Monday, October 05, 2015

Enemy at the Gates and the Shooting in Oregon

One of my favorite World War II movies Enemy of the Gates opens with the Russians organising an assault on German positions in Stalingrad. The only problem is they only have half as many rifles as they have men and the unlucky half have to attack without weapons. The advice given is when (when!) the other man falls, pick up his rifle and continue the attack. And we the viewers were supposed to think: wow! Ruthless bastards!

So how different from that is the situation army veteran Chris Mintz found himself having to defend himself against an armed gunman with no weapon of his own? I don't know if Chris Mintz is a concealed permit holder but there was an armed concealed permit holder in the vicinity who was prevented by school personel from approaching the scene. I also know personally someone who is a concealed permit holder who has attended classes at UMPQUA but who did not carry in part because of their stupid policy. And we can see how effective the school's no gun policy in keeping that ass-hole who will remain nameless out of the school.

And now the left is of course again pushing this line about the need for 'common sense' gun control. (Aside: they always use the term 'common sense' because it is focus group tested!) The thing is they rarely have a concrete proposal. I was having this conversation yesterday on twitter.

"What's your solution?"

"We have to keep guns out of the hands of people who do these kinds of things."


"By passing common sense gun control."

"Like what? Give me a proposal."

"By keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people."

"How would you have screened out the guy in Oregon who by all accounts had no criminal or mental history?"

"By implimenting common sense gun control."

"Like what?"

"Oh, you are just an NRA stooge who always oppose common sense solutions!"

"Like what?"

And on it goes. Seriously. This is how those conversations go.

Take a look at the following picture:

Take note of the rifle the shooter who will remain nameless is holding. It is a Ruger 10/22. I don't know if that's the gun he used in the shooting but it is interesting to me that this rifle is legal in all 50 states, in Canada, Australia and in the UK. If every other gun in this guy's collection had been banned taken away, he could still have still used this gun which he could have obtain even in the UK and caused just as much damage. If the guy's record is clean and he is persistent enough, he will be able to obtain this gun even in very anti-gun places. And then he would have been able to go on his life's ambition shooting spree.

So a 'National Conversation' ensues and before you know it, 'gun death' statistics start getting tossed around. Watching an anti-gunner sling gun statistics is like watching an illusionist at work. You know it's a trick and you try to spot the bullshit in their stats.

"Numbers don't lie" a gal told me the other day.

Yea, they do. "Lies, Damn Lies, and statistics!" said Mark Twain once famously, and for a reason.

One thing about 'gun death' stats is that they include suicides. One minute we are talking about a gunman shooting people and in the next breath, we are talking about suicides. Except they don't tell you they are talking about suicides. You have to point that out to them at which point they point that that gun suicides are gun deaths too. Except we wouldn't be having this conversation except for the fact that some ass-hole decided to start shooting OTHER people. If he had simply shot himself TO START WITH we wouldn't be having this conversation at all.

The other thing about including suicides in their statistics is an unstated but very important assumption that they have a greater claim over your life than you yourself do. Basic question: who has a greater claim on your life, you or the state? The state apparently according to anti-gunners.

There's another thing wrong with gun death statistics. It's that they are inherently deceptive. Gun death statistics only look at a carefully chosen subset of a much bigger picture. It excludes homicide by means other than by gun (killing someone with a knife is ok apparently). It includes justifiable homicide (defending your life with a gun is bad apparently).

Saying gun deaths are higher in places where there are more guns passes for wisdom amongst some and yet is one of the most idiotic statements out there. It's like saying car accidents went up after the invention of the automobile. Well no shit! Wow, you are a genius!

Imagine a small country before the introduction of guns. It has 100 murders a year. Imagine Sam Colt starts selling his new revolvers and instead of 100 murders you have zero murders and 50 people killing in self defense.

All Moms Demand Action would see is an increase of gun deaths.

It never occurs to these people that sometimes an INCREASE in 'gun deaths' would actually be a solution, not a problem!

The guns death statistics are total bullshit. Inherently and by definition. Bullshit.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Obergefell and the Powers of the Federal Government

When women were given the right to vote, why was a constitutional amendment passed? Why did not Congress simply pass a law? Or failing that why did they not simply induce the Supreme Court to say that that was somehow required by the 14th Amendment?

