12 dead, 58 injured)
  • Just like they did after Seal Beach (2011, 8 dead, 1 injured)
  • Just like they did after Giffords (2011, 6 dead, 13 injured)
  • Just like they did after Binghamton (2009, 13 dead, 4 wounded)
  • Just like they did after Virginia Tech (2007, 32 dead, 18 wounded)
  • Just like they did after Columbine (1999, 13 dead, 21 wounded)
Just like they have after every other "Ahhhh!!!! they're going to take our guns now!!!" incident since 1999.
Oh and note... I don't include the shooters in those totals, or mention their names. Just a thing for me...
Let's do some math here....

The last significant piece of gun control legislation to pass at the federal level was the 1994 so called "assault weapons ban". There was a minor amendment that was passed in 1999. The so called "assault weapons ban" expired in 2004, without any kind of serious attempt at renewing or extending it.

Nothing has changed since 2004 to make gun control any easier or more likely... or 1999, or 1994 for that matter. 

In fact, post '96, it's a lot harder and a lot LESS likely.

Every significant federal gun control measure introduced since 1999 (and there have been a lot of them. McCarthy and Lautenberg introduce restrictive bills every few months) has not only failed, but I believe they have all failed to even reach a floor vote. Only rarely have they even made it out of committee. 

... and the 1999 bit was minor legislation on trigger locks, and only passed as a last second add-on amendment to an anti-crime funding bill (to put more "cops on the street"), 51-50 with Al Gore voting as tie breaker. 

The majority of serious pro-gun legislation since 1999 on the other hand has either passed, or come close to passing in one house or the other (usually passing in the house and never coming to a vote in the senate). 

Just as an example, the national parks carry bill in 2009 passed 279 to 147, under a democrat controlled house (and just after a couple of mass shootings within a few months). The national concealed carry reciprocity bill from 2011 passed 272-154 (just after a couple MORE mass shooting events). 

They couldn't even get gun control after Columbine...

They got a nifty piece of propaganda disguised as a documentary... but no actual gun control.

After losing control of the house and senate after '96 (because of gun control), the Democrats took both the house and senate back in 2007; and had the house, senate, and presidency from January 2009 until January of 2011. 

In that time, they didn't even bother trying to advance a serious bill out of committee. 

There's a reason for that...

Overall, the Senate has 46 members with an NRA A grade, and another 13 with a B or C. Only 35 get a D or F (6 are not rated). 

Of those 35, many can't afford to vote for any kind of gun control right now (no matter what speeches they make in front of the cameras); either because they're in very pro-gun states, or because they're in moderately pro-gun states (or even pro gun areas of generally anti-gun states... look at the map below) and have a strong challenge facing them.

There are 11 strongly pro gun Democrats in the senate, 1 slightly pro gun, 3 neutral, 2 slightly anti-gun... (from a+ to c-) meaning none of them have actually supported major or serious gun control in any meaningful way (otherwise they'd be graded at D or F)... Then there's 2 D's and 36 F's (counting Sanders and King as democrats of course). 

Oh, and there's only one strongly anti-gun republican in the senate at this point, Mark Kirk of Illinois; and two neutral to slightly pro-gun (both got C+), Collins of Maine, and Coats of Indiana. Every other republican gets either an A or a B. 

So... WORST case, we'd be looking at a 60/40 split...

...But that's before the electoral politics and math come into play.

The Dems know that with the economy going the way it's going (and they're going to be attempting to make it worse) they're going to lose seats massively in 2014. They are desperate to hold on to the senate, or at the very least to prevent a filibuster proof Republican majority

The following democratic senators are up for re-election in 2014:
  1. Alaska - Mark Begich - Very Pro Gun - very unsafe seat
  2. Arkansas - Mark Pryor - neutral - very unsafe seat
  3. Colorado - Mark Udall - neutral - not a safe seat
  4. Delaware - Chris Coons - Very anti-gun - safe seat
  5. Hawaii - UNKNOWN (special election to replace Daniel Inouye)
  6. Illinois - Dick Durbin - Very anti-gun - safe seat
  7. Iowa - Tom Harkin - Very anti-gun - iffy, can't afford to screw up
  8. Louisiana - Mary Landrieu - neutral - very unsafe seat
  9. Massachusetts - UNKNOWN (special election to replace John Kerry)
  10. Michigan - Carl Levin - very anti-gun - safe seat
  11. Minnesota - Al Franken - very anti-gun - not a safe seat
  12. Montana - Max Baucus - very pro-gun - iffy, can't afford to screw up
  13. New Hampshire - Jeanne Shaheen - very anti-gun - not a safe seat
  14. New Jersey - Frank Lautenberg - very anti-gun - safe seat
  15. New Mexico - Tom Udall - slightly anti-gun - safe seat
  16. North Carolina - Kay Hagan - very anti-gun - not a safe seat
  17. Oregon - Jeff Merkley - very anti-gun - safe seat
  18. Rhode Island - Jack Reed - very anti-gun - safe seat
  19. South Dakota - Tim Johnson - very pro-gun - very unsafe seat
  20. Virginia - Mark Warner - very pro-gun - not a safe seat
  21. West Virginia - Jay Rockefeller - moderately anti-gun - very unsafe seat

