By the time the Stamp Act was due to take effect, all stamp officers in the colonies had resigned, and with no stamps available, the Act was irrelevant except as a symbolic affront. Americans nevertheless greeted November 1 as a day of mourning, with bells tolling throughout the day. The Sons of Liberty--[Samuel] Adams, [Benjamin] Edes, and the others--gathered at the Liberty Tree to hang effigies of [Prime Minister George] Grenville and another member of parliament. That evening, they put the effigies in a cart, and as thousands marched behind, they wheeled it past the Town House and on to the gallows on Boston Neck to be hung. The courts and customs houses had no choice but to close. Business came to a standstill. --Harlow Giles Unger, American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution
A group of agitators lead a mob through the streets, interfere with government business, and publicly hang government officials in effigy in protest against a toothless and symbolic tax law, as part of an escalating campaign against the government that leads ultimately to calculated acts of political vandalism, and then to a mass shootout with government personnel over an attempt to confiscate civilian-held military weapons. That violent episode, as you may know, ended up spreading somewhat before reaching a mutually acceptable resolution.
So excuse the hell out of me if I don't get all butthurt over the "inflammatory rhetoric" the poor dears in Washington have to endure today.
You want to try to govern Americans? Grow a thicker damn skin. The founding fathers would have eaten these milksops alive.
Nerd around long enough, and you'll hear somebody point out that there are no gay characters in Star Trek. It's true, and it actually goes beyond omission: on at least one occasion, a character strongly implies that human same-sex relationships are completely unknown, and winsomely suggests that maybe, someday, the human capacity to love won't be so limited. The only unstraight characters ever shown are in the Mirror Universe, where evidently all women are bisexual.
Of course, Star Trek is a television show, and is subject to the limitations of television shows. When Gene Roddenberry was producing a colorful space western to fill the Friday night time slot after T.H.E. Cat, he could be forgiven for not plotting all the socioeconomic implications of his utopian society. When a script made reference to the fact that the Federation had abolished money, I doubt there was a debate in the writers' room over economic incentives and state compulsion. And for most of the show's run, gaiety was a fairly contentious subject that a TV show could be forgiven for avoiding. But as nerds like me take the show's universe at face value and start spending way too much time deconstructing it, the undercurrent of the stories starts getting pretty sinister.
First off, again, there's no money. This is superficially reasonable: they have replicators, which can make anything you want, so why would you need to buy anything? But people also provide services, for which they're obviously not paid. This may make sense for personally rewarding jobs like archaeologist or engineer, but how many people, honestly, feel such a personal calling to clear dishes in Ten Forward that they'll ship out on a years-long assignment to do it eight hours a day unpaid? Later writers addressed this by creating latinum, a medium of exchange that can't be replicated and which serves as currency for a thriving galactic market economy, but the Federation uses it only when dealing with "alien" societies. Her own citizens do scut work for nothing. When interacting with 20th century humans, Captain Picard tells them dismissively that humanity has "grown out" of the "infancy" self interest.
Humans in the federation are, again, also uniformly straight and monogamous, expressing shock at "nontraditional" relationships that were out of the closet three hundred years earlier.
How many gay characters crop up in Star Trek's Federation? How many non-conformist extroverts? Any sign of a counter-culture? How often is an internal voice of political dissent heard in the Federation? The only dissidents shown, the Maquis, were forced into armed conflict with the Federation when it betrays them to the fascist Cardassians. The only attempts at political change shown were a couple failed attempts at a coup d'état by elements of the Federation's own military, neither of which had liberty as their objectives. The Star Trek Federation is a dystopian nightmare: smiley face totalitarianism with a California "liberal" vibe...
In short, Star trek presents a future in which the great majority of humans simply don't act like humans, and seem very happy to be forced into specific roles by an omnipresent semimilitary government with the power to move people around involuntarily at will and to incapacitate people en masse without injuring them. It can also instantly identify and locate an individual person anywhere on a planet, and has an essentially infinite capacity to store and coallate all records. It has personnel who can literally read minds, and employs them as ships' counselors. The establishment's ability to identify and neutralize resistance is effectively absolute.
