Destroying the middle ground, redux

A few weeks ago I blogged an alternate-history story in which the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was abused and distorted in the same ways the Second Amendment has been in our history. The actual point of the essay, though, was not about either amendment; it was about how strategic deception by one side of a foundational political dispute can radicalize the other and effectively destroy the credibility of moderates as well.

Now comes the news that the head of the Department of Homeland Security officially thanked the Governor of Missuri for violating state law by illegally passing to the DHS Missouri’s list of concealed-carry permit holders. The Governor then lied about his actions.

The Feds, meanwhile, continue to illegally retain transfer records from federally licensed firearms dealers past the statutory time limit, among several other continuing violations of a 1986 law forbidding the establishment of a national gun registry.

The BATF also criminally violated its authorizing laws by transferring over 2000 firearms to Mexican drug gangs through illegal straw purchases (google “ATF gunwalking scandal”). Over 150 Mexican citizens and United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry were killed with these guns.

Meanwhile, following scandals about “drop guns” at the sites of police shootings, some big-city police forces (notably in LA and NYC) are strongly suspected of routinely using planted guns to frame suspects they can’t otherwise nail on firearms-possession charges.

Any trust that “gun control” will be administered with even minimal respect for civil rights is long gone, destroyed by the behavior of the enforcers themselves.

This is yet another way to destroy the middle. Anti-firearms activists speak of “common-sense regulation”, knowing that the agencies enforcing these have engaged in a series of criminal conspiracies to evade and ignore safeguards against abuse of such regulations. By doing so, they annihilate any trust firearms owners might have once felt that “common-sense regulation” is anything other than a prequel to those abuses.

In the absence of trust there can be no compromise. This is how you radicalize gun owners into the Second-Amendment absolutists most of us are today. After four decades of bad faith the only position left to us is “No more ‘gun-control’ laws. Ever.”

264 thoughts on “Destroying the middle ground, redux

  1. I predict that none of the usual suspects here are willing to really address this, because people can’t be trusted with guns is their motto…ignoring all evidence that cops and government workers are people too.

  2. How radical is the pro-gun side, really? To at least some extent the pro-gun side only looks radical because the other side is so extreme. A social conservative type who would prefer to see porn restricted or even banned is not all that much of a freedom-of-the-press supporter – but he might be part of a FOTP coalition (and be painted as a FOTP “extremist”) in an alternate reality where the opposition was out to ban literacy entirely.

    I wouldn’t call people “Second-Amendment absolutists” unless they wanted to dump, e.g., the laws against felons buying and owning guns. Someone who has a custodian or legal guardian over them (e.g a minor child) might need to get permission to buy a gun, but other than that there should be no class of “prohibited persons.” Since the NRA, and most NRA members, do support the felon-in-possession laws, they are not really Second-Amendment absolutists.

  3. Not only no more new laws but I hope we can overturn a few big federal laws. The tax and registration for sound suppressors is juvenile behavior.

    • >Not only no more new laws but I hope we can overturn a few big federal laws. The tax and registration for sound suppressors is juvenile behavior.

      Oh hell yeah. Hundreds of thousands of people have hearing loss because of that idiocy.

  4. Missouri CCW holder here; in that particular article Dana Loesch gets some important details wrong in what are two not technically connected scandals:

    Very recently, the Missouri Department of Revenue (DoR), without any notice and in direct violation of our anti-Real ID law, started scanning and keeping all documents submitted to get a driver’s or “Nondriver License” (it’s really called that). That’s what
    Janet Napolitano was thanking Governor Nixon for. They’re also having the making of the licenses done by an out of state company (again, all this happened without any rulemaking or other notice; don’t know how much sensitive info they get).

    Missouri follows the common pattern of a locality processing CCW license applications (sheriff), but unusually then hands off the actual physical licence making to the DoR, which issues one of the two licenses with a “CCW endorsement”. (For a variety of reasons, especially since the current driver’s and CCW license renewal schedules don’t match up (5 vs. 3 years), almost everyone gets a much cheaper Nondriver License to bear their CCW endorsement).

    These two came together when someone in Stoddard County refused to let the DoR scan and keep that copy of his CCW “certificate” (not really a big deal, a slip of paper from the sheriff’s office that’s good for a few days to submit to the DoR to get your physical license). And filed a lawsuit, which contrary to what Nixon said has not been dismissed.

    At this point the state executive started stonewalling on everything—that “dismissal” was based on misrepresentations and is going to be reconsidered—and got the attention of the Republican supermajorities that control our legislature. Including the Senate Appropriations Chairman, very much someone you don’t want to piss off.

    And in all the judicial? and legislative “discovery” and following hearings, it was slowly discovered and finally admitted to by all the major actors involved or their bosses that, also in direct violation of the law, the DoR through the Highway Patrol gave a copy of the entire list of 160,000+ CCW licensees to a Social Security Inspector General office investigator. Who wanted to go on a criminal investigation fishing expedition matching those people with ones who’d gotten mental disability, in the theory the two were incompatible. They of course aren’t necessarily, the Missouri mental illness disbarments for CCW licensing are the usual high ones vs. simply being unable to work.

    For more fun, the list was delivered at least two times, first time “jumbled”, second time “unreadable”, even though it was an Excel spreadsheet with the password included in an enclosure in the USPS package as well as emailed in the clear. And the IG investigator went through the notorious Missouri “fusion center” which you might recall from their issuing a report saying those with Ron Paul bumper stickers were potential terrorists—and one of those guys sexed up the request by saying the ATF was also interested.

    The legislators are not taking well to being told by the Democrats running the executive what the former thought they made illegal (e.g. CCW records are entered into our MULES law enforcement database, which presumably restricts massive fishing expeditions, but otherwise are “closed records” (legal words of art) and “confidential” with a serious misdemeanor penalty for violating the latter). Somehow our Democratic AG is not interested in these cases, despite their potential to spike the political career of our term limited governor, who’s only actions so far have been to accept the resignation of his DoR director (a very underreported event) and to have the DoR stop scanning the CCW piece of paper, which as I mentioned above is virtually a nothingburger which goes “poof” in a few days.

    And “it’s not the crime, but the coverup”, e.g. with our suitably named Governor Nixon was insisting nothing had happened on the very day his corrupt superintendent of the Highway Patrol admitted his organization’s role in these data dumps. Nixon had an NRA F rating when elected (was very much against CCW to begin with), I think it’s up to something like C- now due to his signing pro-RKBA legislation. A lot more of which will be presented to him due to all this, not that it should matter if he vetoes it or not. Missouri is following most states in loosening restrictions after Newton, albeit now spurred by these two messes.

  5. OK I’m a Democratic and a moderate on gun control. I agree the Dems that are pushing for gun control want a lot more than they are saying. I agree that many of the bills could be used for expansion and harassment of gun owners. The NRA / GOA have legitimate gripes with previous gun policies and their intent.

    But ultimately we have one government and one set of laws. Like it, dislike it, hate or or not a compromise has to arise. I agree with Eric that there is a faction that doesn’t want any more gun laws but because of the shifts in voting patters that faction is mainly no longer bipartisan, it is partisan republican and / or in red states to a huge extent. Which means in general elections most of their votes don’t really matter much for Democrats. They spent their capital for general elections, though they can have impact in Republican primaries.

    The faction that is more interesting is suburban anti-tax women who are anti-gun. They are strongly pro-gun control but it is a low priority issue for them. Things like school shootings move it up their priority list. The question is: is there a substantial percentage of that group of voters that would be willing to switch over to Democrats given the heightened level of attention? No one is really sure. Maybe, maybe not.

    If the answer is yes, we are going to have a lot more gun control because Democrats are going to run on this issue in purple suburban districts and win on this issue unless Republicans move on this issue. If the answer is no, then Democrats are going to use it as a way to raise money from suburban voters and urban voters but mainly it won’t matter until some new group shifts. And then there are the in-between answers which make things exciting. LIke maybe gun control plays well in NH and plays terribly in Colorado.

    What I would like is a a strong registry but have the NRA administer it including the one time ability to destroy it. I trust the NRA to use it responsibly and I think most gun advocates would too.

  6. CD-Host: What, exactly, would this registry accomplish?

    Be specific. E.g. such and so crime has occurred, then [fill in the blank].

    I’m not aware of anything besides providing a list of people to seize guns from (with horrific consequences when listed guns can’t be produced), unless of course you’re also including nationwide licensing of gun owners, which has similar problems plus notorious abuses in states and localities where it’s currently done and no observed benefits.

  7. The real scandal is that the federal government first requested the list in November 2011, and yet somehow that letter was written in March of 2010. Janet knows how to time travel! Also, she cleverly disguised her praise about the gun permit list disclosure by praising Missouri’s compliance to another issue.

  8. Pingback: Another in the List of Thousands of Reasons Why the Only Response to Calls for more “Gun Control Laws” is “NO.” | Taxes, Stupidity, and Death

  9. CD-Host: What, exactly, would this registry accomplish?
    Be specific. E.g. such and so crime has occurred, then [fill in the blank].

    I’m not an expert on guns I was responding to Rick’s comment about none of the moderates willing to step forward. My understanding is that bullets can be matched to rifle barrels and these have unique characteristics. So for example knowing what gun was used in shootings would be facilitated by a quality registry. The NRA could be receiving lists from police departments and indicating the gun it came from. At that point this creates reasonable cause for a search warrant.

    The same thing we do with other databases that law enforcement uses.

  10. Kirk: Indeed. But since it pertains to the original and still very active scandal, Nixon and company have e.g. insisted it’s a form letter she sent to a bunch of governors and has no relevance to his administration’s now admitted violations of our anti-Real ID law … which he signed.

    Of course, he’s insisting they aren’t violations, but as I’ve noted, it not wise to get in an argument with the legislature over what they thought they made illegal.

  11. CD-Host: your understanding is largely incorrect, and as far as I can remember it has been tried and abandoned in a few places in the US, most recently in D.C. after Heller forced them to start licensing guns again.

    You can sometimes tell very rought details from a bullet, like … S&W revolvers use a rifling twist that some others don’t, and some use polygonal vs. raised/cut rifling. But that just narrows down the list to 100s of thousands to millions of firearms. Otherwise, the government has to get a sample fired bullet, put it in a database, and:

    Hope they get enough additional info, since automatic matching doesn’t, last time I checked, work.

    Hope the barrel hasn’t had enough wear that the marks change too much for matching. And of course changing your barrel without submitting a new sample would have to be illegal.

    Hope the barrel hasn’t been deliberately scoured to prevent a match. And making that illegal would affect target shooters who polish their new barrels for greater accuracy.

    Hope the gun wasn’t stolen or otherwise diverted into the black market. That’s where every one of these registration schemes fails hard, the authorities do a trace and it almost always comes to a dead end. Not that doing traces on recovered guns all that common, that doesn’t come up all that often, either there’s no doubt who owns the weapon or it is not recovered in the first place.

    So, in practice, what you’re asking for doesn’t work in the real world. Which highlights a problem that irks us to no end, people not familiar with the field (the above does not need expertise, just a bit of research) promoting schemes which won’t work, but which will turn a lot of otherwise law abiding gun owners, not having mens rea (a guilty mind) into criminals. Michael Bane calls the “flypaper laws”, they’re designed to cut our numbers through unreasonable legal threats.

    You may be of good will, but the people you’re getting your information from most certainly aren’t.

  12. @CD-Host: “But ultimately we have one government and one set of laws.”

