Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Bad Can it Get?


While preparing a trip to England recently, I tried to research what would, and wouldn't, be legal in the former land of Churchill.
Guns, obviously, were out of the question. Britain has outlawed almost all firearms, even hunting oriented ones. They've started on replica guns and airsoft guns, too. They will, I'm sure, eventually ban the word 'gun', at which point they should have achieved complete and utter safety.

I was more interested in bringing a sensibly sized pocketknife; nothing huge or tactical, but simply a handy little knife for opening stuff. Nope-Britain has determined that ANY locking knife is an 'offensive weapon', and cannot be carried in public. (Seriously. They've even banned ADVERTISING a knife as a weapon...Holy jiminy.)

So I tried to find a pocket knife in the house that didn't lock. Couldn't do it. All the pocket knives I own lock, and for a simple reason; we discovered long ago that a knife that locks is less likely to close accidentally and hack your fingers off. They're-wait for it-safer than knives that don't lock.

So the poor Brits have surrendered their right to have a knife that won't close on their fingers because some bad guys used knives to hurt people. Presumably, their 'free' health care will cover reattaching their fingers, so I guess it's all fine.

I don't even know where to start. I could cite all the statistics that show British crime on the rise after they've banned darned near everything that could hurt someone, but don't really want to bother. It's just sad that the land of Churchill has somehow become the land of Chamberlain....

Saturday, November 27, 2010

When is Assault NOT Assault?

Why, when it's committed by a police officer. Here, take a look at this video of a Denver police officer grabbing, punching and body-dropping a man talking on his cell phone: Video Link

Now, stuff happens, and every profession has those that fall short. And among real professionals, there are times even the best fail to live up to the standards set for them. So seeing a police officer lose his temper isn't really earth-shaking.

What you might find just a little bit....well, terrifying, is that this officer was given three days off without pay for 'submitting an inaccurate report.' No, he's not in jail for his unlawful assault. He's not even on indefinite leave, while the department waits for the indignation to die down. He's back out on the streets of Denver, presumably ready to do that to someone else's kid at this very minute.

And despite the outrage of Denver's citizenry, despite the publicity that's been given to this, despite the actual police camera video that shows the officer committing an assault on a citizen, the decision, as of this date, stands.

The failing of an individual trusted to police us is sad. But the failing of the system designed to oversee and check that individual is another symptom of having crossed the line between government and oppression.

No logical person would argue that this is right. The citizenry's being unable to change it is proof that we're no longer a government 'of the people', as the people don't approve.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Anarchy?

Titling a blog "Government, Anarchy and Chaos" sounds fairly radical, doesn't it? And perhaps today it is.

But anarchy, or at least a social organization that leans much more heavily toward some of anarchy's basic principles, doesn't sound quite so different, quite so scary, when you look at what the word really means, rather than the shorthand assumptions often made about it.

One definition of anarchy is, "A social state in which there is no governing person or group of people, but each individual has absolute libery (without the implication of disorder)." (Wikipedia.)

A perfect example of this use of the word anarchy is, ironically, Wikipedia itself. Essentially unregulated 'from the top', but kept orderly and informative from the collective actions of an empowered user base, Wikipedia exemplifies what happens when you let people do something without getting in their way; to wit, it works.

And works pretty well, too. Various surveys of technical topics within Wikipedia continue to demonstrate that it generally offers information as, or more, accurate than dedicated journals and publications. In fact:

Because Wikipedia is open to anonymous and collaborative editing, assessments of its reliability usually include examinations of how quickly false or misleading information is removed. An early study conducted by IBM researchers in 2003—two years following Wikipedia's establishment—found that "vandalism is usually repaired extremely quickly — so quickly that most users will never see its effects"[1] and concluded that Wikipedia had "surprisingly effective self-healing capabilities".[2]
A notable early study in the journal Nature suggested that in 2005, Wikipedia scientific articles came close to the level of accuracy in Encyclopædia Britannica and had a similar rate of "serious errors".[3] This study was disputed by Encyclopædia Britannica.[4]
By 2010 reviewers in medical and scientific fields such as toxicology, cancer research and drug information reviewing Wikipedia against professional and peer reviewed sources found that Wikipedia's depth and coverage were of a very high standard, often comparable in coverage to physician databases and considerably better than well known reputable national media outlets. Wikipedia articles were cited as references in journals (614 cites in 2009) and as evidence in trademark and higher court rulings. However, omissions and readability sometimes remained an issue – the former at times due to public relations removal of adverse product information and a considerable concern for fields such as medicine.

Essentially, Wikipedia is a microcosm of an anarchist society; few rules, great freedom, mutual self-interest at the heart of chosen collective endeavors. It almost smells a bit like communism, until you realize that there is no 'uber-comrade' behind the curtain somewhere, and then you realize it's just about the exact opposite; a society without a powerful overseer.

We live today with a tacit acceptance of the fact that government and society are the foundation of what we've achieved, but think: does the 'government' actually make anything? Does it innovate, does it press forward into the future with vision and foresight? No, people do that. And people, when crushed into a society designed by bureaucrats and politicians, generally do it less well than when left to their own devices.




Friday, October 29, 2010

The Truth Is What We Say It Is

Recently the NSSF launched a new campaign to try and rebrand assault rifles "modern sporting rifles." As in past rebranding efforts--let us not forget "black rifles," "tactical rifles," and longstanding industry efforts to conflate assault weapons with standard semiautomatic firearms--the real-world use of assault weapons, from mass shootings to attacks on law enforcement, has a way of undermining the NSSF's efforts.
Josh Sugarman, at it again. If you don't know who Josh is, he's the man who kicked off using the term 'Assault Rifle' incorrectly when referring to semi-automatic, civilian firearms.

Now anyone with an internet connection, or even a relatively up-to-date firearms reference library, could tell you that an 'assault weapon' is defined as a weapon capable of full-auto or selective fire, and firing a round heavier than a pistol cartridge but lighter than a main battle rifle cartridge. Anyone, that is, except Josh Sugarman, the Executive Director of the mis-named 'Violence Prevention Center.' 

Josh is, perhaps, the world's most mis-informed man about guns, the way guns work, how guns are used and what they can, and cannot, do. Or perhaps he's not. After all, Josh says things that are so bizarrely inaccurate, one has to wonder if he's really that unwilling to check a few simple facts, or whether his misstatements are less innocent. After all, it's Josh we've got to thank for the media describing every rifle as either a 'high-powered rifle' or an 'assault weapon.' So maybe he's not quite so naively uninformed, but rather a modern day master of the simple proposition that if you repeat something untruthful often and long enough, it becomes fact.

We can use the quote above to illustrate this. We all know what an 'assault weapon' is, right? It's...well, it's got a grip on the stock. And maybe a flash hider, or a bayonet mounting lug. And it holds big magazines-and usually, it's black. So the NSSF is trying to 're-brand' what Josh likes to call assault weapons-in direct contradiction to what the world has called assault weapons for fifty years-as something else.

Which they are. Something else, that is. And for proof, look at the weapons sold during the 'Assault Weapons Ban.' Functionally identical to those sold before and after that ill-fated gun-grab attempt, they demonstrate that, stripped of its rhetoric and inflammatory value, 'assault weapon' really means 'fully auto light rifle', and all the convoluted attempts to define them otherwise are exposed as undefinable. Even with folks genuinely dedicated to taking your AR-15 away from you working hard at it, they never could quite tell anyone how an AR differed from any other semi-automatic rifle.