When alcohol was banned, why did not Congress simply pass a law? Or failing that, why did the President induce one of his departments to pass some regulation?

Why was a Constitutional Amendment required to institute an income tax?

Why, when in the 1930s they wanted to ban machine guns, why did they do it under the guise of a tax?

Why is it, dispite the huge expansion of Federal power, have there been no Constitutional Amendments since 1971 (the 27th Amendment which was ratified in 1992 doesn't really fit into this question. It had been submitted for ratification back in 1789 along with what became the Bill of Rights but did not receive the necessary states for ratification until 1992) and no amendments relating to the powers delegated to the Federal Government since the end of prohibition?

The answer lies in the fact that there was general recognition until about the 1930s that the powers of the Federal Government were limited only to those explicitely delegated in the Constitution.

The fact is the Federal Government simply does not function any more the way they teach in civics class. Such classes have become such fairy tales.

Anymore, the way you get what you want in today's land is that you convince the Supreme Court to see it your way.

Layered on that is the fact that large portions of the Constitution have become a dead letter. Examples abound. Religious freedom comes to mind but the right to keep and bear arms remains a right only as a result of great push back at the grass roots and a 5-4 Supreme Court decision to recognize the plain meaning of the Second Amendment. It could easily have gone the other way.

Layered upon that is the fact that we have largely forgotten the federal nature of our government. The founders were emphatic that what they were creating was not a national government but a Federal government. I doubt that 5 voters today out of a hundred know the difference. States are by degrees becoming mere districts of a national government.

The fact is when the United States won its independence from Britain, each of the 13 states was essentially independent from each other. The United States government such as it was had no authority over the individual states. Each state was essentially independent. When delegates gathered to amend the articles of Confederation, they wound up drawing up a new constitution. In that Constitution certain specific powers were to be delegated to the new Federal Government, the States were to retain all undelegated powers.

We see evidence of this in the amendments that gave women the right to vote, banned alcohol, that instituted the income tax, and in the way the Federal Government went about restricting machine guns. If Federal Government had wanted to institute same sex marriage in those days, they would have done it by amending the Constitution. Because there is nothing in the Constitution that gives the Federal Government the authority to define marriage.

Justice Kennedy based his decision on this out of the 14th Amendment. "No State shall...deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

That amendment was ratified in 1868. What was happening in 1868? We had just finished a Civil War and millions of former slaves were now free. The question was what their status was before the law. Indeed, the infamous Dred Scott decision had only 11 years earlier declared that black men had no rights that a white man was obliged to respect. By the way, that decision rested partly on the observation that that would mean that black men would have the right to carry guns indicating that the understanding that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right is not a recent invention of the NRA. The intent behind the 14th Amendment was to put blacks on an equal legal status as white people before the law. That was the intent because that was what was going on at the time.

Does anyone seriously think that the people who passed that amendment were in effect authorizing same sex marriage? To assert that it doesn't matter what they thought is to in effect repudiate the whole notion of self government. The people who passed the 14th Amendment had certain outcomes in mind. To twist that amendment to mean totally unrelated and unintended outcomes is corrosive to the whole notion of government by consent of the governed which was the key foundational concept in the Declaration of Independence. According to the Declaration, when a government no longer operates by the consent of the governed, then the people have to right alter or abolish said government.

We are at a place where the plain meaning of many parts of the Constitution are ignored and meanings nowhere to found are substituted in their place. We are at a place where the Constitution means what five men in black say it means.

And by the way, the Constitution nowhere gives five men in black that kind of authority; authority to have the last word on any subject what so ever. It does not have that kind of authority. I would suggest googling the Dred Scott decision and the reaction to that decision. It was far from established in that time that the Supremen Court had that kind of power.

What would have happened if Obergefell had come down say sometime prior to 1860. Even with a 14th Amendment in place there would have been a general recognition that the Supreme Court has over-stepped its bounds and people would have acted accordingly.

People today celebrate Obergefell because they wanted same sex marriage. My question to them is: how do you feel about self government? People today worry today about things like voter ID as a threat to voting rights. The biggest threat to voting rights is the Supreme Court. Decisions like this make people's votes meaningless.