    Just a quick correction. This is absolutely not true, and trivial to show. The country was set up with, at a bare minimum, TWO sets in any given place: the state government and the federal one. The latter, of course, was intended to have minimal intrusion into the daily lives of the citizenry, but the ENTIRE POINT of having states be independent political units was to allow different sets of laws in different places.

  13. @Deep Lurker: “I wouldn’t call people “Second-Amendment absolutists” unless they wanted to dump, e.g., the laws against felons buying and owning guns.”

    I don’t own a wookie suit, but in theory once a man’s done his time, he’s rehabilitated. If you don’t think a person should be able to vote, to own a gun, that’s it’s OK to effectively bar him from most jobs and even living in many places, then you probably shouldn’t have let him out of jail.

    Given the level of recidivism I would certainly be wary of restoring rights carte blanche to felons without any sort of review but I can understand and sympathize with the position that they should get their rights back at some point.

  14. CD-Host: “Like it, dislike it, hate or or not a compromise has to arise.”

    But you know there have been repeated compromises already, right? The gunnies like to point out that the anti-gunnies have seen the gunnies cake, helped themselves to half of it via “compromise,” then come back later, asked for half the remainder under the guise of “compromise,” and so on. It’s time for the anti-gunners to compromise and give something up: they always talk about licensing guns like we license drivers, so let’s do that: you pass a test and a course, and you get a license that’ll let you carry concealed in all 50 states, with the same restrictions everywhere. That certainly sounds fair, doesn’t it?

    Compromise only works when BOTH sides give up something and both sides gain something, and to date, the anti-gunners have not been willing to give up much, and if they had their way, the gunnies wouldn’t gain much if anything, either. This is exactly what esr means when he talks about loss of trust.

  15. @CD-Host, again (sorry for the multiple replies; next time I’ll try to not hit each point separately like this): “I’m not an expert on guns I was responding to Rick’s comment about none of the moderates willing to step forward. ”

    Moderates? The people I’m talking about aren’t really moderates, they’re the ones who–although they may not publicly admit it–want to totally disarm the (non-LEO) civilian population. Like Mrs. (Sorry, “call me Senator”) Boxer of “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in” infamy. Someone like her doesn’t live in the America the Founders built.

  16. @Harold —

    I was talking about multiple sample bullets. So yes. In terms of wear and stuff like that it doesn’t mostly apply to guns used for criminal purposes. Many of those guns are rarely if ever fired.

    As far as barrels and self modifying guns. That may not present a problem as long as it is illegal to sell someone a new barrel or change barrels for anyone else. A registry is worthless against gun experts but most gun criminals aren’t. So I’d assume you just retest the barrel after scouring. Target shooters could just scour and mail in a few bullets.

    Hope the gun wasn’t stolen or otherwise diverted into the black market. That’s where every one of these registration schemes fails hard, the authorities do a trace and it almost always comes to a dead end

    How is that not useful? If you have information on sources of guns, through the theft system and then criminals who get picked up with them you have both ends of the illegal market. That makes getting busts for illegal sellers much easier. The guy with the guns is looking at either turning in his dealer or pleading to multiple counts of burglary.
    _____

    My car is registered. So is everyone else’s in New Jersey. This registry is really useful for ticketing system in the state. It is really useful for reconstructing traffic accidents. It is not perfect but useful is a much lower bar than perfect.

  17. As far as barrels and self modifying guns. That may not present a problem as long as it is illegal to sell someone a new barrel or change barrels for anyone else.

    Ah! The usual refrain of statists, when the first attempts at control don’t work the answer is quite naturaly…

    MOAR CONTROLXORZ!!!11ONE!!!!

    Excuse me please, I have to go throw up in the toilet

    — Foo Quuxman

  18. @Rick C

    But you know there have been repeated compromises already, right? The gunnies like to point out that the anti-gunnies have seen the gunnies cake, helped themselves to half of it via “compromise,” then come back later, asked for half the remainder under the guise of “compromise,” and so on. It’s time for the anti-gunners to compromise and give something up: they always talk about licensing guns like we license drivers, so let’s do that: you pass a test and a course, and you get a license that’ll let you carry concealed in all 50 states, with the same restrictions everywhere. That certainly sounds fair, doesn’t it?

    Yes it does sound fair. 50 state concealed carry permit sounds very fair. As do federal restrictions on onerous transport laws in some states (like mine). As do the right to transport your gun across state lines. As does mail order for ammo. As do time restrictions for background checks so that checks can’t be used as an indirect way to block purchases. Also a maximum of one background check per 2 years that apply to all gun sales, so that repeated checks aren’t used as a form of harassment. As do strong rights of appeals for people denied. As do laws loosening restrictions on knives, axes, …. And frankly some of the new laws like the Conn. one on high capacity magazines seem to low to me. I know of handguns with over 10 rounds.

    Yes, I think the gun control people have room to compromise as well. I think pro-gun people could get their concerns addressed in a serious compromise bill. Make it the law that all guns must be sold with a trigger lock. Include something like tracking on the lock, so the gun reports on its position every 30 seconds and you could probably get tons of other stuff from your wish list in exchange.

    I don’t think this is specific to guns. There is a lack of trading in general in our government.

  19. CD-Host: At this point, I don’t think there’s anything left to discuss with you except to ask, “When was the last time the gun grabbers offered us anything in return for more restrictions?”

    “Tons of stuff”??? Keeping this in US gun terms, I don’t remember them offering grains. We presume that’s because, as they all too often for their cause let us know, their goal is total civilian disarmament.

    Convince us that Schumer is willing to engage in real compromise and maybe you’ll get a hearing from us (I think he’s the most prominent and least crazy (e.g. not DiFi) of the national level gun grabbers).

  20. Make it the law that all guns must be sold with a trigger lock. Include something like tracking on the lock, so the gun reports on its position every 30 seconds and you could probably get tons of other stuff from your wish list in exchange.

    Are you nuts? Wait don’t answer that, that is far worse than your earlier idea. I might consider it if we can also put ankle bracelet trackers on everyone who supports the idea.

    Oh well, we get people like you on #mises every other day, your type is fun to laugh at.

    — Foo Quuxman

  21. @Harold

    their goal is total civilian disarmament.

    That may be true of the activists on the gun control side. It certainly is true of sum of them. But there is nothing unusual about that. That’s the norm on most issues that you have a hard core group on either sides. Moderates that lean towards one side or the other and then true centrists. That’s what any issue should look like.

    So say from left to right:
    A = hard right
    B = mod right
    C = center
    D = mod left
    E = hard left

    The goal of D is to get E to work with them and not pursue their own policies. The goal of B is to get A to work with them. In the best case that works then B & D strike a compromise and C signs on to it. That doesn’t mean the A’s and the E’s don’t want more extreme solutions but their job to get them they have to be in a situation where either A+B is a majority or D+E is a majority on the issue. Otherwise when A/E are the face of the issue the C’s will move to other side against them.

    Right now nothing close to total civilian disarmament is being discussed. Mostly what is under discussion is fairly symbolic legislation which doesn’t do much.

    Convince us that Schumer is willing to engage in real compromise and maybe you’ll get a hearing from us

    The Republicans don’t need a hearing. All they need to do is write a bill with gun restrictions plus fixes and I’m fairly sure it flies through the Senate.

  22. @esr –

    Typo warning:

    officially thanked the Governor ofmissing state name for violating state law by illegally passing

    When you fix that, you may delete this comment.

  23. CD-Host: “The Republicans don’t need a hearing. All they need to do is write a bill with gun restrictions plus fixes and I’m fairly sure it flies through the Senate.”

    Of course it does! That’s because the Democrats will happy say “Glad you’ve seen the light on those nasty eeeeevil guns! We’ll pass this and come back for far more! What, you don’t want to give us more? We’ll keep trying and demonizing you and getting you to give us more, and more, and more, until we have what we really want, total civilian disarmament!”

  24. This is how you radicalize gun owners into the Second-Amendment absolutists most of us are today. After four decades of bad faith the only position left to us is “No more ‘gun-control’ laws. Ever.”

    So your opinion is that the answer to extremism is more extremism in the other direction. So the answer to radicalized muslim jihadis is radicalized christian crusaders…after decades of bad faith we should just say screw it and nuke Mecca. After all the credibility of Muslim moderates is shot…

    /shrug

    It’s counterproductive in terms of winning moderates over to your position. I think the econuts finally learned that lesson, Whale Wars/SeaShepards notwithstanding (and that’s just a money grab + power trip as near as I can tell but it’s funny as hell to watch…despite being for whales I’m always rooting for the Japanese).

    Right now the NRA and gun owners appear to be the radicals and not your evil “gun grabbers” exactly because of that no compromise position. That probably means they are winning the message battle despite recent legislative setbacks.

    There are probably a lot of moderates going “Wait, what’s wrong with background checks? I thought we didn’t want criminals and crazies owning guns”.

  25. So your opinion is that the answer to extremism is more extremism in the other direction. So the answer to radicalized muslim jihadis is radicalized christian crusaders…after decades of bad faith we should just say screw it and nuke Mecca. After all the credibility of Muslim moderates is shot…

    I think the point is that, the only possible reaction to such large scale, blatant, and *successful* mendacity that isn’t immediate suicide, is extremism. Well, if you’re willing to call “steadfastly refusing to negotiate away civil rights” to bad-faith actors ‘extremism’.

    That such deliberate dishonesty poisons the civil debate, and that those who haven’t bought in to the lies *must* stand their ground while the truth is slowly reintroduced and the lies countered, bit by bit. The latter process would be easier if our media weren’t themselves, on the whole, invested in the lies.

  26. Nigel, tell me exactly how, as one who believes the Second Amendment mean exactly what it says about “shall not be infringed”, I can distinguish between a gun grabber who’s advancing a moderate-sounding proposal as a stepping stone from a moderate who’s advancing the same proposal as the only thing he wants.

    We cannot afford to get this wrong.

  27. @Jay

    Of course it [flies through the Senate]! That’s because the Democrats will happy say “Glad you’ve seen the light on those nasty eeeeevil guns! We’ll pass this and come back for far more! What, you don’t want to give us more? We’ll keep trying and demonizing you and getting you to give us more, and more, and more, until we have what we really want, total civilian disarmament!”

    That’s the legislative process. You make a deal for today and work out a compromise. Then both sides come back to the well and try for more if they can get the numbers. But through legislative compromise you isolate the people who want total civilian disarmament from the moderates. They way they can’t even get their legislation out of committee. There are tens of thousands of bills the left most 20% of the United States would love to pass if they had 50%+1 and not 20% of the votes. So what?

  28. This kind of bull is why no one should cooperate with a gun registry or database. It will inevitably fall prey to these kind of abuses.

    I remember a story not too many months ago about a newspaper outing a gun registry. They helpfully listed who had a gun and who did not in their particular town. Just the thing a burglar would want to know right?

    Nigel says: So your opinion is that the answer to extremism is more extremism in the other direction.
    No Nigel the answer to people who are not being honest is to want to have doing nothing to do with what they advocate.

    And piss on winning over “moderates” to our position, they can figure it out on their own.
    I can’t understand why weakening the second amendment is “moderate”, while wanting to stick by it is extreme.

    The true radicals are the gun grabbers. Their politics are unamerican.

  29. As for prohibiting felons from owning firearms – I would be more likely to support it if a felony meant anything any more. In an age when the average middle class American commits three felonies a day without realizing, I do not support automatic restrictions for felons.

    Felons guilty of serious violent crimes or theft, sure. Others, no.