And all this follows the defining divergent event of Star Trek's fictional timeline, the Eugenics Wars, a world-shattering conflict caused by ambitious and disastrous tinkering with the human genome.
When you put way too much though into TV sci-fi, it's impossible to escape the conclusion that Star Trek's humans have been artificially homogenized, genetically engineered to eliminate variation and dissent. And this unanimity has been enforced for centuries by a singular government with the ability and willingness to forcibly suppress any new variation from the established order. It's not quite a boot stomping on a human face, but it sure as hell undermines the utopian feeling you're supposed to get from all those clean hallways and pocketless jumpsuits.
There's not too much to be said about this. It's stupid on many levels*, and it's clearly unconstitutional on multiple levels**, and it's very unlikely to pass in the current political climate.
But a quick word for anybody who, quite understandably, might not be up on what exactly this bill does.
On a personal level, I'm not big on the kind of guns you're meant to think this bill targets. I like pre-WWII pistols. I like revolvers. I like lever-action and bolt-action rifles with fixed, non-tactical magazines you can reload one cartridge at a time. I like tiny pocket pistols. I like the kind of old-fashioned guns you'd take on an expedition to find the source of the Nile or King Solomon's mines. I have little interest in modern plastic 9mms, and less in the kind of competitive shooting sports that are (in my opinion) the only practical application for 30+ round magazines.
And yet the McCarthy bill would target quite a few of the guns I'm interested in.
Supporters of McCarthyism are trying to frame this as an attack on 33-round extended magazines--and an extension of the capacity limit we had from 1994 to 2004, the last meaningful victory for gun control in this country--but in fact it's a good bit more ambitious than that. First off, it would criminalize all magazines that hold 11 or more rounds. That's well below the standard capacity for the overwhelming majority of ordinary guns bought for self defense in the United States. Hell, common defensive handguns have had capacities greater than ten rounds since 1935. We're not talking about high-cap extended magazines here; we're talking about 90% of the civilian magazines on the market. These are the mags that come with the guns.
Which brings me to the final point: the 1994-2004 ban was a prohibition on manufacture and import for private citizens, not a ban on possession; you could buy, sell, and own full-cap and high-cap magazines that were manufactured before 1994. This arrangement was stupid and unconstitutional, but it at least made an effort to avoid trampling on property and due process rights so openly that people would get really pissed off. McCarthy's bill makes no such attempt, explicitly making two particularly obnoxious changes to the model bill: first, no transfers are allowed, period. No sales, no purchases, no gifts, and no inheritance. Second, it changes the crime from "transfer of a post-ban magazine" to "possession of a magazine, but if you can prove you owned it before the ban went into effect, you can use that as a defense in court". Exercise a Constitutionally protected right, and you're considered guilty until proven innocent.
Again, the very concept of magazine capacity limits is stupid and illegal on its face, and in a free society the correct response to "OMG high-bullet clips designed for mass murder THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" is to offer a valium and a pat on the head. But in a world where people routinely consider abridging individual rights in hopes of marginally increasing safety, it's important to make sure people know just what the gun control advocates are actually reaching for with this bill, and how far it goes beyond the "ban 33-round murder clips" sound bite.
[* - As though ten rounds fired into a crowd is fine; as though three ten-round magazines are really meaningfully different from a 30-round magazine, given how quickly and easily semiautomatic pistols reload; as though there was a shred of evidence large-capacity magazines have any noticeable affect on murder rates in the first place.]
[** - The militia reference in the 2A's prefatory clause explicitly defines its scope as protecting military weapons, a category that undebatably includes >10 round magazines; and the Supreme Court's decision in Heller explicitly set a "common use" test that full-capacity magazines clearly pass.]
"During World War II, for example, three German submariners escaped from Camp Crossville, Tennessee. Their flight took them to an Appalachian cabin, where they stopped for a drink of water. The mountain granny told them to "git." When they ignored her, she promptly shot them dead. The sheriff came, and scolded her for shooting helpless prisoners. Granny burst into tears, and said that she would not have done it if she had known they were Germans. The exasperated sheriff asked what in "tarnation" she thought she was shooting at. "Why," she replied, "I thought they was Yankees."