Wouldn't it have been better for gays to win same sex marriage rights through the political process rather than by edict from on high? Had the political process been allowed to play itself out, I dare say, gays would have won same sex marriage in a number of blue states. Other states would have stuck with traditional marriage. Still others would have been willing to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states. Instead, what we have is a one size fits all solution imposed by 5 judges on a nation of more than 300 million people and which overrode the laws of upwards of 45 states. It is especially absurd when you consider that it takes 38 states to amend the Constitution.

Essentially what has happened here is that San Francisco had imposed its values on the entire country, something which the founders did not intend to happen. They intended that each state be free for the most part to live according to its own values.

The picture is of a gentleman who best embodies what the remedy should be when the Federal government exceeds its authority: John C Calhoun. He is regrettably also famous for being a champion of slavery and it is unfortunate that resistance to the Federal government is so often associated with slavery. It has a much broader pedigree than that. In fact, one of the finest examples of resistance to Federal authority are those who refused to go along with the Fugitive Slave act. The Fugitive Slave act though federal law and as such the law of the land was reduced to a dead letter in many areas of the North by people simply refusing to comply with the law. And it wasn't just people. The Wisconsin Supreme Court at one point declared the federal law unconstitutional! The phrase 'law of the land' fell on deaf ears in many areas of the North with respect to the Fugitive Slave act.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Ex Special Forces Vet sees Opportunity in the Crimea to Make Putin’s life Difficult

While President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry wring their hands in frustration over Russia’s occupation of the Crimea, ex-special forces veteran Robert Tripp offers some suggestions on how we could raise the cost of Russia’s occupation at minimal risk to the United States.

“If I were a Ukrainian patriot, I know exactly what I would do if Russia carries out a full occupation of Ukraine,” says Robert Tripp who served in the 10th Special Forces Group in Germany in the 1960s.

“Russia's current economic health is dependent on the sale of the natural gas they ship to the Western European nations. All the Russian pipelines to Western Europe pass through Ukraine.”

In Tripp’s view, this makes Russia’s situation much weaker than our leadership seem to realize.

“ If I were a Ukrainian patriot and my nation was occupied by the Russians, I would feel no personal stake in seeing that those pipelines continue to fill Russian coffers with revenues from gas sales. I would destroy every one of them along with their ancillary facilities. Those are easy targets to hit and hard to defend.”

According to Robert Tripp, the United States could insert Special Forces teams into the Ukraine in order to train Ukrainians to become more effective in resisting Russian aggression.

“This type of mission is exactly what our SF teams train indigenous forces to carry out, “ says Tripp. “SOCOM should be readying detachments to send to Ukraine now to prepare for this eventuality.”

According to Tripp, this kind of situation is ready made for Special Forces.

“I see an opportunity for the ideal Special Forces mission here. Makes me wish I were back in the 10th again.”

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Convention of States - Risk of a Runaway Convention

I looked into the objections regarding the Convention of States idea, that it would turn into a run away convention that would become open ended.

To start with, I am well aware of the fears of a runaway convention I too was opposed for many years a so called Constitutional Convention. I remember reading about such an effort on the part of the left during the 90s.

I read Levine's book and to be frank, I found his arguments against the possibility of a runaway convention to be convincing.

And as I think about it, I am having a hard time seeing that as a real possibility. Let's take the Second Amendment as a proxy for a runway convention. The Second Amendment is not on Alaska's resolution for a Convention of States which means it's not on the Agenda. So it would be illegitamate from the outset. But suppose, the Convention did propose a repeal of the Second Amendment. That repeal would have to be ratified by 38 states which would be extremely unlikely.

So in order to pass a repeal of the Second Amendment, they would have to change the rules of ratification from what they were going into the Convention. That would be grounds for full on revolution.

There is no doubt the left will try. It's just I don't believe they can be successful.

Besides that, the Amendments that Levine proposes are not unreasonable. Giving the states the ability to veto actions by the Federal Government would be a very good thing. Right now, the Federal Government in all three branches refuses to rein itself in on anything. I think it is important to give an alternate means of overturning actions by the Federal Government. Congress will never propose such an amendment. The only way to get the ball rolling on such an amendment would be a Convention of the States.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Hunger Games

I saw the first installment of the Hunger Games last year. I had no real notion of what the movie would be about. But the movie really struck a cord with me. Laura happened to have the whole series of books and I read through them in fairly short order.