  30. Nigel, tell me exactly how, as one who believes the Second Amendment mean exactly what it says about “shall not be infringed”, I can distinguish between a gun grabber who’s advancing a moderate-sounding proposal as a stepping stone from a moderate who’s advancing the same proposal as the only thing he wants.

    We cannot afford to get this wrong.

    I think that Heller (2008) and McDonald (2010) rulings by SCOTUS indicates to me that the odds of getting it wrong is minimal and if we get it wrong SCOTUS will rule any such law unconstitutional.

    I think most Americans are both pro-gun and pro-gun control. As in gun ownership is a good thing just like car ownership is a good thing. But likewise a certain amount of regulation and verification of skill is also a good thing.

  31. Nigel: You should look closer at those decisions; 9 out of 9 of the Supremes agreed it was an individual right, but the usual suspects say that right doesn’t mean anything useful. And their last RKBA action was to deny cert to the appeal on New York’s capricious may issue concealed carry laws, i.e. we may have a right to keep arms, forget about the bearing of them. In a case the reverse of that one, they just granted Illinois extra time to file an appeal of a decision that will strike down the Illinois no carry law on June 9th.

    I hope I don’t have to point out what will happen if Obama gets to replace one of the 5 in the majority.

    As for “a certain amount of regulation and verification of skill is also a good thing” we have plenty of the former to little good effect, and any more of the latter is out of the question in the current environment that Eric details.

  32. One of the steps on the road to tyranny in the USA is to foment a goodguy-on-goodguy war in which patriotic gun owners are pitted against dutiful LEOs. This weakens both groups and helps clear a path for the hardcore tyrannists. A foreign war or major conflict also helps get a lot of the goodguys out of the country and out of the way.

  33. @Harold, given I live in a may issue as opposed to a shall issue state I’m moderately well aware. Alas, I think that’s dead in the water but I digress.

    As far as what will happen if Obama gets to replace a justice I think ultimately not a whole lot. The court got more conservative with Roberts but the liberal fears of Roe vs Wade being overturned never panned out although some laws like the partial-birth act were upheld that might not have in the past.

    Especially since I expect Ginsburg to be the next to retire. Scalia is likely to simply hang on a few extra years just to see who’s the next president. Kennedy likewise. So they have to die as opposed to retire. Sotomayor and Kagan are considered moderates so any replacement wont be as conservative but still someone that will pass confirmation muster as opposed to far left liberals.

    If anything the court is likely to get more conservative as you trade Ginsburg for someone more toward the middle.

  34. There would be a lot more support for gun rights if we banned blacks, people on welfare, and so on and so forth from possessing guns. Indeed, the prohibition against felons is politically correct approximation to this, since, even though most people commit three felonies a day, the middle class seldom gets charged. The trouble is, of course, that most people rightly suspect that any such restriction is the thin edge of the wedge. We have a pile of laws that everyone quietly intended and expected would only be enforced against blacks, mestizos, and poor whites, but wound up being primarily enforced on middle class whites. Any regulation on guns is going to be applied abusively.

    Another measure that would make guns much more acceptable is a minimum gun quality requirement: They all should have high melting point metal in any components exposed to the blast gases or violent shock, they all should have green dot laser sights and holographic sights, and they all should have silencers that make them, not silent, but not dangerous for hearing – again, a politically correct way of furtively excluding poor people.

    Of course, regulatory capture of regulatory agencies enforcing minimum gun quality is likely, but such capture would not disarm the middle class, while regulatory capture of institutions intended to disarm the poor would likely disarm the middle class.

  35. Nigel: it is unlikely a Republican President will ever be elected again. If the current “immigration reform” proposal is enacted, it will be impossible. (The bill provides citizenship for all the millions of illegal aliens, no real border enforcement so millions more can enter, and pots of money for programs to teach immigrants how to be citizens, administered by left-wing activist groups.)

    So – Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas are all likely to retire or die by 2020. Their replacements will be hard-core lefties, perhaps a bit stealthy. Don’t expect Ginzburg’s replacement (also due soon) to be any less radical. That means a 7-2 left majority on the Court.

    Which means Heller and Macdonald get overturned. The UN crowd has already cooked up an “arms control” convention which is basically gun prohibition. It’s been labeled as
    “human rights” – the “right” to be safe from private militias with military weapons – but is framed to provide essentially total prohibition of private firearms. This convention will be imported into the U.S. through some omnibus treaty vehicle. Then Congress will enact enabling legislation, and the Court will find some rationale to uphold it.

    It won’t be overt prohibition to start with. Instead, liability and other restrictions to choke off manufacturers and retailers. A multitude of disqualifications, any of which can be used to confiscate guns, including ever-more draconian and impractical “safety requirements”.

    By 2024, the battle will be over except for the rear-guard action.

  36. There is no middle ground, there never was. People either believe people aren’t corrupt and corruptable and after power so government is a good thing, the more controlling the better because they are smarter and wiser than you – so speaking out or being able to defend yourself is heresy, or you believe people are corrupt and giving them more power, much less carte blanche to any other human being is a bad idea and even for the few things we need government for (set common rules, courts, common defense) we ned to be ever watchful, as the throne is not unlike the Silver Chair in Narnia that takes over the heart and mind and turns the seated toward evil.

    Remember how the government enforces health care, “fairness”, and your pet utopian ideal – by force, coercion, the same things. We now all need to register for Obamacare and can be denied treatment – are not our bodies more sacred than our guns? No, otherwise we would not have the TSA.

    What is missed is both sides are making a deal with the devil. Give up the other side’s liberty and we will fix things, from terrorism to medicine to the economy to crime. And both sides comply, sounder Bush we got the PATRIOT (kgb-like) Act, and Obama gave us the Affordable Care Act (Forcing people to violate their consciences).

    There is no middle ground because a large number of people who don’t themselves care about guns will sell YOUR 2nd amendment rights, and we have a Supreme Court that takes a living document – dead letter – Humpty Dumpty word meaning approach to the constitution for longer than any of us have been alive, hence the 3 generations of idiots are enough (I agree, but they are sitting on the bench), and “The Butterfly Effect” interpretation of the commerce clause.

    But remember back to each time you thought there ought to be a law, the government should force someone (employers, Bob Jones U, Hospitals, private clubs), because you didn’t value their liberty or thought it misused, that you were and are no different.

    Either Freedom is the first principle and sacrosanct, or we are simply voting on who gets privileges.

  37. James A. Donald (in the middle of a “don’t scare white people” thesis exposition):

    Another measure that would make guns much more acceptable is a minimum gun quality requirement: They all should have high melting point metal in any components exposed to the blast gases or violent shock

    Already done, between the Gun Control Act of 1968 amid the hysteria over “Saturday Night Specials” (guns cheap enough for the poor; this law also banned at least to some degree the importation of inexpensive but generally high quality military surplus, which has since been reversed, not that there is much left after the cold war) and of course the actions of the plaintiff’s bar.

    And yet we don’t see any decrease in the demands of the gun grabbers.

  38. Nigel: it is unlikely a Republican President will ever be elected again. If the current “immigration reform” proposal is enacted, it will be impossible.

    Why? Many immigrants I know are more conservative than liberal.

    The current proposal is being made by the gang of eight which includes republicans and it’s not amnesty but requires background check, payment of fines and back taxes, get only probationary status and have to wait their turn for a green card and is contingent on increased border security.

    /shrug

    If you mean with the current Republican base of white religious social conservatives perhaps. If they continue to double down on zealotry and drive all the moderates into the Democratic camp perhaps.

    If so then we deserve never to win another presidency. Frankly the message has been clear for the last couple decades they they don’t want RINOs (read as fiscally conservative, pro-military, social liberal) like me so mostly I stay mostly out of spite. Mkay. Get used to losing. The white religious right can get Tea Party losers to beat Republican moderates in the primaries all day long and get more and more hammered as the demographics shift accelerates.

    There are hispanic republicans. They simply didn’t listen to them (Martinez, Guttierrz, Rubio, Cruz, etc) to go hardline on immigration. They also didn’t listen to moderate voices on abortion and women issues. The religious right dominated the message even with Romney as the candidate and got hammered by minorities and women.

    I think the same is going to happen with guns. The stance of no compromise and no regulation is going to backfire. That the NRA is mostly older white males isn’t going to help that issue. The number of minorities that attend the NRA convention can essentially be rounded to zero.

    http://www.ammoland.com/2012/04/is-the-national-rifle-association-an-organization-for-black-people/

  39. Lewis: Great, although it’s appalling how long his list of reasons we don’t trust anti-gunners is. For me, wading through it just reminds me of every little bit of this through the last 4 decades, for I became politically aware shortly after the BATF started its jihad against the gun community.

    There are a lot of quotable snippets; I’ll just close with his closing, which is in the context of how, this being impossible to otherwise resolve, it could well end in a hot civil war; I note it already is a cold civil war, with plenty of casualties:

    […] to my fellow citizens who are anti-gun I say: So long as you deny our humanity, so long as you malign our dignity, intelligence and wisdom, so long as you seek to shade us under a cloud of evil that we do not partake in or support, so long as you tell us that because we own guns we are terrible people, you will prove yourselves absolutely right in that we won’t come to the table to talk with you.

    And there will be no hope for resolution but through victory by force initiated by one side or the other, God help us, for we will not plow for those who didn’t beat their swords into plowshares.

  40. Not to beat a dead dog, but gun control legislation isn’t about gun control. That’s just a memetic device which makes power aggrandizement more palatable. The game of thrones is serious business and no wannabe tyrant is going to take on an armed citizenry if they can avoid it.

  41. “I think the same is going to happen with guns. The stance of no compromise and no regulation is going to backfire.”

    Dream on, Nigel. Gun control is what backfires.

    And speaking of your dreams: ” That the NRA is mostly older white males isn’t going to help that issue. The number of minorities that attend the NRA convention can essentially be rounded to zero.”
    Possibly, thought that’s giving them short shrift indeed. But, Nigel, what about the number of *women?* are you rounding us to zero, too? There are enough women among the 5 million NRA members that we even have our very own special magazine. (Me, I’m not so much on the pink guns, so I take American Rifleman instead.) And we vote, Nigel. Oh, how avidly we vote.

    The way I see it, the SoCons can’t implement very much of their agenda and what they do get is generally easier to get around, while the leftie antigunners tend to be mostly talk on social issues but their gun laws get people killed or imprisoned over a quarter-inch of barrel length or single hollowpoint round (in MA, I’d commit a felony by having a spent brass casing from a .22 stuck in the tread of my sandals!); so I’ll vote for a pro-gun SoCon a lot faster than an antigunner who talks nice about staying out of people’s private lives. Both parties suck out loud on 4th Amendment issues and aren’t terribly good about the First, either. The Right talks a better game than the Left about taxes and overbearing government but in practice, there’s not more than a penny on the dollar difference between them.

    What issue does that leave to decide on? Guns.

  42. Nigel on Sunday, May 5 2013 at 10:00 am said:
    The current proposal is being made by the gang of eight which includes republicans and it’s not amnesty but requires background check, payment of fines and back taxes, get only probationary status and have to wait their turn for a green card and is contingent on increased border security.

    It’s been well documented that all of these nice-sounding provisions are riddled with loopholes that render them ineffective. The bill even includes provisions to undermine existing immigration controls such as E-Verify. The “border security” security provisions are promises, which if not carried out trigger other promises, which if not carried out trigger other promises… while the amnesty provisions take effect immediately.

    Yes, there are some recent immigrants who are conservative and even Republican. It’s not surprising that you’ve met some of them – I’d bet that your personal acquaintances, neighbors, and co-workers are overwhelmingly upper-quartile in education and income. How many food service workers, landscapers, fruit and vegetable harvesters, junk pickers, and welfare clients do you know? How many people do you know with bastard children, street gang tattoos, and relatives in prison?