Now... look at that list....

That's 21 Democratic senators up for election, only 9 of which are actually "safe" seats (including Mass and HI), and four of which are very pro-gun. 

Of those senators, who is anti-gun, and in a safe seat?
  1. Delaware - Chris Coons
  2. Hawaii - Whoever it is, they'll be an anti-gun democrat
  3. Illinois - Dick Durbin
  4. Massachusetts - Whoever it is, they'll be an anti-gun democrat
  5. Michigan - Carl Levin
  6. New Jersey - Frank Lautenberg (the most anti-gun senator)
  7. New Mexico - Tom Udall
  8. Oregon - Jeff Merkley
  9. Rhode Island - Jack Reed (as bad as Lautenberg)
Al Franken almost lost his last election, and there are plenty of hunters and shooters in Minnesota. He can't afford to lose a single vote, or to have Minnesota uninvolved voters mode involved at all. If it comes to a vote he'll probably vote for it, but he won't be pushing hard for it. 

Tom Udall may actually be iffy... He's generally pro gun control, but he's not very outspoken about it; and New Mexico is swingy on the issue, with a slight pro-gun bias. My guess, if it actually comes to a vote he'll be for it; but he'll want to avoid it. 

Tom Harkin is another one. He's anti-gun, but he had a serious challenge last time (his opponent wasn't all that strong, and lost by a wide margin, but Harkins negatives are HUGE in his home state right now), he's going to have a  serious challenge in 2014 (he's a core target for unseating as part of the GOP midwestern strategy, and he's got some serious weaknesses), and Iowa is generally a pro-gun state (though there's a lot of anti "scary black rifle" shotgun owners... all that great bird hunting and all...). Same guess, he'll vote for it if it comes up, but he'd much rather avoid the issue. 

You know who REALLY can't afford to even have something come up for a vote?

Harry Reid. 

You know... the Senate Majority leader? 

The guy who controls the senate agenda, and what comes up for a vote when?

If he presides over gun control legislation of any kind, he loses his gavel in 2014, and his seat in 2016; and he knows it. 

No if's ands or buts about it, he's gone, it's that simple. 

Reid isn't going to let that happen.

... and that's just for 2014, never mind 2016 and 2018. Gunnies have long memories on this sort of thing, as does the NRA, never mind the SAF, JPFO, GOA, the various state rifle and pistol associations....  

The numbers are even worse looking for gun control in the house. House members have to run every election; and of the 435 members of congress, 242 get an NRA "A" rating, and another 30 get a B or C. Only 146 get a D or F (17 are unrated).

Take a look at this chart:

Of those 146 congrescritters, 37 of them are in STRONGLY pro-gun states (though not necessarily pro-gun districts). Another couple dozen are in moderately pro-gun states, or in pro-gun areas of anti-gun states. 

Basically... I doubt they'd get 100 votes in the house if it went to a floor vote.

They might do it if they could... but they just don't have the votes.

Every left wing political show, talking head, blog, columnist etc... has been talking all day long about how they don't think anything is actually going to happen. That the politicians will talk big, and do nothing. 

There's a reason for that. 

But the biggest reason I'm sure this is all noise? A nice distraction for Obama and the democrats from the upcoming "fiscal cliff"?

Obamas special blue ribbon action committee on gun control, is chartered to "come back with advisory recommendations by the end of January"... and Joe Biden will be in charge of it. 

Seriously... If they actually meant to do anything, would they have appointed BIDEN to run the effort?


Thursday, December 13, 2012

All Sales are Final

In conjunction with even more bad news concerning others' health, Tam posted this little gem:
2012 is obviously defective. I would like to return it to the manufacturer in exchange for a year that is not borked.
I'm pretty sure the back of the receipt we got said "all sales are final."

I'm hoping 2013 is a much better model myself. Of course considering that mid-April we're expecting a new bundle of joy, next year is almost guaranteed to be better.