When you think about how young people are for the most part trained to be good little slaves to the all powerful state, the Hunger Games series of books and movies is to me a very promising development in our pop culture. It takes the notion of revolution for the sake of liberty out of the realm of men in tricorne hats and powdered wigs and into the our modern world in a very compelling way.

What follows are what I see are the main themes of the Hunger Games.
Tyranny. From start to finish and throughout, probably the overarching theme of the Hunger Games is tyranny by an all powerful state. We see a dystopian future of the United States where empovrished districts are ruled with an iron fist by a decadent capital where the population seems pre-occupied with the latest fads and fashions.

Self-sacrifice. Again and again in the series, we see a willingness to give one's life for someone else. We see this most poignantly in the fight to the death Hunger Games where by the rules, out of an original 24 combatants, there will only be one survivor. We a very strong young man carry around an old woman whose has no chance of surviving the games. Yet as they flee and one from one place to another, we see him carry her on his back.
Revolution. The Hunger Games puts the concept of Revolution against a tyrannical government back into the popular culture.

Shallow superficial pop-culture. The capital in the Hunger Games is completely taken with pop culture and the latest fad. The Hunger Games is a big annual event on par with say our own Super Bowl. The movie makes you ask if this is where we are headed and to what extent we are there already.
The Risk of Revolutions. There is a bit of a warning at the end of the last book. Not all revolutions end in liberty. Often, the result of a revolution is the exchange of one tyrant for another.

Background. The Hunger Games is an American dystopia set perhaps 75 years in the future. The country is divided into 12 districts each recognizable as some American region. And there is the Capital district which rules the other districts with an iron fist. This division of the country is the result of a rebellion which occurred 75 years in the past.

As a consequence of their having lost in the Rebellion 75 years previously, the Districts must each year send two teenagers to participate in what are called the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is an annual fight to death contest that is a big deal in the Capital.

The Hunger Games exist for two reasons: the keep the Districts subjugated and to show them who is boss and also to keep the population of the Capital entertained, to fill their empty shallow lives.

The whole Hunger Games thing makes you think of say our Super Bowl. The participants, who are called tributes, are selected with lots of fanfare in a lottery that is televised back to the capital, in fact throughout the country. Of course, to be chosen a tribute is essentially a death sentence because only one out of the 24 tributes survives. But the Capital takes no notice of this. The Hunger Games is a media event and the tributes are celebrated with interviews, sponsors and breath-taking speculation.

The movie is not a Christian movie. But it does cause one to think and and ask good questions of oneself and on where our society is headed. It takes good Christian virtues and puts them on display in a very compelling way.
Selflessness for example. Katniss, the main character, is a young woman of about 16 or 17 who is very capable with a bow. In the opening scene we see shoot birds on the wing with her bow. When she gets back to the town of her District 12, there is the public televised lottery selection of this year’s tributes to the Hunger Games. To Katniss’s horror, her 13 year old sister is chosen as the female from District 12. Katniss, steps forward and says she will go in her place. She knows it is a death sentence.

The people chosen to be tributes cover a broad range of teenager types which is perhaps one reason it appeals to teenagers. Almost any teenager will see someone in the games that he identifies with. That what's I think is so power about this series of books of movies. The teenager is drawn in and identifies with at least one person up ther on the screen. They ask, what would I do in tha situation?

For example. we see jocks which in the Hunger Games are kids from certain districts where actually train and volunteer to participate in the games. They are strong, athletic and deadly. And then there are kids who have seemingly no skills whatsoever. In Lord of the Flies like fashion, the jocks band together and seek out to destroy the lessor skilled kids. It's not unlike what happens in school!

But Katniss is not going along with the program. It is clear she does not want to do this. Katniss takes a girl named Rue under her wing and tries to protect her. Rue is a sweet thing and her real skills are ability to climb trees and to be a somewhat fast quick runner. They work together. It is clear that should Katniss and Rue become the last two survivors there is no way that Katniss is going to kill Rue. At one point Rue is killed. Katniss is hearbroken and lays Rue's body in a bed of flowers in the forest and mourns Rue. All this is televised and it sets off a chain reaction in the districts.