    The myth of the hard-working, religiously devout, entrepreneurial immigrant is very strong. But it’s a myth. The majority of recent immigrants are poorly assimilated, and the fail rate is going up, Furthermore, in some groups, the second-, third-, and later-generation cohorts are worse in every measure of socialization than their forebears – crime, education, illegitimacy, welfare. Are there success stories? A few. But a small minority. And many of the “successful” immigrants “succeed” through government patronage, mediated by “community organizations” affiliated to the Democrats (and often funded by government).

    This will only get worse with the increased mass immigration scheme embodied in “immigration reform”. Large numbers of new “low-information voters”, shepherded by left-wing professional “organizers” and isolated from any contradictory ideas or information by the complicit mass media. Millions more reliable Democrat voters, more than enough to ensure Democrat wins into the forseeable future – especially after the left gains control of the Supreme Court, and enacts “hate speech” laws, “responsible journalism” laws, “campaign finance” laws, “equal time” rules, and so on.

  43. CD-Host, you keep talking about compromise, without seeming to realize that the grabbers mean “the next step towards total confiscation” and as soon as the ink is dry on one “compromise” they’re looking for the next “compromise.” Go back and read the story Foo Quuxman linked (btw, thanks, Foo, for finding that, it was exactly what I was thinking of.)

    And you’re doing it too. We’ve already compromised away a huge amount, and here you are wanting more.

  44. “I think that Heller (2008) and McDonald (2010) rulings by SCOTUS indicates to me that the odds of getting it wrong is minimal”

    Wake me up when Dred Scott is reversed, or Miller, or Willard vs Filburn, or Kelo. I think we have ample, and more than ample, proof that it’s easy to get things wrong.

  45. “As for “a certain amount of regulation and verification of skill is also a good thing” we have plenty of the former to little good effect, and any more of the latter is out of the question in the current environment that Eric details.”

    Indeed. How about a little verification of skills of the police (with reference most recently to the Dorner case and the one in NYC where the cops shot up 7 or 8 people missing a single guy with a gun.)

  46. “Why? Many immigrants I know are more conservative than liberal.”

    Just how many illegal immigrants do you know?

  47. > I wouldn’t call people “Second-Amendment absolutists” unless they wanted to dump, e.g., the
    > laws against felons buying and owning guns.

    Well, count me an absolutist then. If someone has committed a crime, been sentenced, served that sentence, and released … what justification do you have for curtailing their liberty?

  48. @Rick C

    CD-Host, you keep talking about compromise, without seeming to realize that the grabbers mean “the next step towards total confiscation” and as soon as the ink is dry on one “compromise” they’re looking for the next “compromise.”

    Yes they will. And either at some point those requests will have little support among the broader population and not be able to get out of committee or they will gradually progress. I think there’s pretty good evidence that the American people are moderate on this issue and while the “grabbers” might want to keep moving on the broader public doesn’t. They want something in the middle.

    Go back and read the story Foo Quuxman linked (btw, thanks, Foo, for finding that, it was exactly what I was thinking of.)

    1968 was a year of increasing regulation. The compromise was between what the most anti-gun people wanted in ’68 and what the pro gun people wanted. There was no compromise between ’67 and ’68 laws. In the same way the expansions of federal gun rights that have occurred in the last 9 years haven’t involved compromise they have been all in one direction. In 1994 a large number of Americans felt the laws had gone too far. In 2013 it appears that a large number feel they haven’t gone far enough.

  49. “I think there’s pretty good evidence that the American people are moderate on this issue and while the “grabbers” might want to keep moving on the broader public doesn’t. They want something in the middle.”

    You’re dreaming.

    The problem is that the MSM is rabidly anti-gun, and college professors that mold the thoughts of students are anti-gun, and teachers in schools are anti-gun, and the politicians that head law enforcement agencies are anti-gun. Those all work in concert to push the populace more and more toward the destruction of the Second Amendment, one bite of the cake at a time. What is in the middle now will be painted as inadequate, and more will be needed, and another bite will be demanded of the cake, and another.

    No. It ends here. I will no longer consider any compromises that are not true compromises that involve giving us cake back.

  50. “…either at some point those requests will have little support among the broader population and not be able to get out of committee or they will gradually progress. I think there’s pretty good evidence that the American people are moderate on this issue and while the “grabbers” might want to keep moving on the broader public doesn’t.”

    So it’s OK when a particular gun control bill dies in the legislature? I’m glad to learn that; I guess it was OK when this happened last month in the Senate. I don’t understand how one progresses from that equanimity with the legislative process to all this fantasy-land hokum I’ve been reading about Repubs driving away moderates or never winning an election again.

    Personally I agree with Roberta X. I don’t trust any legislature to do the “right” thing with respect to taxation- and expenditure-related lobbyist relations (in fact the first to do so will shock me), so I try not to worry about that stuff. Passing new limitations on firearms (or speech, or freedom from unreasonable searches, or really anything in the Bill of Rights) is the sure way to lose my vote.

  51. @foo

    You may want to read this and consider what it describes, then reconsider where the “center” really is.

    Foo that election happened. And Sarah Palin was judged far too right by large swaths of the population.

    ____

    @jay

    No. It ends here. I will no longer consider any compromises that are not true compromises that involve giving us cake back.

    You aren’t the issue here. You get one vote and it is clear you vote NRA issues. OK fine. You cancel out a “grabber”. Nigel is quite right in his analysis. The issue are anti-tax, anti-gun suburban women who are “grabbers” but consider it a low priority issue. Your goal if it really is central is to keep it a low priority issue for them. School shootings + no compromise has the potential to piss them off enough to flip.

    You don’t have to agree with them. But you should understand the issue on niche issues is whose vote can swing.

  52. CD-Hosteither at some point those requests will have little support among the broader population and not be able to get out of committee or they will gradually progress. I think there’s pretty good evidence that the American people are moderate on this issue and while the “grabbers” might want to keep moving on the broader public doesn’t.

    Jess: So it’s OK when a particular gun control bill dies in the legislature? I’m glad to learn that; I guess it was OK when this happened last month in the Senate. I don’t understand how one progresses from that equanimity with the legislative process to all this fantasy-land hokum I’ve been reading about Repubs driving away moderates or never winning an election again.

    It is harmless when a bill without moderate support dies in the legislature. It is generally harmless when a bill with moderate support dies in the legislature. One of the exceptions is when it starts to swing voters. Then it isn’t harmless.

    As far as driving away moderates. Yes. The electorate is already D+8 two elections in a row. D+10 or so and there is no point having a presidential election. The house would be Dem were it not for 2010 election winning state houses and redistricting. That’s enough with a 4% advantage as that advantage swells….

    Yes there is a credible threat that Republicans are doing enough damage to their support among moderates that they aren’t competitive anymore.

    Personally I agree with Roberta X. I don’t trust any legislature to do the “right” thing with respect to taxation- and expenditure-related lobbyist relations (in fact the first to do so will shock me), so I try not to worry about that stuff. Passing new limitations on firearms (or speech, or freedom from unreasonable searches, or really anything in the Bill of Rights) is the sure way to lose my vote.

    Which means you are a partisan. Which is fine, but you ain’t the middle of the country.

  53. “The issue are anti-tax, anti-gun suburban women who are “grabbers” but consider it a low priority issue. Your goal if it really is central is to keep it a low priority issue for them. School shootings + no compromise has the potential to piss them off enough …”

    A lot of this stuff is driven by affluent, white, suburban women who have plenty of time and money to devote to ‘their’ issues. They run their families, and think that they are entitled to run the nation in the same way. Whatever they endorse, becomes a sacred cause. Rather than trying to keep guns a low-priority issue with them, it would be far more effective if somehow, guns could be made attractive to them, like salt scrubs, yoga and shopping. Maybe some modern range facilities at the megamall? If you can’t swing them away from, ‘NO!, You’ll shoot someone’s eye out!’, there’s going to be an endless supply of gun control initiatives.

  54. ESR, I’m a little dumbfounded by the multiple commenters (who in general tend to be smarter than your average bear) who are simply ignoring your post (and the other post that you link) and are lost in the bits and bytes of gun control policy recommendations. They are, of course, ignoring your drift, which is that gun owners have credible reasons *not to trust gun control proposals*.

    It’s a bit strange that the pro-gun control commenters seem to simply refuse to address your original point.

  55. Borepatch, it’s because they can’t wrap their heads around the simple fact that we just can’t trust them any more. It’s like a cook who, upon encountering a diner who can’t stand Brussels sprouts, says “But you’ll like my Brussels sprouts! Try them!” and doesn’t understand why he gets turned down over and over.

    • >Borepatch, it’s because they can’t wrap their heads around the simple fact that we just can’t trust them any more.

      And the black-humor part is that when they do get it, they think this is somehow our failing.

  56. > It’s like a cook who, upon encountering a diner who can’t stand Brussels sprouts, says “But
    > you’ll like my Brussels sprouts! Try them!” and doesn’t understand why he gets turned down
    > over and over.

    I forget who it was (von Mises?) who observed that when telling people he wanted to abolish State education, he was often asked what he’d replace it with. He commented that this was akin to asking a fireman what type of fire he planned to light once the reported fire is extinguished.

    My political leanings have gone left -> right -> Libertarian and have finally arrived at anarcho-capitalism, based primarily upon one fact: power is morally wrong. Everything else (corruption, lobbying, tyranny, oppression of minorities, etc. etc.) flow from this fact.

    Google the Stanford Prison Experiment. People should never be allowed to have power over other people. Power itself is the enemy.

  57. Yes, Jay, but you can look at yourself in the mirror easier if you push back against rather than adding to the exercise of coercive power.

    I’m shocked when one guy writes, “Passing new limitations on firearms (or speech, or freedom from unreasonable searches, or really anything in the Bill of Rights) is the sure way to lose my vote.”

    And another responds, “Which means you are a partisan. Which is fine, but you ain’t the middle of the country.”

    If support for the Bill of Rights ain’t “the middle of the country,” then it’s time to hang all the Civics teachers and give up. Game over, man. Game over.

  58. > Duncan, you might as well wish the tide to stop. Most people need to give power to others,
    > deep down inside. You cannot abolish it.

    I think the same could have been said of many things in the past – rape, murder, theft, etc.

    They’re drives that are burned into the human psyche at a hardware level, but we _are_ capable of recognising them as wrong, and trying to build societies that aren’t based upon them. We succeed to varying levels, as individuals and societies, but the extent of our success is the definition of our civilisation.

    I hope that we’re capable of taking the next step: recognising that it is fundamentally wrong for one individual to have power over another. I’m not holding my breath, but I think it is at least fundamentally possible.

  59. @Nigel:

    ESR says

    After four decades of bad faith the only position left to us is “No more ‘gun-control’ laws. Ever.”

    To which you respond:

    So your opinion is that the answer to extremism is more extremism in the other direction.

    Saying “No MORE gun control” is not extremist. It puts a stake in the ground and says “We’ve compromised all we wiil. The status quo is our compromise position”.

    See, we started off less than 100 years ago at the “anyone could buy anything from anywhere”. You could get Thompson Submachine guns through freaken MAIL ORDER. That would be like ordering a real M4 off Amazon and it showing up via UPS in 2 days. Now how fucking awesome would that be?

    See, that is the default state. No prior restraint of a constitutionally protected right.