-sourced to Arnold Krammar, Nazi Prisoners of War in America (New York, 1979), p. 133
So an Arlington, Massachusetts comic book dealer Travis Corcoran who self identifies as an anarcho-capitalist made a blog post after the Tucson shooting that got a lot of people upset. His blog is now down, but it's enough to say that the post was called "1 down, 534 to go", and he suggested that the tragedy was not the shooting of a Congressional representative, but the collateral injuries to innocent bystanders.
Now, I'm not exactly worlds apart from Corcoran on this one. I posted my own essay in support of political violence. I think political assassination is sometimes necessary. For that matter, if a meteor flattened the Capitol building while the President and VP were giving a speech to the entire assembled Congress, I'd probably just shed a tear for the architecture and the janitors. But dude? Dick thing to say, wrong time to say it, and major, major context fail. Turning reluctantly to carefully considered violence when you honestly believe that no other means will force your government to respect individual liberty? Regrettable, but sometimes better than the alternative. Firing wildly at a representative because you have a bit of a crush on her and don't think she appreciates the gravity of the government's grammar-based mind control program? Different ballgame.
People got pissed off. Bloggers and journalists denounced Corcoran. The Comics Alliance called for a boycott. In short, people in a free society responded as people in a free society should.
And then the police got involved.
Massachusetts is one of the vanishingly few states that requires a permit to own firearms*. And that permit is issued at the discretion of local law enforcement. And can be revoked at any time. You can probably see where this is going.
Corcoran was a dick. But the First Amendment recognizes our fundamental human right to be dicks. There are limits on the expression of that right where violent threats against specific people are involved, but simply approving of an act of violence is not a threat in any legally meaningful way. He was not convicted of any crime. He wasn't arrested for any crime. He hasn't been charged with any crime. You do not get to seize a person's property and deny him a fundamental human right to arms with no conviction, arrest, or even charge. It does not matter how big a dick you think he is. It does not matter how offensive, inflammatory, or frightening you think his opinions are. Suppressing a person's civil rights can only ever be the result of due process, never at the whim of local law enforcement.
This is not the way a free society operates.
[* - Even New Jersey, with all its gun-terror, only has permits to purchase. If you legally come into possession of a gun without a permit (this mostly happens through inheritance or to the folks insane enough to move here from a freer state), you don't need a permission slip to keep it.]
Hi, I'm Michael. Long-time member, first time caller.
I appreciate all the work you do for gun rights in the United States. Without you, we'd be Great Britain by now, or at least Canada. I really appreciate it, and hope you know I just think you guys are all super.
And I also know all about how the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have decided to engage in their own feeble way in trying to drum up fear of guns by advising their member physicians to ask patients whether they have guns, and try to talk gun-owning patients into getting rid of their guns or storing them in such a way as to make them useless for defense. I know they've advocated passing off those thoroughly discredited "twelve billion children a minute are murdered by guns" studies at face value as a scare tactic. I'm as pissed off about it as you are.
None of this actually bothers me because I understand that it's all a bunch of poppycock. Thanks to the magic of the inverse-square law, the heavenly bodies exerted less pull on me on the date of my nativity than the contents of the delivery room: When I was born, anesthesiologist was in the house of scrub nurse.
People who live outside the US may be unfamiliar with Metrocons. They're fiscally, and sometimes socially conservative people who live in big cities, and whose worldviews are often shaped by the values of densely populated metropoli. This tends to mean that while they're not exactly hostile to gun rights, living in a place where gun ownership has been driven to very low levels has made them disinterested in guns. They generally don't get the appeal, and don't care much one way or the other.
Cliff May, writer for the National Review, is one such Metrocon. His most recent editorial, which gives a soft endorsement to Mayor Bloomberg's proposed 1000-foot floating "gun free zone" around "important politicians" isn't too big a step from mainstream metroconism, but still, what the fuck is he thinking?