Almost. Don't tempt Murphy and all that.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

History, Moral Philosophy, and Libertarianism


Just a warning...

This is going to be a long, obscure, and contentious one. If you aren't into philosophical arguments, epistemeology etc... you will almost certainly be bored by this.

Okay, down to business...

I've written fairly extensively about the philosophy behind my particularly type of libertarianism... and how there are a LOT of different schools of libertarian thought... and a lot of pointless, anal, wonky, yet often completely epically vicious... argument and disagreement between them.

A selective overview of these pieces can be found here: A Refresher on Philosophy

Being a libertarian, I do love to argue philosophy... and I do so on several other blogs, and libertarian subforums of various other web sites not dedicated to politics or libertarianism (most actual libertarian forums are... impossible to tolerate... unless you ENJOY drinking bilious idiocy from a firehose ).

In a "neverending thread that will not die"™  about the oxymoronic concept of "libertarian socialism" (in actuality a deliberate socialist linguistic distortion to further a fraudulent concept), a commenter asserted:
Libertarianism is the belief in the non-aggression principle. That's it. Everything else follows from that. 
Now, I disagree entirely with such a blanket statement... It's simply untrue, and in fact ignorant.

I mean that literally by the way, not as a characterizing statement. Someone who believes such a thing must be ignorant of the much larger sphere of libertarian history and philosophy.

My response:
Actually the non-agression principle is only one school (actually several related schools) of libertarianism. There are others that are not based on non-agression/non-initiation. 
Our correspondent countered with:

If there were a form of libertarianism not based on the non-aggression principle, wouldn't you have been able to name it? 
In fact, since the founding of the Libertarian Party in the 1970s--which was the start of the modern libertarian movement-- until recently they required all members to sign a pledge promising to uphold the non-aggression principle. 
In my experience, those who say they are libertarians but don't support the NAP, are usually not libertarians at all, and are simply trying to coopt the word... but hey, please feel free to show me some examples of genuine libertarians who don't support the NAP. 
Well now...

Again, I have to say that this viewpoint, while not uncommon, is incorrect; and in some very significant ways, ignorant of history and philosophy.

While the Libertarian Party was founded as a non-aggressionist organization; non-aggression is neither necessary, nor sufficient, for a libertarian philosophy.

I'm not saying it's a bad idea; it's not... in fact it's generally a very good idea. But the concept that libertarian philosophies MUST, ALL, ALWAYS, be predicated on non-aggression; and that anything which isn't, is not actually libertarian...

...That's just plain wrong.

...As for that matter, is the suggestion that the Libertarian Party is the authority, or even a reasonable exemplar, of what libertarianism is.

The LP is simply a collective of theoretically libertarian individuals who have been able to agree sufficiently on goals and process to form an organization (sometimes... barely... ).

Again, I don't think the libertarian party is a bad idea, or that they aren't actually libertarian; just that they are not an organization encompassing all libertarian philosophy, or systematology.

...or that there even COULD be such an organization...


The reason I didn't name specifics in my initial response to our correspondent, was because to do so would require a HUGE, long, detailed, and wonky explanation of the history and moral philosophy of libertarianism, and the nature of rights.

Several thousand words worth, and several hours writing, at a minimum

I wasn't going to bother... and then I decided that if I didn't the pointless tangenital arguments and arguing around each other would just go on and on...

Basically, it would become more irritating to me, than actually writing this damn piece.

So I wrote the damn piece... all... 3000 or so words I guess?

note: I've expanded and clarified somewhat here from the reply I posted in the other thread

Let's start with the historical question
since the founding of the Libertarian Party in the 1970s--which was the start of the modern libertarian movement-- until recently they required all members to sign a pledge promising to uphold the non-aggression principle. 
Libertarianism, *including the modern libertarian movement*, has been around a lot longer than either the libertarian party (1971), or the formal codification of the non-aggression/non-initiation principle as a foundational libertarian principle by Murray Rothbard (1963).

There is no clear date for the modern libertarian movements "founding", but it was clearly in existence by the time of Nock's "Our Enemy, the State" (1935), Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" (1943), Von Mises "Omnipotent Government" (1944) and "Human Action" (1949), etc...

Hayek and Von Mises were clearly libertarian in their philosophy, though primarily (but not entirely) of the consequentialist/utilitarian school (as is typical of economic philosophers).

Then there's the objectivists, both pre and post Randian; including both those that self identify as libertarian objectivists, and those who claim to be opposed to libertarianism (but who mostly are opposed to Rothbardianism, and strict non-aggressionism; as reducing maximum utility).