    But “we” gun owners are willing to compromise–the anti-gunners (really “The Left”) have said that we have to jump through some extra hoops to buy an automatic weapon or a silencer. Ok. No evidence that does any good, and it’s an infringement, but not a serious one. And the age limits, well, yeah, I guess we have age limits on other rights. Well, some of them. And I guess it’s ok if we have to show an ID to exercise that right, just like when we vote. Oh, no? Well, it’s not so much of an infringement. And we can’t have them shipped to our door any more, gotta go through an FFL and pay a fee if it’s an out of state purchase. And FFLs are the only ones allowed to sell new guns. And there’s about 20 THOUSAND other laws on the books.

    We’ve already compromised mate. We’ve compromised a shitload.

    I’m *willing* to make adjustments to the current system, because I think that the current NICS is well past it’s use-by date, and I know there are better ways to implement this check such that felons and other prohibited persons can be flagged without violating the privacy of others.

    But further restrictions? No.

    A government database of all gun owners? No.

  60. Sotomayor and Kagan are considered moderates

    Pull the other one mate, it’s got fucking bells on.

  61. I am all for gun control. But that dwarfs my feelings about governments who break their own laws.

    On the other hand, what do you expect from a people who support kidnapping random people and keeping them incarcerated indefinitely without a trial? Especially when this people do not care that these captives are kept under very abusing circumstances, commonly defined as “torture” in international treaties.

    Such a people get the government they deserve: A very abusive one.

  62. @Nigel:
    >There are hispanic republicans. They simply didn’t listen to them (Martinez, Guttierrz, Rubio, Cruz, etc) to go hardline on immigration. They also didn’t listen to moderate voices on abortion and women issues.

    On immigration I very much agree with you. Both parties are full of crap on immigration policy, and the Republican party can’t afford to continue to be full of crap. The whole immigration debate centers around what we should do about illegal immigrants, with nobody actually suggesting actually letting more people in legally.

    As to abortion, religious conservatives do need to learn that we’ll never make any progress on the issue simply by political activism, but unlike pretty much every other plank in the Republican platform, it is a hill that I *will* die on. If the party collapses upholding it, so be it. (That said, I will take action over words: Given a choice between a Republican that toes the party line but doesn’t really do much and a Democrat that is staunchly pro-choice but enacts policies that actually reduce the number of abortions that take place, I’ll vote for the Democrat as long as the abortion rate continues to fall significantly).

  63. Hopefully not to introduce more thread-destroying tangents…

    What other political causes have used the method of destroying (or silencing) what middle ground exists?

    In American history (beyond living memory), there was the cause that started as a Temperance movement, and morphed into a Prohibition movement.

    This seems to be the easiest one I can think of in which whatever middle ground was available became politically untenable. It’s also an obvious movement which claimed high moral fervor, pushed the moderate position out of the debate, and attempted to dominate political/social life to the exclusion of any other opinion.

    Any more recent examples of this process in place, besides the example of the assault on the right to own firearms?

  64. @SJ –

    Any more recent examples of this process in place …?

    At the risk of pouring JP4 and LOX on an already superheated thread, consider the debate surrounding the legality of, and access to, abortion.

    (If your immediate response is either “No! That’s murder!” or “Keep your laws off of my body!”, reflect that your position is evidence of this anti-moderation….)

  65. Individual power corrupts but the damage is limited to impacting a small subset of humanity. Group power corrupts but the damage is limited to individuals and groups that the group influences. Corporate and State power corrupts but the damage is limited to the individuals in the State or the Corporate sphere of influence. Federal power corrupts totally because the system of governance is too far removed from the individual transactions that justice is intended to serve. Thus, Sandy Hook becomes political instead of practical because central power corrupts totally and ugly unintended consequences always follow. If Sandy Hook was not protected by Federal or State laws that pretend to protect children by “making” them gun free zones, then those children would more than likely be alive today. What is truly frightening is that our school children are not even taught principles of limited government anymore. This failure of the school system is facilitated by the very same corrupted groups that suck at the tit of State and Federal Government. It’s difficult to see if we’ve passed a tipping point but I find it difficult to see these groups ever giving up the power that they have acquired. One only has to listen to Bloomberg, Feinstein, Schumer et al to see that they now believe they have a right and a moral responsibility that gives them just cause to use force to control us all in the name of safety and public good. The 2014 elections will be very important for the citizenry to signal back to the politicians that they have far exceeded their remit. I don’t even know what to think about the mass media, they are so far off their responsibility.

  66. It’s been well documented that all of these nice-sounding provisions are riddled with loopholes that render them ineffective. The bill even includes provisions to undermine existing immigration controls such as E-Verify. The “border security” security provisions are promises, which if not carried out trigger other promises, which if not carried out trigger other promises… while the amnesty provisions take effect immediately.

    Yes, there are some recent immigrants who are conservative and even Republican. It’s not surprising that you’ve met some of them – I’d bet that your personal acquaintances, neighbors, and co-workers are overwhelmingly upper-quartile in education and income. How many food service workers, landscapers, fruit and vegetable harvesters, junk pickers, and welfare clients do you know? How many people do you know with bastard children, street gang tattoos, and relatives in prison?

    How many illegals do I know? Zero. I’m not allowed to. But the legal immigrants I know are not all from the upper strata and work in what might be considered traditional immigrant jobs (restaurant, cleaning, etc). Some of my relatives are in this socio-economic status although many have, 20 years later, moved up the food chain. Their kids are educated but the parents and original immigrants not so much.

    I think it is reasonable to ask for better border security but I wonder if it is not the same thing as attempting to stop piracy with every stronger DRM measures. They key to slowing pervasive music piracy was $0.99 songs that were easily purchased and easily used. Not the so-so DRM found on digital music tracks.

    So I believe making migrant work programs easier and converting as many illegals into documented migrants is better than what we have today. The probationary thing strikes me as a so-so solution but they are here now. Might as well get them to pay taxes.

    If we can reduce the overall number of illegals crossing the borders through these programs it makes finding more dangerous border crossings a lot easier.

  67. Politics is herd behavior, and the moderate middle is the center section of the normal distribution. Memetics can be an effective tool for moving the mean, and the end result is frequently election to political office and the right to enrich oneself by selling governmental influence. Politicians do not want to destroy the herd, merely guide it or, failing that, control it.

    In times of affluence, herd behavior dominates the social/political landscape. When a cycle of scarcity occurs, the herd will excise non-conformists first. Gun owners are being set up as the non conformist patsies and readied for excision. Interestingly, the evolutionary solution to this problem has nothing to do with guns.

  68. SJ: “What other political causes have used the method of destroying (or silencing) what middle ground exists?”

    The example you gave of alcohol prohibition is neatly echoed by our own prohibition of various other drugs. The primary purpose of DARE classes and the relentless “this is your brain on drugs” messages in broadcast media is to destroy the middle ground, at least for those innocent enough to believe those authorities. Subjects are told that drug use is deadly at any level, which though plainly at odds with reality also poisons any political attempt to deal rationally with the problem of drug abuse. The cops who run DARE know which side of their toast is buttered. DRUGS = BAD –> DRUG WAR = GOOD.

    The motivation for these sorts of programs SHOULD have been one of public health, but those who have been subjected to them long enough know that they’ve actually harmed that. First, those who could have been informed of the relative dangers of various drugs were instead “taught” that pot is as dangerous as all other drugs. When they then observed pot to be about as dangerous as a video game habit, many of them made the obvious deduction. Secondly, the harm from violence and sheer indifference of an enforcement regime dwarfs the potential harm from “unwise lawful experimentation” in any plausible treatment regime. This is obvious to anyone who truly thinks about the issues involved, but the constant drug war propaganda has at least until recently discouraged most rational discourse on these topics.

  69. Nigel you have my sympathies on the immigration issue. In this one respect the Republican party has been stuck, since its supporters do include tasteless cretins whose irrational fear of spicy food inevitably turns any unrelated political discussion to this issue. One may observe this phenomenon on this very thread! I think this most recent election might have been sufficient warning to the Rs that they would profit by a different strategy, but if not then some future election will be.

    It’s an interesting juxtaposition, at least. On the one hand you have people who vote for whomever will punish gun-owners the most. On the other you have those who vote for whomever will punish immigrants the most. (And please, before responding with “but I don’t mind LEGAL immigrants”, think about how that argument works for the other issue.) So much punishment. Humans suck.

  70. Dream on, Nigel. Gun control is what backfires.

    And speaking of your dreams: ” That the NRA is mostly older white males isn’t going to help that issue. The number of minorities that attend the NRA convention can essentially be rounded to zero.”
    Possibly, thought that’s giving them short shrift indeed. But, Nigel, what about the number of *women?* are you rounding us to zero, too? There are enough women among the 5 million NRA members that we even have our very own special magazine. (Me, I’m not so much on the pink guns, so I take American Rifleman instead.) And we vote, Nigel. Oh, how avidly we vote.

    Some folks consider gun control to be a wedge issue that Democrats can use against Republicans with women voters. If you have polling that states otherwise that would be good news for the Republican party.

    For 2012 it appears to me after looking at the various published statistics that the majority of women voted for Obama. Minority women anyway. Romney took over 50% of the white women demographic. Unfortunately for Romney white women now only represent 37% of the electorate vs 41% in 2004.

    I’m not dreaming when I say demographics matter because the last election is evidence that this is the case.

    I believe that there are many gun owners that don’t accept NRA’s hard line.

    • >I believe that there are many gun owners that don’t accept NRA’s hard line.

      Fewer than there used to be, and the number is decreasing. In fact the NRA isn’t hard-line enough to meet demand.

      One way we know this is the recent popular and fundraising successes of 2A organizations formed specifically because the NRA is perceived as a go-along-to-get-along organization. One of these (I think it was the Second Amendment Foundation) funded the legal work on the Heller case, which the NRA was too timid or unmotivated to approach.

      It’s not even much of a secret in 2A-activist circles that the NRA thrives on a certain amount of gun control – enough that it can keep sending out alarmed fundraising letters.

  71. As to abortion, religious conservatives do need to learn that we’ll never make any progress on the issue simply by political activism, but unlike pretty much every other plank in the Republican platform, it is a hill that I *will* die on. If the party collapses upholding it, so be it. (That said, I will take action over words: Given a choice between a Republican that toes the party line but doesn’t really do much and a Democrat that is staunchly pro-choice but enacts policies that actually reduce the number of abortions that take place, I’ll vote for the Democrat as long as the abortion rate continues to fall significantly).

    I think it is possible to be both pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. What doesn’t work is the opposition to birth control and sex education to reduce the need for abortion.

    I think that it should be possible between effective birth control, morning after pills and education to largely eliminate the need for non-health related abortions. At which point the problem is largely solved since nobody, except a few nutcases, are actually pro-abortion.

    Of course, rational compromise on abortion isn’t happening anytime soon either.

  72. ESR, I’m a little dumbfounded by the multiple commenters (who in general tend to be smarter than your average bear) who are simply ignoring your post (and the other post that you link) and are lost in the bits and bytes of gun control policy recommendations. They are, of course, ignoring your drift, which is that gun owners have credible reasons *not to trust gun control proposals*.

    Because we (or at least I) reject the assertion that because some gun control proponents are not acting in good faith that the middle ground is not possible and you must treat all moderates as enemies because you can’t tell the difference.

    Trust or not the debate continues. If the center sees one side as treating everyone, including them, as enemies then the outcome is not likely to be favorable to that side since they will appear to be the intransigent ones and not the “gun grabbers”.

  73. @Nigel —

    You are forgetting the category of birth control failures. While birth control methods are way more reliable than they were a generation ago, they still fail quite often. Education can help as can free access to high quality birth control.