Such a law will not be a panacea. Anyone carrying a gun openly at a political rally already draws attention. “Concealed carry” is unlawful without a permit in most states and, it goes without saying, lunatics and extremists don’t care what laws are on the books.
But if this can provide even a small measure of additional protection for public servants who are too often too vulnerable, it’s worth considering.
Since when does the employer give up his fundamental rights to make the servant feel safer? Aren't we even pretending "public servant" means anything any more?
"I'm not going to bang my head against the wall on issues that there are absolutely no chance will get posted for a vote in the Legislature," Christie said.
So the questioner put it more bluntly: Would Christie sign a bill allowing concealed weapons if it passed the Legislature?
"I would consider any bill that they send to me," Christie said, again dodging his own position.
He's being torn apart for this by both cartoon liberals who think NJ citizens can't handle what the citizens of 40 other states take in stride every day*, and gun rights advocates who think he should be championing the crusade for Second Amendment rights in the Garden State.
But seriously? This is exactly the right attitude for him to take. With an enormous amount of pressure, dealmaking, and armtwisting, a good NJ governor might be able to get concealed carry and reform of our abusive purchase permit system. But it would be a very close call, would use up all his political capital, and would very likely destroy his governorship if he failed (or, frankly, if he succeeded). Christie has hung his governorship on fixing NJ's dysfunctional budget, not on gun rights, and--whatever you think of the rightness or chance of success of his strategy--fighting for gun rights would guarantee he lost the budget fight.
We have an excellent chance of killing the state's concealed carry ban in the courts; fighting this battle on the much more hostile ground of our fundamentally broken legislature has a much greater chance of hurting than of helping.
[* - There may be something to this. After all, we obviously can't handle pumping our own gas.]
Montanans may soon be able to add a hand-thrown spear to their arsenal for big game hunting...Montanans may soon be able to add a hand-thrown spear to their arsenal for big game hunting. ... Hinkle noted that Jared Allen, defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings, is an avid spear hunter and has taken bear and elk with the weapon. His exploits have been featured in American Hunter magazine and are viewable on YouTube.
The world's self-proclaimed champion of the practice is Gene Morris, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who claims to have hunted more than 500 big-game animals including bison, bear, lion and alligator.
I have a few friends who would love to do this. Me, I'd happily be the guy who stands by with the .30 caliber semiautomatic rifle while you hurl spears at Yogi.
Archaeologists are generally very concerned about the antiquities trade. And I get it: there are yawning gaps in our knowledge of the the ancient world, and most of our new knowledge comes from careful excavation, where the details of the dig can tell us as much as the artifacts themselves. When an illicit digger just pulls artifacts out of the ground as quickly as possible and sells them piecemeal on the international market, irreplaceable information is destroyed forever. I might wish the archaeological community would stop trying to address this situation by pushing heavy-handed, turf-protecting laws that give honest independent diggers more incentive to keep their finds a secret, but we're definitely on the same page valueswise.
What I'm less sympathetic to is the related idea of "cultural property", and the push to repatriate artifacts from the countries that currently own them. And a perfect example is the picokerfuffle around Cleopatra's Needle in Central Park. It's undeniable that the monument is suffering in its current location, and that something should be done. It's somewhat more debatable that the proper response is threatening to stir up a movement to ship it back to Egypt. Of course, repatriation cheerleaders are dancing on their desks at the thought that somebody will "take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home and save it from ruin".
The Needle was set up almost 3500 years ago by the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III to glorify the Egyptian city of Heliopolis. Two centuries later the pharaoh Ramesses the Great repurposed it to glorify his own military conquests. 1200 years after that it was moved by a Roman governor to the Greek city of Alexandria to decorate a temple built by the Greek pharaoh Cleopatra to glorify the Roman dictator Julius Caesar. It stayed there for 1900 years, in the subsequent custody of the Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Mamluks, and Ottomans until an Ottoman governor gave it as a gift to the United States*, where it's stood for over a century and a quarter...