There was a pre-Rand objectivist/utilitiarian movement, primarily based in the rule utilitiarianism school, proceeding from John Stuart Mills book "Utilitarianism" (1861), Henry Sidgwicks "The Methods of Ethics" (1876), and the various works of David Hume (published 1734-1779). This movement was well established in moral philosophy by the interwar period.

Randian objectivism (which you may or may not call libertarian) has existed in an organized way since the late 1950s.

There was a reasonably coherent self identified libertarian movement by the time of Rothbard, Tullock, Block et al (the late '50s and early '60s)

Clearly, the "Modern Libertarian Movement" is neither bounded, nor defined, by the Libertarian Party.

Now, the question of moral and political philosophy
Libertarianism is the believe in the non-aggression principle. That's it. Everything else follows from that. 
In my experience, those who say they are libertarians but don't support the NAP, are usually not libertarians at all, and are simply trying to coopt the word... but hey, please feel free to show me some examples of genuine libertarians who don't support the NAP. 
This comes down to the question, what exactly IS libertarianism?

That is, what would be a single, entirely inclusive definition of all things which may be reasonably and properly considered libertarianism?

Frankly, I don't believe that there IS such a single definition; nor CAN there be.

There are schools of libertarian thought that have conflicting... in fact mutually exclusive... core principles, which cannot be reconciled philosophically (though they may be reconcilable practically or pragmatically; focusing on outcome not rationale for example).

Using the non-aggression principle as a sole determinator... Libertarianism's John 3:16, or Shibboleth as it were...

... It's simply insufficient.

The non-aggression principle is neither necessary, nor sufficient, for libertarianism.

Libertarianism is a set of moral, political, and ethical philosophies intended to preserve, promote, and expand, human liberty (under whatever rationale). The non-aggression principle is a moral concept that is generally associated with those philosophies.

In fact, simply declaring it as the "non-aggression" principle is incorrect. There are five closely related principles, which serve the same essential function but which are different in detail (which differences can have important consequences):

  • Non-Aggression
  • Non-Initiation
  • Non-Intervention
  • Non-Interference
  • Anti-Coercion

Going into the differences between those principles can (and has) take its own book(s), never mind a (comparatively) short piece here. Even within the specifics of each term, there are disagreements as to their definition and meaning (both semantic and philosophical).

For convenience and a (nearly futile) attempt at clarity, I will refer to these various principles as "non-agression" for the remainder of this piece

Normally I don't like using wikipedia as an authoritative source, but I don't happen to have a copy of the "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy" handy, and wikipedia cites it directly:
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines libertarianism as the moral view that agents initially fully own themselves and have certain moral powers to acquire property rights in external things. 
That isn't actually an inclusive definition of libertarian philosophies, because it  describes the root of propertarian principles; and there are schools of liberty which do not include the propertarian principle as a first principle (for example, "endowed rights" based philosophies).

That said, in general, much of the wikpedia page on libertarianism is decent. For example, it includes discussion of propertarian vs. non-propertarian, and consequentialism vs. natural rights.

These are all fundamental or primary principles on which a libertarian philosophy may be based.

So, "the" fundamental principle of libertarianism is NOT non-aggression.

The non-aggression principle IS fundamental to many schools of libertarianism; but not to all of them.

What our correspondent is declaring to be the only "true" libertarian philosophy (arguing from both a "no true scotsman" fallacy, and an "appeal to authority" fallacy in the process) is essentially Rothbardian libertarianism.

Rothbard and Block argue textually, that non-aggression/non-initiation/non-coercion is an irreducible first principle; but contextually (even in their own writings) it is clearly a derived principle (it is reducible). Essentially, they declare it irreducible as a fundamental moral precept a priori. Therefore it should be taken as a primary principle (for those schools of libertarianism which subscribe to it), but not a first principle (which are irreducible).

I am not a Rothbardian, but I am very definitely a libertarian.

I am a propertarian, natural rights, minarchist, libertarian (and to an extent non-aggressionist, but not strictly so... depending on definitions).

This is a combination of moral and ethical philosophies, and a school of government (though not a specific system of government).

Rothbardian libertarianism is itself a propertarian, natural rights (depending on your definitions), essentially minarchist (depending on your definitions), non-aggressionist, libertarian school; and in part a specific system of government...

..It's just a slightly different one from that which I subscribe to.