    Really it comes down to whether the right has any interest in getting an easy 65-75% reduction in abortion that’s easily available and fighting about the rest later.

  74. Nigel, I have an idea – how about we have the Senate vote on this? And then have an election next year?

    The Null Hypothesis is that gun control has become toxic to the political fortunes of red and purple state politicians. Your hypothesis is that this is incorrect. We’ll know in 18 months, but the Senate’s recent vote suggests that the Null Hypothesis will win.

  75. I always considered myself a middle of the road kind of guy on gun control issues until about 7-8 years ago. In that time, I’ve found myself angered by the stereotype being used in most major media outlets portraying gun owners in a negative light. We cannot even have a civil discourse on the topic any longer. The VP Biden recently referred to gun owners as “The Black Helicopter Crowd”…seriously? Now I am being ridiculed by the Vice President of the US? It is stupid, thoughtless generalizations like this that have radicalized me on this subject. People blame organizations like the NRA (which I have never been a big fan of but now support out of need) , but those organizations are just voicing the concerns of their collective members. How else can you explain the recent explosion in the NRA membership numbers? Assuming all the so-called “gun nuts” were already members, who are these 100,000+ new members per month since November 2012? In my adult life I have always been a strong believer in civil liberties, but in the last 5 years I am now a rabid pro-2nd amendment gun-nut. I believe it is because of this radicalization you are talking about. I am generally a very open minded “gray area” kind of guy but now when it comes to gun control, I am not having it. The conversation is over, there will be no quarter on this subject period.

    • >I always considered myself a middle of the road kind of guy on gun control issues until about 7-8 years ago. […] but in the last 5 years I am now a rabid pro-2nd amendment gun-nut.

      Bad faith and lies have consequences. Multiply this guy by about five million and you have the NRA’s post-Sandy-Hook membership spike. Multiply him by an unknown but much larger number of millions and you have the reason that most Democrats were too frightened to push gun control even in the immediate wake of a massacre and with the entire mainstream media as a cheering section.

  76. “It’s time for the anti-gunners to compromise and give something up: they always talk about licensing guns like we license drivers, so let’s do that: you pass a test and a course, and you get a license that’ll let you carry concealed in all 50 states, with the same restrictions everywhere. That certainly sounds fair, doesn’t it?”

    Yes please. Just like a drivers license, it comes up for renewal every 5-10 years, which means that the state governments have to know that you have a license, but not how many guns you have. If you fail to get the renewal, then you can be reimbursed for the cost of the guns or you can give them away, or you can blow them up, or whatever.

  77. @Eric

    “One way we know this is the recent popular and fundraising successes of 2A organizations formed specifically because the NRA is perceived as a go-along-to-get-along organization. One of these (I think it was the Second Amendment Foundation) funded the legal work on the Heller case, which the NRA was too timid or unmotivated to approach.”

    You’re right about the Second Amendment Foundation – they were behind District of Columbia v. Heller. They also sponsored MacDonald v. Chicago, which makes them, along with their lawyer Alan Gura, largely responsible for every major judicial win our side has seen in the last 5 years. Some of their other major actions include Woollard v. Gallagher, which was a stunning win until CA4 reversed it, and Moore v. Madigan which, after victory in appeals, looks likely to head to the supremes for their first serious look at public carry.

    By comparison, the NRA has done little apart from attempting to claim credit for SAF litigation and bringing doomed cases to trial (e.g. National Rifle Association of America Inc. v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) that end up doing nothing but saddling us with bad precedent.

    The writing is on the wall… if you (or anyone) is interested in donating to further the 2A fight in the courts, the SAF is the organization that’s getting it done.

  78. As seen from above the fray.

    Let’s divide the population into three over-simplified groups.

    Group A is the cohort of people directly employed by government at all levels and the distributed employees of businesses that substantial depend on government to exist (plus their extended families).

    Group B is the cohort of other people who substantially depend on government to sustain their standard of living via welfare, subsidy, bribery, and the never-ending promise of a chicken in every pot.

    Group C is everyone else not in Group A or B.

    Groups A and B have a vested interest in continued government growth and aggrandizement of power.

    The opinions of Group C are becoming irrelevant on a national scale, and only have influence within sectors of the country.

    The extremists of Group C are essentially fighting a rear-guard action while being backed into an ever-shrinking corner.

    The extremists of Groups A and B smell total victory and have joined forces to press the attack. To the extent they succeed, the parasites will eventually kill the host.

  79. shpxnvz: The NRA’s opposition to Heller was principled (in fact, given what the Cato Institute’s Levy has been saying lately one wonders about his organizing the case). At the time the suit was brought, it was pretty clear it would fail unless one of 5 Supremes was replaced by the time it got to them; that happened when Sandra Day O’Connor was replaced by Samuel Alito, and she started the process more than 2 years after the case was started.

    And it’s seldom simple, Mr. SAF, Alan Gottlieb, has been playing “go-along-to-get-along” in his home state of Washington and most infamously most recently, Manchin-Toomey-Schumer.

  80. By the way, interesting iowastatedaily.com article. It states that there are only 14,000 gun deaths a year. This number would not include suicides, which is an additional 20k deaths per annum (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm).

    My community just lost a 15 year old boy to a gun suicide last week. Guns are designed to kill and they are effective. I am furious that a youth had easy enough access to a gun and ammo that he killed himself. This is a very tangible cost of gun ownership. Guns in the home significantly increase the effectiveness of suicide attempts (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/gun-ownership-and-use). The benefits of gun ownership in the home seem to be home defense, which the article correctly points out has declined significantly since the 1980’s, and keeping governmental tyranny in check. I truly hope the benefit outweighs the cost.

    I have no way to rationally decide how to minimize the cost/benefit ratio. There are many countries that have tight or loose gun controls and are either tyrannical or quite democratic (the two variables are not tightly correlated). I believe that this is an issue that should be studied scientifically (not politically) and that facts should inform our choices. One of the things I was pleased that Obama did was to allow the FDA to actually start studying this issue again.

  81. @borepatch Yes, 2014 should be interesting.

    We’ll see if the Dems put anti-gun candidates against the Dem Senators that voted against the bill in their primaries.

  82. @Harold Ancell

    Complicated or not, in the judiciary SAF and Gura are delivering results. The next case to go before the supremes in the 2A realm will almost certainly decide “bear” as being core to the 2A and I’d put my money on it being a SAF case that gets there (Moore being the most likely contender at this point).

    I don’t care much for Gottlieb’s politics, anymore than I care for the NRA’s litigation strategy. As a monetary contributor to both parties, I’d prefer SAF focus on the courts and the NRA focus on lobbying – their relative strong points.

  83. I do not grant anyone on this planet any authority over my life. To the extent I grudgingly allow my life to be manipulated by others, it is by threat of force, not my consent.

    I reserve the exclusive right, should I deem it ultimately necessary, to take up arms against any human threat, be it a street punk or a government agent.

    This isn’t a debate. It’s a line in the sand. I acknowledge that I would be likely to perish in the face of government violence, but that changes nothing. My mind is resolute.

    Now those that are hostile to my liberty know how the future will unfold, they cannot feign shock at my response to their hostility. The consequences will weigh on them.

    The families of those that the government employs to do its dirty work would be wise to bear this in mind also. Perhaps it’s time to encourage a career change?

  84. Foo that election happened. And Sarah Palin was judged far too right by large swaths of the population.

    Not true. What happened is that large swaths of the population had no clue how “right” or “left” or “centrist” Palin was. They were sold a load of lies and vicious speculation about her views, her character, and above all her intelligence, and they bought it because they’re gullible.

  85. It’s time for the anti-gunners to compromise and give something up: they always talk about licensing guns like we license drivers, so let’s do that: you pass a test and a course, and you get a license that’ll let you carry concealed in all 50 states, with the same restrictions everywhere. That certainly sounds fair, doesn’t it?

    That seems fair. Coupled with a background investigation to make sure you aren’t a criminal or mentally unbalanced. IE some reasonable assurance that you aren’t a wolf or rabid but a sheepdog.

    I think that going to a national “shall issue” CCW process is something that gun owners can ask for and reasonably expect to get in good faith negotiations. I don’t mind registration of CCW licenses and annual re-quals. If for nothing else an easy way for out of state LEOs to confirm you have a valid CCW license in another state.

  86. @meat.paste

    My community just lost a 15 year old boy to a gun suicide last week. Guns are designed to kill and they are effective. I am furious that a youth had easy enough access to a gun and ammo that he killed himself.

    Right, because a suicidal teen can’t hang himself, cut his wrists, put a trash bag over his head, or a hundred other ways people know how to get-r-done without that particular. tool.

    </sarc>

  87. meat.paste said: My community just lost a 15 year old boy to a gun suicide last week. Guns are designed to kill and they are effective. I am furious that a youth had easy enough access to a gun and ammo that he killed himself

    Two small problems.

    First: People who are serious about suicide are the ones who pick guns, not the “cry for help, oh, I’m going to ineffectually cut my wrists or eat some tylenol and call 911” types.

    And the seriously suicidal are really hard to keep alive, short of locking them up in a room with no sheets, because someone who wants to die can kill themselves with relative ease.

    Second: As a minor, he cannot purchase a firearm. So either he got it on the black market, or his parents got it for him, or some-such condition. So either he was breaking the law, or more likely his parents got him the gun and didn’t detect symptoms of depression.

    Not all bad outcomes make a call for policy. This one, for instance, tells us nothing at all about the need for the State to do anything.

    (Note also that suicide rates, worldwide, seem to have no correlation whatsoever to gun access. And the [red flag] Hemenway studies you linked to were, well, very, shall we say, guarded in their blame assessment, with words like “credible” and “suggestive”. In my experience, this is social-scientist for “I wish it was so but the numbers can’t be strained enough to meet p=.05”.)

    Lastly, not all guns are “designed to kill”. A Ruger Mark III, for instance, is practically speaking “designed to shoot tin cans or paper targets, though I suppose in a pinch you could kill small varmints with it. A fair number of shotguns are designed and marketed specifically for trap and skeet shooting, which involves no killing at all.

    And more to the point, defensive arms are meant to damage the target, more than specifically to kill. There is necessarily overlap between the two functions, but “stopping an attack” is not the same as “killing the target”; this is why police officers, for example, aren’t issued, say, James-Bond-Movie style cyanide-tipped bullets to ensure a kill, despite having arms whose entire point is to damage the target greatly, to end an encounter.

    Beyond that, well, “killing” is entirely value-neutral. Killing can be an excellent thing at times, just as it can be a horrible one.

  88. Complicated or not, in the judiciary SAF and Gura are delivering results.

    Really?

    I’m not even sure it is comforting to know that the barest majority of Supreme Court justices acknowledged the plain language of the 2nd Amendment, or that it can be enforced on the states per the 14th Amendment (which was created in large part for just this reason!).

    When I look for results on the ground, I’m reminded of Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada vs. e.g. Brown v. Board of Education. Very very little has changed for almost all the nation’s gun owners; those changes are somewhat nice if you live in D.C., Chicago or Oak Park, but otherwise?

    Well, Illinois will become a CCW minefield after June 9th as I read the politics, and I’m not at all confident that the Supremes will find that we have any effective right to bear arms. They just denied cert to the appeal of the adverse New York state CCW licensing decision….

  89. gun owners: 100 million gun owners, 300 million guns, billions of rounds of ammo
    gun-grabbers: ???

    How do you think that confrontation is likely to unfold?

  90. gun-grabbers: ???