Of course, words have power, even when they don't really have meaning. Maybe that's why Josh's 'Violence Prevention Council' doesn't really want to prevent violence, but rather is focused solely on banning guns. Calling it 'The Gun Banning Council', while decidedly more accurate and truthful, wouldn't be so visceral. And Josh would rather you didn't think too much about that, because when you pay attention to ALL the words, as well as what they actually mean, Josh's arguments start to fall apart.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Governed or Oppressed? Part IV-Oppressing Ourselves

If there's one thing the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us, it's that an entrenched, determined foe is extraordinarily difficult to dislodge from their homeland. Inspired by one of the most basic of human desires, the desire to preserve one's home, people can become ultimate warriors, and masters of espionage and deception.

Of course, that's if the people preserve the spirit of independence, the strength of will, required to resist those who would overcome them. But what happens when a population becomes complacent, too lazy to suffer the risks and sacrifices needed to maintain their freedom?

A perfect example was provided recently by Marc Thiessen, writing for the Washington Post. If you'd rather not click through, I'll summarize; Thiessen wants the US government to commit an act of terrorism against the website Wikileaks, who's been embarrassing it for months now with the release of classified war documents.

Perhaps you consider 'an act of terrorism' too strong? Perhaps...so maybe I should just say that Thiessen proposes using military capabilities (in this case, cyber-capabilities) to accomplish what the government cannot accomplish through the courts. Essentially acting unilaterally against an enemy that can't legally be brought to bear, using the 'might' of the military to destroy them.

Wow, when you put it like that it sure SOUNDS like terrorism, doesn't it?

But it represents the views of a number of Americans, apparently. Those who feel that, lacking legal 'right', might should be used. Who feel that the government should crush something it disagrees with. Who feel the US military should work outside the legal framework of what is still, in theory, a nation of laws.

So we see that people are difficult to genuinely oppress in their homeland-until, perhaps, they start calling for their oppression themselves, and inviting the government to do it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Welcome to Our Future

As we prepare to swear in an extraordinarily young (in supreme court terms) justice to the court, there is one thing we know for certain about Elena Kagan: she's a lawyer, through and through.

How do we know that? Because she was asked one of the simplest, most straightforward questions it's possible to ask a human being, much less a supreme court justice, and her answer was utterly and completely meaningless. She has enough legal education swimming around in her head, apparently, that she can over-complicate and obfuscate anything.


Asked if the right to own a firearm for self defense  existed before the constitution was written:
Grassley: The court said in Heller, quote, “It has always been” — and I guess I would put emphasis upon the word “always” — “It’s always been widely understood that the Second Amendment, like the First and Fourth, codified a pre-existing right.” Do you believe that the Second Amendment codified a pre-existing right? Or was it a right created by the Constitution

Kagan: Senator Grassley, I’ve — I’ve never really considered that question, as to whether the Second Amendment right…
(Really-never gave it a thought? If not in all the constitutional law classes you've taken, all the classes you've taught, even all the prepping for these hearings, at least, you'd have think this came up ONCE, maybe. Right... )
Grassley: Well, it’s basic to our Declaration of Independence that says we’re endowed by our creator with certain — certain individual rights, among them, you know, what it says, and we aren’t endowed by our government. So the question here is, are we endowed by our Constitution with this right or did it exist before the Constitution existed?

Kagan: Well, Senator Grassley, I do think that my responsibility would be to apply the Constitution as understood and previously applied by the court, and that means as understood and — and interpreted by the court in Heller, and that’s what I would do. So I think that the — the fundamental legal question would be whether — that a case would present would be whether the Constitution guarantees an individual right to bear arms, and Heller held that it did, and that’s good precedent going forward.
 And there we have it folks; a question too simple to answer, apparently, when you have the education and background of a Harvard law school dean. A stupid non-lawyer like me would have just said, "Of course", or maybe, "Yes" and been done with it.

This is what we're putting in charge of our country-this woman will have an impact on our lives for the next 30 years, in all likelihood, and she doesn't want to admit that the right to own a firearm existed before it was written down on a paper. Presumably, she believes that about all the other 'rights' that the constitution apparently conferred, rather than acknowledged.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Law-Abiding Citizen? Maybe Not.

