07 March 2015

Universal Weapons Possession - An Idea Whose Time Will Never Come: Or, Is That a Six-gun In Your Pocket?

West Virginia is about to have no restrictions for people to carry firearms - open or concealed - except for people who are already federally disqualified by 18 USC 922.

Lord, protect us from people who are certain that they are right.

The West Virginia Legislature – both houses – now have a Republican majority. In the House of Delegates, it is a nearly veto-proof majority.  So far, the world has not come to an end.  The parties come, the parties go.  And we have just exchanged one group of vain, self-righteous and not-particularly bright individuals for another.   The all for Truth, Justice and the American Way, or their version of it.

The Republican majority is doing a lot of odd things. They still have not found their base. Or, perhaps, they have misidentified their base, just as the Democrats have done  over the last 10 years.

This is just the current version of pandering to the yellow-dog partisan.  Usually, it’s in reference to a “yellow-dog Democrat,” who will vote for the party’s nominee automatically.  But in truth, the Republicans have every bit as much party loyalty as Democrats. They just disguise the fact by voting in each separate race – for the Republicans, naturally – than voting a straight ticket.  At least a lot of Democrats have conceded that they trust the party more than themselves.

By the West Virginia Constitution, we have "A . . . right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State . . ."

Self-defense is a natural right of mankind. The Devil is in the details. Even after the bill passes, you won't be able to carry a rocket launcher for home defense. Few intelligent people have any doubt about the right - and wisdom - of self-defense.

Free speech is a natural right of mankind. That doesn't stop some governments from banning speech which they don't like, but sedition laws do not destroy the right. It's "only " wrongfully restricted.

The same applies to religion.  Handle snakes, keep non-Muslims out of Mecca or declare that there is no God.  Constitutionally, it’s all the same to me.  If you want me to give you my version of religion, just ask me.  If you don't, then don't ask me.  What could be easier?  The headache comes when others demand that you believe as they do, whether you want to or not.

The right to travel freely is another natural right of mankind. Contrary to what the DMV says, a driver’s license is a right, not a privilege. To exercise the right, you have to show minimal competency – training.  And you can choose to do certain bad things which will restrict that right.

So what tentative lessons might we draw from this?

A – Don't harm others with speech. That's easily accomplished - Do not cry “Fire” in a crowded theater.  Be advised, however, that in some parts of the world, you might get a fatwa slapped on you anyway.  

B - Keep your snakes inside. Don't push a particular religious viewpoint as a requirement to participate in government. (Of course this is under attack.  Did you think that everyone is rational?)

C - If you drive a motor vehicle, stay on the right side of the road.  A driver"s license says that you have at least heard about the rule and that you didn't mess up when you had the driving test.  It's annoying to go to the DMV.  But you have to put up with just a little to live in an organized society.

What the current system of conceal weapons permits does is require that someone actually demonstrate how to handle a gun.  (Actually, the training takes considerably less time that learning to drive a car.)  But you have had training. (I don’t think that the current training requirement is anything like enough.  But it’s something.)  

If you haven't learned to drive, you may cause an
accident. If you handle weapons ineptly, this is the chance you take: Unexpectedly, a dense piece of metal will be accelerated to somewhere near the sound barrier and head off in who-knows-what direction.  

With the change, more people will carry firearms.  I doubt it if it's as many as the anti-gun crowd thinks, but I could be wrong.  Those additional people will included folks who don't know to stay on the right side of the roadway and who are clueless about the safe handling of weapons.  In a year or two of the new way of doing things, you’ll be able to separate the know’s versus the beat’s-me’s.  The beat's-me will have dirty weapons (because they can't take them apart), stick a gun in a waistband but not with a holster and do other stupid things.

When this passes – and it will – No. 3 Equity Court will be posted, "No guns allowed.”  I do not consider that people who carry under the rules currently existing are much of a threat.  And anyway, a sign won’t stop anyone intent on harm.  But I’m not having some fumble-fingered idiot packing a weapon into my office.  

Also, greater part of people who own or lease building are going to post their buildings “No guns allowed.”  A weapon left in your car does not protect anybody, but neither will some projectile which come out of it accidentally.  I conclude that an untrained idiot is more of a danger than a bad guy.  Sad, isn’t it?

And we’re back to the fact that the Republican Party has not recognized its base. The extreme right is not a base, anymore than the extreme left is a base to the Democrats.  (One reason that the Republicans are in control of the Legislature is that the Democrats forgot that lesson more than the Republicans did.)  Your base has to be the moderates.  These are the people who are able to apply some thought to what is reasonable and what is not a reasonable trade-off for living in an organized organized society. How much is that? The Devil is in the details.

Note to my friends in the Legislature:  Vain, self-righteous and not-particularly bright?  I wasn't referring to you.  And I didn't include any mention of your ability to successfully hide your own Easter eggs.

01 March 2015

Only Crazy Voters Need Apply; or, The Disappearing Moderate

“The silliness has started.” People have been saying that about the ever-earlier start of the presidential sweepstakes.  I dimly, dimly remember my father complaining about that it the 1956 campaign.

It’s not silly any more.  We can’t make light of it.  In 2016,  Americans voters (well, the 50% who vote) may have a choice that will - and should - be scaring the hell out of them.

I don’t intend this post to be partisan.   Few people seem to know it, but we’ve gotten beyond what good things partisanship ever did.  I am a Democrat.  I have been for 30 years. From my standpoint, the Republican party left me. And now that the ideological purists have taken over Democratic policy, the Dems are likewise doing their best to leave me behind.

Once - maybe until the 80's - American political thought was on a more-or-less bell curve.