The first movie ends when the survivors are down to the 2 tributes from District 12, Katniss and Peeta who earlier onn nationwide t.v. had declared his love for Katniss. They refuse to kill each other. Instead they choose to simulateously eat poison berries together and deprive the Games of their victor. Instead, they are declared joint victors and it is on this note that the first movie ends.

The second movie takes these themes further. We see more self examples of self sacrifice.

As a bit of background. At the beginning of the second movie, we are almost a year later. Katniss has become a bit of a problem for the President who is a very evil cruel man. Katniss is become something of a symbol for a growing rebellion in the districts. But the President can't kill her outright without causing problems to himself. It is tradition that the victors be spared from further risk and become the equivalent of rock stars. They go on tour and give speeches and become part of the unbelievably shallow pop-culture of the Capital.

So the President comes to Katniss's home and warns her to shape up or that those closest to her will suffer. Katniss and her co-victor, Peeta from District 12 go on tour and it is obvious that the other districts are in a high state of agititation.

And Katniss can't help herself. In spite of the President's warning, when she is in the District that Rue came from, she ignores the script given to her and gives a speech that praises Rue and she talks about how much she loved Rue. In response, the crowd give a left handed three finger salute (this came out during the games of a year earlier and had become something of a gesture of defiance of the regime). The response of the police was immediate. They single out the person who first raised his hand for extreme retribution even as they are dragging Katniss away.

Clearly, Katniss isn't doing what she is supposed to do. So the President comes up with a plan to get rid of her. In this year's Hunger Games, the contestants will be drawn out of the victors from previous games. And since Katniss is the only living female victor from District 12, this means she is going back to the games and she knows there is no way the President will allow her to survive this time around.

That's the background that sets the stage for the next rounds of acts of mercy. From one of the other district, there is an old woman who is a victor from a games many many years previous. She volunteers to take the place of a much younger female victor from that district. But the mercy doesn't end there. The guy victor from that district has a strong love and affection for the old woman. In fact, during the games, he carries the old woman around on his back as they flee from one danger to the other. Even though she doesn't have a chance to survive the games he is determined to do what he can to keep her alive.

All in all the Hunger Games is an intriguing series of books and movies. It seems to be big hit among young people. One of my hopes is that it gets young people to think outside of the 'be good little slaves' proproganda they usually get and to perhaps looks at the governments big promises with a little more suspicion

Saturday, June 22, 2013

NSA Surveillance a Ready-Made Threat ofTyranny

Just got finished reading an interesting piece in National Review Online on the legal basis sor justification for the NSA's wholesale surveillance of communications came into being.

Below is what I left as a comment:

A very interesting read. I have been very interested in what the legal basis is for what the Government is doing.

Bottom line is this is a very dangerous capability that we have given to the Federal Government. The can but doesn't capability to look at the communications of U.S. Persons can easily become 'we just do.' It is a ready made institution that can be used to establish a tyranny, where the faction in power uses the resources of the government to suppress the political opposition. All an administration has to do is put the right people in charge of the right ready made institutions and they can consolidate power for the long-term.

We are getting a small taste of this with respect to the IRS. There is no doubt that the direction for the IRS to target Tea Party groups came from the White House, not necessarily in memos or emails but in the choice of Lois Lerner to head it up. The intimidation of opponents was on her resume (see this piece by George Will from about 10 days ago:

This thing needs to be ended. When the sunset comes up in two years, this needs to be targeted for destruction. We managed to survive a civil war, two world wars, and a cold war without it and it is ripe for abuse.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Universal Background Check will lead to registration

Universal background checks are unworkable unenforceable without registration. Background checks work on retail sales because there is a paper trail from manufacturer to retailer at which point the paper trail ends. There is no way to enforce these background checks if you don't first know who has what: registration.

These folks need to look beyond their utopian fantasies and consider what will actually happen if they pass Universal Background Checks. There will be widespread non-compliance. People will continue to buy and sell privately. Then will come the call for registration. Expect more non-compliance. This will be a total waste of time, no upside, big downside.