Which means it's the rightful property of the modern Arab Republic of Egypt?
Objects change ownership and purpose, and that change is a part of the object's history, not a crime against the sanctity of its origin. Insistence on repatriation of significant objects like the Needle is an implicit assertion that we're observers of history rather than a part of it.
[* - To glorify the United States, for its proud history of keeping its nose out of other people's business. Ahh, the good old days.]
One of the standard tricks of gun-control advocates is a deliberate vagueness about their goals. Sure, the increment of the week gets a lot of play, but what are they actually aiming for? Common sense gun laws. Protecting families. Decreasing "gun deaths".
What the hell does any of that mean, with regard to the final shape of the laws they're working to build? Good luck getting a straight answer.
About an hour ago, "high profile" anti-gun blogger MikeB retread that path over at Sebastian's:
Because of you, The NRA and gun owners, any lunatic who wants to get a gun can.
If [Brady Campaign "board member" and general nutbar] Joan Peterson were in charge, that wouldn’t be the case. I think most of you would still be allowed to have your guns, but you’d be inconvienced a bit.
Now, the man's pretty transparently just trolling for reactions. But given an opportunity to nail down some specifics, I thought it might be helpful to point out a reply he made in a thread over at his blog last November:
Anybody remotely familiar with New Jersey's gun laws and our violent crime rates* doesn't need my help seeing how reasonable Mike's idea of "inconvenienced a bit" is, how far divorced from reality his estimation of gun control's effectiveness is, and how much concern he has about the suppression of fundamental human rights by a hostile bureaucracy.
[* - New Jersey has the second "best" Brady rank of any state and, according to the FBI, the 22nd lowest murder rate. Mission Accomplished!]
A man who's never committed a violent crime or been legally adjudicated as mentally defective passes the federally-mandated background check, buys a 9mm Glock (arguably the most common handgun in the United States, both among police and private citizens), and shoots a politician.
His motivation? Frankly, it's not clear that he had a coherent one. He believed that the Bush administration engineered the September 11 attacks. He believed a shadowy cabal was building a New World Order. He wanted to return the US to a silver and gold standard. If you take a signature issue of any group you dislike, a little digging would probably find it in the shooter's worldview. And predictably, there's been a land rush by all of the American political parasites to brand him as a fellow traveler with the enemy.
A sentiment that I've seen stated explicitly in some coverage and is implicit in almost all of it is the idea that there's no place in our society for political violence. Politicians have already suggested gun control and laws criminalizing speech that might advocate harm to government officials, because obviously we need to take legal steps to minimize the potential for political violence. It's such a matter of common sense that most people don't even feel the need to say it out loud. But honestly, this is one of those truisms that doesn't stand up to analysis, and frankly, when earnestly believed it's disturbingly misguided.
This country was founded in a huge act of political violence. We wouldn't exist as a nation without the work of tens of thousands of men who thought it was acceptable, in dire extremity, to shoot government employees.
Now, there are some who think that voting has made physical resistance obsolete, and it's a happy truth that democracy has moved the threshold of "dire extremity" pretty dramatically. But it only takes a moment's thought to establish the principle: what would the majority have to consent to to justify the minority getting shooty? Exterminating Jews? Reestablishing slavery? Suspending the Bill of Rights? Imprisoning enemies of the state? Deporting "undesirable" races? Declaring open-ended martial law? Holding and torturing suspected terrorists without trial or charge? Compiling intelligence on the political affiliations of Americans who've committed no crimes? A routine and casual disregard for the Constitutional restraints on Congressional power?
We'll all draw the exact line in different places. And I think everybody reading this will agree that a lone loony shooting a random politician is solidly in the illegitimate end of the political violence spectrum, but it is a spectrum. There is legitimate political violence, and the people's capacity to commit it is an essential component of a free society, and anybody who truly believes otherwise is deserving only of pity. It's a very, very sad human being who can think of nothing worth fighting to protect. "A people who mean to continue free," John Randolph said in 1790, "must be prepared to meet danger in person."