Minarchism is a pragmatic, utilititarian, and consequentialist school of government (NOT a political or moral philosophy) with a few basic principles (all of which are derived principles, proceeding both from political and moral philosophy, AND from the practical and pragmatic reality of human society):

  • The only legitimate purpose and function of government, is to provide for organized collective action to maximize human liberty; by resolving disputes between individuals as a disinterested arbiter, and by protecting the rights, liberties, and physical persons and property, of a polity
  • Government, by its nature, must have a monopoly of initiation of legitimate collective coercive force. All else is tyranny or anarchy.
  • Therefore all government must engage in the coercive restraint of human liberty as part of its function.
  • Therefore, all government is an evil (greater or lesser)
  • Anarchy however is not a stable order respecting of liberty. All anarchy will eventually result in the tyranny of the strong over the weak, and the many over the few.
  • Therefore, although all government is an evil; government is necessary to protect the rights of the few and the weak against the will of the many and the strong, and must exist
  • Given that government must exist, but is an evil; human liberty must be protected from that evil to the greatest extent that is practical
  • Given that liberty must be protected from the inherent evil of government; the optimal government, is the smallest, least intrusive, least pervasive, most limited government; that is practical, functional, effective' and can protect the rights, principles, and physical persons and property, of a polity.

In propertarian/natural rights libertarianism, the first principles are that of private property and of natural rights (both of which are irreducible); the synthesis of which is the principle of self ownership.

The natural rights principle is that sentient beings have certain rights, which are not contingent on any other individual or collective (except where they are limited by conflict with the natural rights of others); and which are those principles or components of the state of being, which cannot be limited or abrogated but by force, fraud, or willing consent (exact lists and definitions thereof vary and conflict widely)

The propertarian principle is that the right to private property exists, and that you have the rights of exclusion, protection, determination, and product; for your own legitimately held private property.

The intersection of these principles is the principle of Self Ownership. You own yourself, in the entirety, including all rights of property.

Essentially, the first principle of this moral philosophy, is that the right of private property is the ultimate fundamental right, from which all other rights are derived; and beginning with the ownership of self.

This is also called the principle of "the sovereign man" (though technically, there are multiple interpretations of what that means as well).

In this interpretation of moral and ethical philosophy, non-aggression isn't even a first principle; it is one of a set of derived principles, which are internally justified and consistent (without endowment, appeal to authority, or a priori assertion of second order principle).

This set of principles can be described thusly:

  • You own your entire self (body, mind, and soul).
  • Because you own yourself in the entire, you have the absolute right to:
  1.  Self determination
  2.  Freedom of conscience
  3.  Your own property legitimately acquired and held (which includes your entire self)
  4.  The efforts, products, outputs, and rights inherent to or proceeding from all the above
  • You have the absolute right to defend those things, and the product or output of them; up to and including lethal force (except where limited by conflict with the rights of others).
  • There are no other rights. All other privileges, powers, and immunities, are less than rights; and are either derived from, or in opposition to them.
  • You may not initiate force or fraud against any other to abrogate their rights; or for any reason other than the defense of those rights; but including defending those rights for others who either cannot defend themselves, or those who delegate that defense to you.
  • None may initiate force or fraud against you to abrogate those rights, or for any reason other than the defense of those rights; including defending others rights from you.
  • There are no rights, privileges, powers, or immunities which are not derived from the rights of the individual.
  • A collective cannot arrogate rights, privileges, powers, or immunities on itself which are not delegated to it by individuals; therefore no collective may exercise more or different rights, privileges, powers, or immunities than any individual, nor may it exercise those things which have not been explicitly delegated to it.
  • You have absolute responsibility for all of the above. All consequences are yours, good or bad.

Only ONE of those core principles (expressed as two entries in this list, describing the principle and its reciprocal) is non-aggression.

There are many other schools of libertarian moral and political philosophy, some of which don't include the non-aggression principle at all (or do so in a significantly different, or  nearly unrecognizable form).

I make no judgement here as to what the "best" form of libertarian moral, ethical, or political philosophy, or school of government, might be.

I have a system which is internally consistent, and works for me. You may disagree with it; in fact, your beliefs may directly conflict with or contradict mine. They may even be mutually exclusive.

So long as I don't attempt to use coercive force on you to make you believe in or follow my system, and you don't attempt use coercive force on me likewise; we may both be "true" libertarians (or maybe not, depending on what else we may believe).

On first glance, you might say "well, that's just the non-aggression principle again"... but if you think about it for a minute you should realize that it isnt.

The statement is not exclusionary or deterministic. In either of our belief systems, there may be circumstances under which the initiation of coercive force on another is acceptable, or even required. Or, both of our belief systems may allow for a disinterested arbiter to resolve disputes (mine certainly does).