    Fun fact: Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer have carry permits.

    “Gun owners” and “gun grabbers” intersect nontrivially in Murka.

    Dishonesty and hypocrisy from the “gun grabber” side is why we’ll never get a credible anti-gun movement: the whole state apparatus is morally and operationally corrupt.

  91. @ Dan – “I reserve the exclusive right, should I deem it ultimately necessary, to take up arms against any human threat, be it a street punk or a government agent.”

    Tiananmen Square.

    Some think it can never happen here. An yet it already has. Japanese Americans stood up to oppose internment practices during WWII and black Americans stood up to oppose official segregation practices in the South during 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. And let’s not forget that many Native Americans weren’t too thrilled with what happened to them.

  92. @ The Monster – “Right, because a suicidal teen can’t hang himself, cut his wrists, put a trash bag over his head”

    Now you’ve done it. Rope, knives, and trash bags are going to be placed on the to-be-banned list.

  93. To respond to the “treat guns like cars” approach, I have Mad Mike’s reverse summary of it here:
    http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/item/we-need-to-regulate-cars-the-way-we-regulate-guns

    If that I means that at age 16 anybody can go to the local gun store and buy a dozen machine guns with no background check or CCW, okay.

    Speaking of which, if you want to be “reasonable”, how about starting by cleaning up the regulation that is the SBR/SBS regulation which exists right now. As it stands, you can commit two felonies in this country by simultaneously cleaning a pistol and rifle, accidentally putting the wrong pieces together, and then putting them together correctly again.

  94. @Harold Ancell

    Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m not enamoured with SCOTUS. They’ve dropped the ball too many times to count, going back at least to ’39 when they had a decent chance of nipping this gun control nonsense in the bud before it really got going. And I too think it’s outrageous that 4 out of 9 justices chose to interpret the 2A as a collective right.

    But I’m pragmatic as well, and to be frank any win at 1 First Street is better than a loss. The slight majority we have in SCOTUS is by no means reassuring but it’s very likely to become a minority in a few short years, so the window of availabity for favorable decisions may well be limited. If we don’t seize the opportunity to get precedent on the fundamental issues now I think they will be decided by a less friendly court in the future.

    I wouldn’t count on Illinois becoming a CCW minefield – Madigan filed for extension which strongly suggests she will appeal to SCOTUS. Posner’s decision will be stayed and Chicago will remain no-issue until SCOTUS (hopefully) grants cert and weighs in on the right to bear. Given the narrow scope of the case I think there’s a good chance of cert, and a better chance of a favorable (though narrow) decision. By that time I think it’s likely the antis and down-staters will have come to some sort of agreement on carry in the legislature.

    I think, as unfortunate as it is to those whose rights are being trampled (myself included), that SCOTUS is looking to be very particular about the carry case they pick up. They didn’t take Woollard or Kachalsky because they deal with may-issue systems, and it’s likely they want to take a smaller step – which would be Illinois’ no-issue statute.

  95. @David R Campbell

    Awwwww those panties are getting so twisted aren’t they

    “ultra-libertarian”
    They keep using that word, I don’t think it means what they think it means.

    — Foo Quuxman

  96. @ Foo – “ultra-libertarian, They keep using that word, I don’t think it means what they think it means.”

    In order to secure popular consent, you must demonize your enemy before you persecute them. Ultra is code for extreme-extremist.

  97. > Any more recent examples of this process in place, besides the example of the assault on the right to own firearms?

    Voter registration: Attempts to reduce voting fraud by screening out those not entitled to vote (or not entitled to vote more than once) are tainted by association with the old-line dixiecrats and their literacy tests and poll taxes.

  98. @TheMonster – of course there are other ways to kill yourself. Don’t be an ass. Of suicides, guns are used in ~50% of the time, poisoning (mostly drug overdoses) are used in ~30% of the time. Guns require a correct placement and a trigger pull. There is no initial physical pain that triggers a ‘stop that!’ response from the body. Once the bullet has done it’s damage, the time to get to an emergent care facility is short. Cutting, hanging (unless it immediately snaps the neck), suffocation, drowning etc. all have a chance that the innate body response will win and the suicide will be unsuccessful. There is also a longer time frame to get help. This can happen with guns too, it’s just less common because guns are much more effective at killing than the other methods.

    @Sigivald – I agree with your first point entirely.
    The kid was not any more depressive than any other 15 year old (as far as I know). He just had a particularly bad day. Yes, the gun was bought by the parents. I did not mean to suggest a need to change any policy or that guns are bad, or that killing people is bad. My broader point is that gun ownership carries with it risk as well as benefit. The risk is quantifiable, as is the benefit of defense. [Of course, finding high quality information on this subject is difficult. I assert this is deliberate on both sides of this screaming match.] I don’t see a way to quantify the benefit of potentially defending yourself against a tyrannical government. I would put that benefit at near zero because the ability to defend with firearms against modern armor is limited and I don’t see a large scale suppression of the population as likely (at least for now [and I could be wrong]). As far as guns being used for killing versus wounding, I had assumed that the point of the second amendment was to kill the enemy, not try to wound them. I would certainly try to kill rather than wound.

    tl;dr – I hope that the benefit of gun ownership exceeds the cost and I wish there was better data to make this calculation. The sources I have seen seem either biased / muddled (does shouting downstairs “I have a gun” count as fending off an intruder? Does flashing a gun in public count as an assault? [hint: the answer is no in both cases]), or more complicated than I have time to analyze (i.e. hospital admissions statistics). I want better information to make a better policy choice for me, my family, and my country.

  99. I don’t know if you heard this, but Kansas passed a law stating that all federal law in violation of the second amendment was unconstitutional, and therefore illegal.

    Eric Cretin Holder then had a temper tantrum, and sent the governor a letter stating saying that Kansas’ law was unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause (even though it clearly refers to laws in pursuance to the constitution).

  100. Seth, I’m not at all sure Holder wasn’t right about that law insofar as it attempted to stop federal agents from enforcing federal law in cases where it clearly applies. Of course, things get much murkier when you try to apply federal law to cases where it does not apply – such as firearms that do not ever enter interstate commerce. It would, to say the least, be an interesting court battle.

  101. Deep Lurker on Tuesday, May 7 2013 at 11:52 am said:
    > Voter registration: Attempts to reduce voting fraud by screening out those not entitled to vote (or not entitled to vote more than once) are tainted by association with the old-line dixiecrats and their literacy tests and poll taxes.

    Why are literacy tests and poll taxes bad? Obviously a stupid and irresponsible electorate is going to empower a corrupt, reckless, and irresponsible government. Our government is headed for collapse, our society for disappearance. Obviously we should restrict the vote to to literate property owning heads of households who pay taxes and had fathers.

  102. Why are literacy tests and poll taxes bad?

    Literacy tests aren’t bad, but the blatantly racist way in which they were administered in many states before Congress banned them was clearly bad. But I think Congress made a big mistake in banning the tests themselves; it should instead have required them to be administered in a completely neutral manner, and assumed federal oversight of their administration in those states where they were being misused.

    As far as I know poll taxes are still perfectly legal, but surprise surprise, as soon as states could not longer make their payment a condition for voting they dropped the taxes. Which leads one to suspect that the purpose of the taxes in the first place was to disenfranchise those who couldn’t afford to pay them.

    You really want to disenfranchise bastards, like Alexander Hamilton?!

  103. @Jeff Read:

    Fun fact: Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer have carry permits.

    Feinstein allegedly turned hers in when it became publicly known. Rumor has it she was sworn in as a deputy US Marshall or some such.

    “Gun owners” and “gun grabbers” intersect nontrivially in Murka.

    Gabby Giffords and her husband were avid firearms shooters before she was shot. Afterwards he purchased an AR-15, until the gun owner recognized him and made it publicly known.

    Dishonesty and hypocrisy from the “gun grabber” side is why we’ll never get a credible anti-gun movement:

    There are between 80 million and 100 million gun owners in this country. You have less than 15,000 deaths a year from firearm use. Most of these are by people who DO NOT legally own their firearms, and who are usually multiple offenders. There are about 74k firearm injuries per year serious enough to be recorded in ERs (and gunshots are a mandatory report, so that’s *every* firearm injury that shows up in an ER, even if it’s someone who closed the bolt on their finger and needed stitches).

    You’ll never get a credible anti-gun movement in this country, because once you exclude the recreational pharmaceutical trade and/or 15 to 25 year old males the “problem” essentially goes away.

    It is legitimate to keep guns out of the hands of paranoid schizophrenics and manic depressives.

    It is reasonable to say that if you have been convicted of a violent crime or a felony that you have to jump through hoops to get your rights back.

    It is neither legitimate, nor reasonable to tell otherwise law abiding people that they cannot own something that is only dangerous when improperly used.

    There can be no credible anti-gun movement because the notion that guns are the problem is uncredible.

    the whole state apparatus is morally and operationally corrupt.

    Yes. And the more power and more control they amass the more corrupt they’ll get. Yet you keep arguing that they need more power and control so they can deal with the corruption.

  104. @James A. Donald:

    Why are literacy tests and poll taxes bad?

    Because they will be manipulated to exclude those the power structure doesn’t like.

    Obviously a stupid and irresponsible electorate is going to empower a corrupt, reckless, and irresponsible government.

    Yes. But stupid people can read. Fuck mate, Daily fucking Kos.

    Obviously we should restrict the vote to to literate property owning heads of households who pay taxes and had fathers.

    Mate, *everyone* has a father in one sense or another.

  105. > Why are literacy tests and poll taxes bad? Obviously a stupid and irresponsible electorate is going to empower a corrupt, reckless, and irresponsible government.

    My point wasn’t that they are necessarily bad, but that they’ve been so notoriously abused in the recent past that those who propose them now are presumed to be acting in bad faith.

    But to answer your question: I think they’re bad because past experience has shown that they’re less effective and more vulnerable to abuse than they first appear to be – that they’ll be used not to disenfranchise the stupid and irresponsible, but rather to disenfranchise those who don’t support the corrupt, reckless, and irresponsible government currently in power.

    Even if you set aside the “rational ignorance” argument, and allow that being an informed and responsible voter is a good thing, it does not follow that letting the government decide whether you are an informed & responsible voter is also a good thing.

    Cutting back to gun control, there are strong parallels between proposals to require “literacy tests” for voters, and proposals to require “competency tests” or “safety training” for gun ownership.

  106. @James A. Donald

    Reading your complaints (and many others here), I think I stick with my conclusion about cosmic Karma:
    You got the government you deserve.

  107. Pingback: Daily Linkage – May 8, 2013 | The Second Estate

  108. Milhouse on Tuesday, May 7 2013 at 8:54 pm said:
    > Literacy tests aren’t bad, but the blatantly racist way in which they were administered in many states before Congress banned them was clearly bad.

    There being of course no possible explanation other than racism for the fact that blacks generally failed them, since we all know blacks are just as literate as whites, and to doubt this is racist.

    If you have a literacy test of the form “read a short paragraph, and select which of the following summaries of the paragraph is accurate”, about a third of whites will fail it, maybe half or so. Since blacks are about one standard deviation below whites, it follows that a test that fails half or so of whites will fail five out of six blacks. Add a poll tax on top of that, you will get rid of pretty much all of them, plus most of the no-good white voters as well.

  109. @JAD
    “Add a poll tax on top of that, you will get rid of pretty much all of them, plus most of the no-good white voters as well.”

    Your advices will not be followed, because they want to keep democracy.

    If the wanted to abolish democracy, I think they would not bother going only 90% of the way as you propose. They would just skip the election phase altogether.