When people start advocating restrictions on civil rights in the interest of protecting politicians, we have to always remember that the First Amendment was written explicitly to protect inflammatory political rhetoric. And the Second Amendment was specifically intended to result in a populace well equipped to do political violence. When we've made the moral decision that the ability to angrily denounce government and to forcibly tell it "no; no farther" are fundamental human rights, we knowingly sacrifice the ability to deny guns and inspiration to people like the Tucson shooter. In such a nation, it's a certainty that tragedies like this one will happen sometimes. It's a trade we make because we must. It's awful, but it beats the hell out of the alternative.
I'm with you on the convenience of ebooks. DRM stupidity aside, it's extraordinarily handy to have two hundred books in my coat pocket. The space and weight advantage is undeniable, to the point that your little pocket library is often smaller than a single print book.
But for the love of Christ, if you don't stop bitching about how terribly, terribly difficult it is to "lug around" a fourteen ounce book, I'm going to track you down and beat you to death with a block of frozen peas. One "lugs around", I dunno.. A corpse. Or some pig iron. Not a freakin' paperback.
Love, -- Michael
[CCed to people who complain about the crushing encumbrance of coins, and especially to plastic-only hipsters who get the vapors over "lugging around" paper money.]
It's not news that most Americans use the Constitution primarily as a rhetorical weapon against their opponents. We saw that the right just doesn't care when President Bush was building his imperial Presidency and ignoring the Fourth Amendment in the name of national security, and we see that the left doesn't care today as President Obama insists that the federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce gives it the power to force a citizen to purchase a service he doesn't want from a company that's inside his home state. Liberals and conservatives both shout about one and ignore the other.
Again, not news. But there's something I'd like my American liberal friends to think about for a second:
One of the most common arguments by supporters of these excesses is that the government in question was elected by the people, and thus its actions are just and legitimate, reflecting the will of the people. If they get out of hand, you can always vote them out, right? But the big problem with democracy--the problem constitutional republics with strict limits on government power were invented to address--is just that: the tyranny of the majority. When you allow the majority to elect a government unconstrained by strong legal limits and institutional checks and balances (which I understand are called "gridlock" in modern political discourse), it really sucks to be a minority.
As we perennially allow the federal government to extend its power in the interest of addressing this session's new earthshattering crisis, our Republic is gradually becoming a democracy. And in a democracy, whatever group produces the most voters makes the rules.
Now, think about the conventional left/right model of US politics, however simplistic it may be, and tell me which is more likely to produce the rulemaking population of the future United States. Is it the side that believes in sexual freedom, teaching their kids to use birth control, giving same-sex couples equal representation in law and society, and making abortion available on demand? Or the side that fervently believes their god commands them all to enter sexual relationships with members of the opposite sex regardless of individual sexual preference, shun birth control and abortion, and have only vaginal sex with their partners?
"Stretching" the Constitution sounds like a great idea when you're thinking of all the poor people out there who can't afford needed medical care. But frankly, liberals have much more to lose by failing to stand on Constitutional principle than conservatives do. Before you hand more power over to a government that's friendly to your interests, think hard about how that power will be used by the future government that will be much less to your liking.
That's a pump shotgun with two tube magazines under the barrel, each holding seven rounds. Despite all appearances, it looks like it doesn't trip either the federal restrictions on short-barreled shotguns or New Jersey's "assault weapons" ban, making it a firearm I could just walk into a store and buy. It's a "bullpup", meaning that the barrel runs all the way back into the stock, evidently meeting the NFA's barrel length requirement, and NJ's AWB is, as far as I know, only concerned with semiautomatic firearms.
Now, I ordinarily pride myself on liking old-man guns. Black plastic is not my thing. "Give me blued steel and walnut", and all that. But they poured so much liquid awesome into the mold when they made this thing, I'm finding it almost irresistible.
I may need to get myself one of these, a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380...
I'm long winded. Getting my thoughts down to a punchier, more digestible form is an ongoing goal, and one I practice with varying degrees of success in comments to other people's blogs. But this is my house, and here I can stretch out on the couch.