So... Non-aggression is a generally good principle... but it isn't absolute, it isn't deterministic, and it isn't universal.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

There's a Reason Why Boxers Are So Damn Cute

It's so you don't kill them.

Not that I was planning to.

Anyway... this is Eva; and this is the post we've been meaning to write about her for the past few months.

Eva is a half pitbull, half Boxer pup. She's about 17 months old, about 70lbs, and she knows how to work those Boxer eyes.

Eva is the formerly-only dog of a friend of ours and she's staying with us for rehabilitation. He'd adopted her from a family who could no longer take care of her and she was doing just fine. She's very good with people, very kind, doesn't snarl, doesn't bite, and she didn't cause any problems at all.

With people.

Another dog moved into the household, a smaller mutt. They had a couple of... incidents.

The problem with bully breed dogs is that they're extremely pack- and hierarchy-oriented. Eva had never been taught pack rules and the other dog refused to back down. To make it worse Eva's natural place in a pack order is Beta Female. When there is no true Alpha present, Beta Females will attempt to fill the power vacuum. They almost always do so in a bad, bad way.

Eva had no "off" button. She didn't know when to back down in a dominance challenge. So, when the other dog refused to back down Eva wouldn't back down either. She nearly killed the other dog.

Turns out the family our friend had adopted from had lied about Eva's origins. When he took her to the vet he was told her spaying scar was in the place reserved for "early" spays. Eva was most likely spayed in a dog shelter at the age of 3-4 weeks. There's only one way that happens; if Eva and her littermates were found abandoned. At the shelter they would have isolated her from other dogs because of her pitbull heritage.

Yes, it's completely wrong. Yes, that actually makes things much worse. But that's what the local shelters do.

So up until the age of 12 months or so Eva had never been socialized with or lived with another dog. When introduced to the new dog she clumsily attempted to do what her instincts told her with no concept of how to dominate properly. That the other dog wouldn't give in just made things much worse.

The other dog couldn't go so that put Eva's owner into a very tight spot trying to find her another home. They tried for a month to find her another home to no avail.

Y'all know we have a soft spot for politically incorrect dogs.

We offered to take her in. Eventually the offer was accepted. We figured at the very least we have enough room to keep her separate from the other dogs if she truly was a threat while other arrangements were made. At best we thought being in a pack would do her good, especially a pack with a large, strong, Alpha Male. After all Jayne vastly outweighs her (130lbs) and is normally a very good Alpha. Jayne also seems to think he's my enforcer. If I use a certain tone with another dog he follows up and "dominates" the other dog to get the point across.

When she came to us we couldn't tell if her excessive violence towards other dogs was innate or could be socialized out of her. We didn't know until we slowly introduced her to the other dogs.

Eva is very much a pack animal. She fit right in.

Oh, there were some rough spots. The first time she attempted to dominate Zoe over a perceived infraction (Zoe is our Omega Female and 10 or 15lbs lighter than Eva) she took a hold of Zoe's ruff and wouldn't let go.

Fortunately Zoe is half Rottweiler so she has a nice thick neck ruff. Also fortunately Zoe is Jayne's "puppy" and he took it kinda personally. Hell, Jayne takes any other dog attempting to instill order in "his" pack kinda personally.

Jayne took a hold of Eva by the neck, forced her off of Zoe, and forced her to the ground. Where she snarled back and tried to escape, unsuccessfully, for about 5 minutes. She finally relented. When she stopped, Jayne stopped.

It was a like a light switch flipped in her head. She "got" it. She understood the hierarchy. It never took so long again.

Since then she's learned to relent quickly. When she's being corrected by Jayne she lets it happen and rolls over immediately. When she corrects Zoe she does so quickly and without excessive force. She's figured out that as Beta Male Wash is the same "level" as she is so she neither submits to or dominates him.

She's mostly figured out this whole pack thing. She plays with and cuddles with the other dogs constantly. Zoe is her BFF.

This is not to say her behavior is perfect. Occasionally she still has a problem where she gets aggressive to the point where there has to be a correction. Usually verbal correction or a squirt of water from a spray bottle is enough to deal with it, but sometimes it comes down to teeth.

About a week ago Chris got collaterally nipped when a dominance fight in a confined space (three dogs all trying to get to master in the same small space at the same time, and they got rough) ended up on top of him (nothing serious, just a consequence of rough play). Blood sometimes gets drawn.

Guess what? Sometimes, that's going to happen when you've got three or four large bully breed dogs living together. One of them snags the others ear, or hooks a cheek, and they bleed.