Image result for bell curve
LEFT                       RIGHT

Most people were “moderates.”  Even with a zero-sum issue (e.g., abortion), there was room to respect that thinking people could come up with a viewpoint not your own.  Discussion was possible.  Usually, you ended up not solving much, but at least there was a modicum of good will remaining.   Even when  the end collusion was simply “We’ve got a hell of a problem,” people agreed that the subject is a problem.

Now, we are headed toward an inverted bell curve.

LEFT                                 RIGHT

Respect has gone out of style.   Compromise is an evil, it’s making a deal with the Devil.  And so, when a party gets a 51% majority, the party thinks “Screw the other 45%. After all, they are wrong.  Screw ‘em. We don’t need them.  Our ideological purity will create a just society."

And then, the 49% look to attract another 2% to come over to the Dark Side.   And once enough come, suddenly the sun rises and the new-51% can return purity to America.

The physical world provides a simple example. Nothing is  the physical world is flawless.  Nothing - no product, no procedure, no design, no execution.  “Perfect Circle” brand piston rings are not perfect circles.  Maybe they are accurate to a tolerance of 0.01 mm, but they aren’t perfect.    One can try to make something “more perfect” by using either a positive or negative approach.  The positive is more incremental.  The negative is quicker.  But the catch: A system which uses negative feedback for control is liable to oscillate wildly.

Hmmm - This post does not have any pizzazz.  I’ve intentionally not gotten ‘round to citing examples that you can be appropriately shocked and dismayed. I suppose this is some sort of management theory, and it’s DULL.  

I do wish that reality were more fun.

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin presents himself as a tough-guy. So do those who want him to succeed for their own reasons.   We like tough-guys.  Clint Eastwood.  Outlaw motorcycle clubs. Jack Reacher.  

Walker is well known for having stared down and broken some unions in Wisconsin.  He says he’s ready for the presidency.  I doubt whether Gov. Walker has ever really encountered mujahideen.   But he says he’s ready for ‘em.  After all, he has stared down a UNION.  (I do not know whether he is aware of the difference between Shia and Sunni, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it.)  He has said specifically that experience qualified him to battle ISIS: 

“If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe.”

I don’t even know how make a joke about this moronic bushwah.  I hope that he was drunk.

Oh, my, in my mind I can hear someone saying that there a really no differences between a union full of pissed off people and dangerous nutcases, and how dare he, yadda, yadda, yadda.

It is soooo easy to fine a Democratic equivalent.   The president doesn’t like guns.  (He makes an exception for the Secret Service - as long a they make curfew - and the Army.)  No doubt, he agrees with the position taken by Chicago in the Supreme Court case of McCormick v. Chicago:

"These concerns have particular force with respect to the Second Amendment. It is the only Bill of Rights provision that confers a substantive right to possess a specific, highly dangerous physical item— an item designed to kill or inflict serious injury on people. And there may well be a wider range of opinion on the basic issue whether and how to regulate firearms than on any other enumerated right. Some believe that, subject only to limited regulation, permitting easy and widespread gun ownership may reduce the overall level of gun violence; others believe that, under at least some conditions, stringent regulation of the possession of handguns (and other firearms) is necessary to reduce the level of gun violence, injury, and death. The genius of our federal system ordinarily leaves this type of social problem to be worked out by state and local governments, without a nationally imposed solution excluding one choice or the other."

They lost.

Look, Congress is going to do NOTHING.  That’s good, that’s bad, who cares, yadda, yadda, yadda. But the president is still really mad about “assault  rifles” especially.  

(An “assault rifle” primer: It is black, has lots of sharp angles, and just looks really nasty. But the same receiver – that’s the guts of the weapon – it is put in all sorts of non–assault configurations.   Apparently, it DOES make a difference whether it’s po-TAY-to or po-TAH-to.”)

What’s the administration to do because it loves America?  OK, “Screw ‘em.  We’ll ban the bullets."

(I got $10 that says some people in favor will nevertheless take a long position in bullets and make a minor killing.)

Now, it matters not a bit to me what you think of an “assault rifle.” If you have one, that’s nice, if you wouldn’t let them in your house, that’s just fine, or you can even join me in concluding that they are boring.   (I don’t own one. Boring.)

But the chutzpah of a bullet ban! Talk about telling five Justices of the Supreme Court to piss off!  Maybe this is an abuse of the Constitution.  Maybe it’s an executive exercising creative control.  Think Lincoln.  But there’s no doubt it’s a message to the other side, “Screw you.  I have the power.”  (Maybe the attorney general adds a “Nyah, nyah, nyah.”)  

There is NO WAY that anybody who actually matters supports LBJ’s favorite quote from the Book of Isaiah: “Come now, and let us reason together.”  Isaiah, 1:18.

When is when case is the last time you have known politicians to wonder aloud whether their opinions were right?   Speaker Boehner is now afraid of a coup - he’s not conservative enough.  This is pure science fiction.

West Virginia has almost passed a universal concealed weapon proposal.  We see next week.  Talk about a dumb idea.  Screw the Second Amendment. Students are prohibited from wearing something with an American flag on it for fear of offending non-Americans.  Screw the First Amendment. If a state prosecution does not succeed, bring federal charges. Screw the Fifth Amendment. (It’s done all the time – it’s legal.)  Permit criminals to escape on a “technicality” or on the other hand, come up with some bizarre exception to the warrant requirement.   Either way, screw the Fourth Amendment.

If only someone would think of how to house troops in a  citizen’s home during peacetime.  Then we’d be 5-0 for the first five amendments.

But still,  most adults who read stuff like the few examples cited totally miss the point.  After all, what we do is OK; What they do is evil.

And the result?  A country with multiple personality disorder.

Maybe it’s too late to “Come now, and let us reason together.“