The expression 'law-abiding' or 'law-abiding citizen' has been in common use since 1859, at the least. It's often used as shorthand for a productive, non-criminal, tax paying member of the public.

But being a 'law-abiding citizen' is harder than you think. Current laws, regulatory agency rules and other restrictions with the force of law upon a citizen are profoundly, almost overwhelmingly, lengthy and complex. Let's look at some examples:

The federal tax code, formally known as 'Title 26' of the United States Code, is actually a complex of law, regulatory interpretation and addendums, all of which makes the task of estimating the total size of the tax code in itself a difficult proposition. That's right, it's hard to even find out how big it is. One U.S. Representative is on record as stating, "
"The income tax code and its associated regulations contain almost 5.6 million words -- seven times as many words as the Bible. Taxpayers now spend about 5.4 billion hours a year trying to comply with 2,500 pages of tax laws...."
If correct, (and I haven't been able to find any refutations or challenges to that quote) this means that the average citizen is subject to about 2,500 pages of laws before we even move on from the tax code. And while much of that code is directed towards corporations and businesses, you have to know it to know that. And many of us, particularly the employed, will never be able to peruse such a document in our spare time.

While this might not seem particularly earth-shaking news, I'll point out one simple fact that may disturb the average 'law-abiding citizen'; you don't really have any idea if you're law-abiding or not. How can you, if you can't possibly know the law?

Another shining example of a law that can't really be understood by the average citizen is regulation 922(r) of the U.S. Code, which regulates the importation and ownership of certain types of firearms.

922(r), as we will refer to it, runs to just over 8,700 words, or about 15 pages in 12 point font. It defines, among other things, what firearms can and cannot be legally possessed, and violation of it is not a trivial matter; most sanctions contained within it are federal felonies, carrying prison terms of a year or more. It's not jaywalking, by any means.

So can we assume that this voluminous, very serious law about a serious subject is clear and forthright? No.

As an example, one provision makes it legal to own a gun which is completely identical to another, except for the country of origin of some of its small internal parts, parts which would only be visible when the weapon has been completely and thoroughly assembled far beyond what the average owner would ever attempt. Further, it does not require that you be the person who configured the gun that way; simply owning a gun with parts from the wrong country in it makes you a felon.

Now keep in mind, we're talking about identical guns here-identical down to the last pin. The only difference is where that part was made. Imagine it this way; you go to buy a reconditioned vacuum cleaner at a shop, or perhaps on Craigslist. You look it over, it works fine and the price is right, so you decide to buy it. When you do, the seller grabs you and arrests you; it turns out he was a federal agent trying to find someone looking to own an illegal vacuum.

At trial, the government presents a small internal part of the vacuum cleaner, and shows through some means that the part was made in England, not the U.S. And based on that, you're sentenced to several years in prison. As astonishingly bizarre as this sounds, it's absolutely the case with 922(r) and the guns it regulates. And yes, people are going to prison because one small part or other was made in the wrong country. And those who aren't going to prison are working very, very hard just to remain 'law-abiding citizens.'

Another law that makes criminals of thousands of people each day is Chicago's knife ordinance, which makes it illegal to carry a knife with a blade more than two inches in length anywhere in the city. That's right, something as innocuous as this in your pocket will make you a criminal in this city of two million. So are you still so sure that you're really a law-abiding citizen? And what does it mean to be 'law-abiding' when it's impossible for us to know even a fraction of the laws we're subject to?

America was founded on the premise that the people formed the government, that whole, "of the people, by the people, for the people" thing you may dimly recall. But the simple fact is that today, even a lawyer can't possibly know the laws thoroughly.

The larger question is this; do we really want a country with laws so voluminous, so complex, that we can't understand them? And are you willing to go to prison because of it? Because people are....