It's not serious. They're not trying to hurt each other; though sometimes it happens.

It's normal for bully breeds (for all dogs actually, but especially so for bully breeds) to play fight, and challenge aggressively, and sometimes it gets rough enough to draw blood. Sometimes their prey instinct gets overamped. Sometimes they don't have proper bite inhibition (particularly if they were separated from their litter too early).

But they learn. If you're willing to deal with it. If you're willing to train them, and if you've got a strong enough and big enough dog that when the smaller dog doesn't back down, they can take the hit, and then deliver the necessary correction.

Otherwise, your only option is to put the dog down.

We really don't like that option.

Eva is slowly becoming rehabilitated and we (the humans) are doing next to nothing to further this along. We left her in the pack's care and the pack is teaching her how to be a proper dog. She's still very people oriented (she has to have her Master time) but she clearly needs her pack.

She's doing very much better.

However, Eva is still very much a puppy and pitbull and Boxer puppies CHEW.

When I pulled out my sewing machine to make a homemade dog bed tonight I found the foot pedal control's cable in pieces. The pedal was fine, the jack was fine, just the cord in between suffered casualties to the point of being in 5 different pieces (Chris was able to fix it for me pretty easily).

That's not the only thing she's chewed but I've mostly be able to turn her onto firehose and nylon toys. As you can see she's discovered Zoe's favorite toy, the nylon duckie. Good thing we have a half dozen of the damn things.

She's also apparently completely boneless (the other day she was licking the front of Chris's face, while at the same time, her tail was hitting him on the back of the head)...

...except for her tail.  

Anyone who thought Wash's tail was a bit too whip-like, well... at least Wash doesn't have Boxer butt. Eva's back end wags starting at the middle of her body so her tail has much better range and a much bigger arc with just as much speed and enthusiasm (and greater mass).

She also knows how to work those eyes and work her "I'm sorry" position. She's way too damn cute and adorable for her own good. And our good, for that matter.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Jesse James and Danny Trejo, commit multiple felonies, with machine guns, on film

A few years ago, I wrote a piece (which is still among my most viewed posts) about how Mark Wahlberg was technically not a felon, and therefore the actual shooting training he has done to support his action movie career, was in a legal gray area.

For those who don't know (hello google searchers), it is illegal in the entire United States (under federal law, as well as state laws in every state) for a felon of any sort to buy, own, receive, possess, operate, or handle a firearm or ammunition.

It is also a felony for any person to transfer, provide, or allow access to any firearm; to any person whom they know, or should reasonably know, is a felon, or otherwise a prohibited person (domestic violence conviction, restraining order, drug addict, fugitive from justice, illegal alien etc.. All are lawfully considered "prohibited persons" who cannot possess firearms).

There are actually a hell of a lot of felons (usually drugs, occasionally white collar crime) in the film industry; including a fair number of stuntmen, and actors in B grade action movies (and even a few big name stars, though usually they manage to avoid felony charges).

Sometimes, they fire guns, on film.

Isn't that illegal?

Well, yes, it is...

But it's Hollywood...

Hollywood gets around the illegality of this under the rather tissue thin veil of "prop" guns used in theatrical performances. Many of those props are in fact legally fully functioning firearms; but since you can't easily tell the difference on film, and because Hollywood can make a big stink (and they donate a lot of money), the FedGov doesn't make an issue out of it.

Note: The ATF actually DOES hassle the prop houses that build and maintain these film weapons... In fact, they've hounded many of the smaller suppliers out of business; and occaisonally even go after the big guys (one of the largest prop suppliers went through massive difficulties a few years ago). 

Anyway, that's Hollywood movies, where there is that whole tissue of protection.

Jesse James, the motorcycle and custom car fabricator and reality TV star, is also a very avid firearms collector. In fact, hes even a collector of fully automatic weapons; the most highly regulated weapons in the country.

Jesse himself has had some trouble with the law, spending a few months in jail (or juvenile detention) while he was a teenager, and having caught a few minor assault charges in his teens and twenties; but he has never been convicted of a felony or offense that would prohibit him from owning firearms. He has also had his juvenile record expunged (required to become a licensed and bonded security guard in states that license them, which Jesse was for several years before founding his fabrication company).

It's actually very difficult to own a machine gun in the United States. It requires an extensive federal background check conducted by the FBI and ATF, which can take more than six months; as well as the sign-off of your local chief law enforcement officer (usually your county sheriff), in order to buy or receive one.

I'm actually surprised that, given his history, he hasn't had problems in getting his class III items (industry term for specially regulated guns like machine guns) transferred; but since his only serious offenses were juvenile  and have been expunged, legally it's as if they never happened (though people who've had their records expunged often still have problems with transferring firearms).

Jesse also has a concealed carry license in Texas; which again, requires a very stringent background investigation, and a training class.

Anyway, Jesse has been into guns for a long time, has taken a number of firearms training courses, collects highly regulated weapons, and he's well known for shooting and playing with lots of cool guns on his TV shows.

He's not a novice. He should, in theory, know what he's doing

Even if they didn't know from any other source,  anyone who has ever bought a gun from a licensed dealer knows that it is illegal for a prohibited person (including felons as I said above) to buy, own, or posses a firearm... it's right on the form you fill out for your federal background check (required for all purchases from a licensed dealer).

Further, Jesse's ex-wife (porn star Janine Lindemuller) is a convicted felon, and as part of their divorce, James needed to deal with guns and his wife (it can be illegal to even have guns in the same house as a felon, if the felon can gain access to the guns).

There are no circumstances under which Jesse could claim that he didn't know it was illegal for a felon to touch a gun; or for someone to give a felon a gun, even temporarily, even just to shoot under your own supervision.

On an episode of his new reality TV show "Jesse James Outlaw Garage" aired a few weeks ago, Jesse had action movie star Danny Trejo over to his ranch in Austin, to go shooting.

During this meetup, Trejo fired numerous firearms (owned by James) on film, including several fully automatic weapons (machine guns), and suppressed weapons (the industry term for what most people know as silencers). James was shown handing Trejo firearms (including automatic weapons) on film.

There's a major problem with that...

Danny Trejo is a multiply convicted felon, who served 11 years in prison for drug possession,  robbery, assault, and attempted murder (which he committed at age 17).

Trejo has been friends with James for something like 20 years, having met in the late 80s or early 90s while Trejo was taking occasional security and bouncer jobs in between minor roles in action movies and B movies; and Jesse was working those same jobs before opening his own shop.

Trejo is very open about his history; talking frequently about his problems with drugs, alcohol, and gangs that led him to prison; and the 12 step program of recovery and turning to god, that saved his life in prison, and motivated him to become successful since.

Trejo is, by all reports, a genuinely good guy. He has a large family which he spends a lot of time with (he's 68 years old, and has several grandchildren from his three sons and two daughters). He does a lot of charity work, and is an advocate for rehabilitation; often speaking to church groups, homeless groups, gang outreach programs etc... He has certainly turned his life around, and is not a danger to society.

If there is any formerly violent felon who deserves to have his rights restored, it's Danny Trejo. There is really no reason why he shouldn't be allowed to shoot and own guns.

Unfortunately, it's still a felony for him to do so; and a felony for anyone to give him the guns to do it with.

It is possible under some circumstances for a felon to have their firearms rights restored; by having their records expunged, or by receiving a pardon and going through a rights restoration process with the FBI and ATF (they generally refuse to conduct this process without direct intervention of a congressman, claiming that they are not funded to do so, but they also refuse any offer to pay for the process... but that's a separate issue). TV and movie star Tim Allen went through this process a few years ago, so he could own guns and hunt again (he spent two and a half years in prison in the early 80s, for selling cocaine).

Unfortunately, Trejo has not had his record expunged, nor has be been pardoned, and his rights have not been restored.

Also, I'm certain there was no genuine criminal intent here, which SHOULD be an element of any crime; nor was any injury or any danger to any person or to society created, which should be a pre-requisite for any felony.

Unfortunately, that is not how our government chooses to interpret and enforce the law.

So, Jesse James and Danny Trejo just committed multiple state and federal felonies, which could result in prison sentences of up to 25 years, and fines running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars; on film, and broadcast to an entire nation.

... and this time, there isn't that thin tissue of "props" used in a "theatrical performance" to protect them.

Usually, Hollywood  gets a pass on this sort of thing; but I think there's a pretty good shot that Jesse James is going to see some legal repercussions here. The ATF LOVES to get press attention, and some folks online are already making noises about "special treatment for celebrities etc...

On  the one hand, I don't believe that someone like Trejo should be prevented from owning or shooting firearms...

On the other hand, my belief is irrelevant, and the law is what it is. If I did something like that, and was stupid enough to film it and put it up on say, youtube... I'd be going to jail. Special treatment for the wealthy or famous.. or really any kind of selective enforcement... is the worst kind of perversion of the justice system, effectively creating a special class of citizen.

Hell... maybe James and Trejo can be the test case for reformed felons having their rights restored.