  110. @JAD

    Presumably anyone who fails the test will not have to pay taxes? Unless you have forgotten the trigger for that little disagreement a ~230 years ago.

    — Foo Quuxman

  111. Literacy tests aren’t bad, but the blatantly racist way in which they were administered in many states before Congress banned them was clearly bad.

    If we’re going to do something like that then I vote for only people that have served the country should get a vote. Military, peace corps, teachers and doctors serving a 2 year stint wherever we put them, even just grunt labor in the Army Corps of Engineers, etc.

    That would probably disenfranchise 90% of the folks in this blog though.

  112. @nigel
    I think everybody can come up with voting rules that exclude any people she or he does not like. However, that is not the point of having a democracy with elections.

    My impression is that those advocating such voting rules do not want democracy anyway. So why go through the charade of having elections?

  113. @ Winter – “You got the government you deserve.”

    The US government is a spending addict, but it’s enablers are the foreigners who keep buying US Treasury bonds. Pointing fingers will be small consolation when it comes time to take a haircut on that investment.

  114. @Nigel
    > If we’re going to do something like that then I vote for only people that have served the country should get a vote. Military, peace corps, teachers and doctors serving a 2 year stint wherever we put them, even just grunt labor in the Army Corps of Engineers, etc.

    What about people who serve the country by creating great new businesses? Or people who serve the country by working within those businesses to create useful products and services? Or what about people who serve the country by cutting the country’s hair, or flipping their burgers, or driving their buses, or washing their windows?

    The idea that school teachers or peace corps members are more righteous is plain wrong headed. One could equally argue that people who suck from the government payroll have a conflict of interest, and consequently shouldn’t get to vote at all.

    The solution is not better democracy, the solution is to reduce the footprint of democracy by limited government scope of power, and fracturing government into many domains (county, state, city, etc.) so that people have alternatives. Voting with your feet is vastly more powerful than voting at the ballot box.

  115. @TomA
    “The US government is a spending addict,”

    So are the citizens. For most of the people who complain here very loud about “abuses” by their government to them, I remember cases where they advocated comparable abuses inflicted on other people.

    Case in point, for many commenters the government breaking the constitution is bad when it affects them, but good when it affects those prisoners in Guantanamo bay.

    I see cosmic karma inflicting the same abuses on all.

    @TomA
    “Pointing fingers will be small consolation when it comes time to take a haircut on that investment.”

    The proverb works both ways. I regularly start introspection about what I personally did to deserve my government. It is difficult, but still it works most of the time.

    Anyhow, the buyers of your bonds are mostly not other governments, but private banks, insurers, and pension funds. Not that that makes a lot of difference.

  116. …or we could hand the governance of our country over to an advanced, objective, expert organization like the UN.

    We need unbiased outsiders to guide us with a healthy global perspective.

  117. Yes. And the more power and more control they amass the more corrupt they’ll get. Yet you keep arguing that they need more power and control so they can deal with the corruption.

    Axiomatic in the libertarian mindset. Not true in reality. For example, the 12 lowest-ranking countries on Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index all have state apparatus that are much stronger than in the USA. Most of these have strict gun control laws. In virtually all of them there is a much lower risk of death by gunshot.

  118. @Jeff Read
    “Most of these have strict gun control laws. In virtually all of them there is a much lower risk of death by gunshot.”

    Most also have more freedom of the press (Singapore is the exception).

    But we know how those libertarians treat reality: Everything is only an opinion.

  119. We need unbiased outsiders to guide us with a healthy global perspective.

    The UN is fucking useless as a government. At best it serves as a forum to conduct diplomacy with words that would otherwise be conducted with bombs and missiles.

    That said, the Nordic model is perhaps the best template for a system of governance yet devised by man; and we would be not just remiss, but utterly daft to overlook it as an inspiration for policy. Yes, adopting it to any significant extent would require rewriting our Constitution almost from the ground up. But we should probably be doing that anyway.

  120. If the Nordic Model comes with strong Axe Control laws, I’m in.

    Universal access to pickled fish would be a plus.

  121. Those cattle don’t know they’re born, the lucky bastards. Arsenic *and* chicken shit? Luxury! When I was a lad, they got one or t’other, washed down with a handful of cold gravel, and were thankful for it!

  122. We need unbiased outsiders to guide us with a healthy global perspective.


    That said, the Nordic model is perhaps the best template for a system of governance yet devised by man; and we would be not just remiss, but utterly daft to overlook it as an inspiration for policy. Yes, adopting it to any significant extent would require rewriting our Constitution almost from the ground up. But we should probably be doing that anyway.

    @Jeff Read

    Are you trolling, or was that sarcasm?

    The Nordic model is not all it’s cracked up to be.

    Norway’s government is paid for by oil revenue. The number of their people permanently supported by social services is growning. What happens when money gets tight?

    Sweden has 8% unemployment in good times, and the ranks of people on permanent disability is growing. They’ve added 1/8 of their population in immigrants from the Middle East and Africa in the last few decades. Swedes are conflicted about assimilation in all sorts of ways. It shows.

    Finland makes most of its living on natural resources. Nokia used to manufacture there, but wound up offshoring most of it. Nokia got out of the CRT business just in time. Finland is also a shopping destination for middle class Russians. If their customers go away Finland is in trouble. I suspect they will cope, but it may be dicey.

    Denmark is in much the same straits as Sweden, but with better agriculture, fewer natural resources, and less manufacturing.

    The worst problem with your premise is scale. Large governments have all the problems of any large organization plus they are coercive. If you try to run the US federal government along Nordic lines the pathologies will be… well, they’re breathtaking now. Americans will have nowhere to go to get away from it.

    Our Federal system is the best compromise because it creates a marketplace for governments. People can choose not to do business with a local government by voting with their feet. This limits local pathologies. Those who point to the Old South as an example of pathology would do well to remember the great migration to the north that helped end it.

    Every so often you say something sensible, such as some of your recent remarks about gun control. Then you pop out nonsense like this.

    My wife and I settled in the USA instead of Sweden at least partly because her economist father thought the US prospects were better.

    • >The Nordic model is not all it’s cracked up to be.

      Furthermore, it’s in the process of collapsing under its own unsustainability. Denmark and Sweden are both already engaged in what (for them) count as serious scalebacks of their welfare state, and the Norwegians are beginning to wake up to what’s going to happen when the wells run dry.

      The forward thinkers in all three countries have figured out that the state-socialism bubble is going to pop rather soon in historical time; to their great credit, the broader mass of the Scandinavian voters are getting past denial about this faster than most other places.

  123. James A. Donald on Wednesday, May 8 2013 at 7:01 am said:
    Milhouse on Tuesday, May 7 2013 at 8:54 pm said:
    > Literacy tests aren’t bad, but the blatantly racist way in which they were administered in many states before Congress banned them was clearly bad.

    There being of course no possible explanation other than racism for the fact that blacks generally failed them, since we all know blacks are just as literate as whites, and to doubt this is racist.

    There is overwhelming evidence, from anecdotes and memoirs, that in the Jim Crow South, “literacy tests” were not actually administered to anyone. The “literacy test” was merely an excuse for denying suffrage to blacks – all blacks, regardless of their actual abilities. This was “necessary” because blacks were the majority in many areas – still are – and in some areas, the overwhelming majority. Under any honestly administered system, these areas would be politically dominated by blacks, who would thus control local law enforcement and have power over whites. Which was completely intolerable.

    In the 1890s, South Carolina under Governor “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman revised its constitution to guarantee the de facto disfranchisement of blacks. (It could not be de jure, under the 14th and 15th Amendments, and enough blacks still defied Klan intimidation to win occasional local elections and even U.S. House seats. There were a few black delegates to the constitutional convention.) However, Tillman also supported the creation of a state teachers’ college for blacks. Thus even a rampant white supremacist agreed that black children should have schools and learn to read and write – but they still wouldn’t ever vote.

  124. It occurs to me that a similar “destruction of the middle ground” may have occurred in the 1850s over slavery. I can’t cite any specific examples of “strategic deception”, but there was certainly a feeling on the anti-slavery side that the votaries of the “slave power” had secret plans to extend slavery – see Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech – and that actions taken for other apparently creditable reasons were actually in furtherance of the secret extreme agenda.

    On the pro-slavery side, there was understandable fear of abolitionism, but the abolitionists were not secret in any way, so the deception factor is absent.

    • >It occurs to me that a similar “destruction of the middle ground” may have occurred in the 1850s over slavery.

      Excellent observation! Bravo! This instance hadn’t occurred to me, but even given my relatively limited knowledge of the period you are clearly right about it.

  125. @Winter:

    Case in point, for many commenters the government breaking the constitution is bad when it affects them, but good when it affects those prisoners in Guantanamo bay.

    The folks being held at Club Gitmo were not American citizens or permanent residents, nor were they captured on American soil. Therefore they don’t get constitutional protections except as a matter of law, and the law allows what is happening.

    IMO the optimal solution is to create a Club Gitmo tattoo, put it on their calf (either one) and release them back to their home countries. Most will be summarily shot. A few will be given a hero’s welcome and go on to kill more Europeans and Americans. Then when they are recaptured (as many previous residents have been) they should be drained of intelligence, dropped off in the middle of the Atlantic, pointed towards Mecca and told to swim.

    If Allah wants them alive he’ll unlock the cuffs and give them the strength to swim to shore.

  126. @Winter

    The prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay were taken in arms against the forces of the USA. They are not members of the Taliban or other militia. They were not protected by the laws of war until President Bush decided to treat them more like POWs than bandits. As I understand it in earlier times they would have been shot.

    If they had been enemy soldiers they be been held until a prisoner exchange or the end of hostilities. Since there is nobody to negotiate with and no foreseable end to the hostilities they are in limbo. It’s ugly, but what do you suggest? Shall we release them in Amsterdam?

  127. @Jeff Read:

    Yes. And the more power and more control they amass the more corrupt they’ll get. Yet you keep arguing that they need more power and control so they can deal with the corruption.

    Axiomatic in the libertarian mindset. Not true in reality. For example, the 12 lowest-ranking countries on Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index all have state apparatus that are much stronger than in the USA.

    Perception, not reality.

    “Corruption generally comprises illegal activities, which are deliberately hidden and only come to light through scandals, investigations or prosecutions. There is no meaningful way to assess absolute levels of corruption in countries or territories on the basis of hard empirical data.”

    When Republican in Alaska gets busted with his hand in the till it makes news in California. When a Democrat in D.C. goes to jail for hookers and blow it makes national news.

    To quote the philosopher Don Henley:

    We can do “The Innuendo”
    We can dance and sing
    When it’s said and done we haven’t told you a thing
    We all know that Crap is King
    Give us dirty laundry!

    A country like the US, with a long tradition of airing it’s dirty linen in public, of investigative reporting and the like will have more “public conversations” about corruption than countries with cultures more inclined to sweep that under the rug.

    Also what is “corruption” is very cultural. What one culture may see as a “fee for service” another might see as bribery and corruption.

    Now, for *most* of those countries I can see lower levels of corruption, they are, by American standards basically mono-cultures (my barely-extended family has more nations/races represented than some of them). Also we’re talking about countries (for the most part) who have, shall we say, minimal economies.

    Most of the countries below us on the index also have strong “state apparatus”.

    Most of these have strict gun control laws. In virtually all of them there is a much lower risk of death by gunshot.

    Yes, because dying of a gunshot is *so* different than dying from getting beat to death, or stabbed or whatever.

  128. To quote the philosopher Don Henley:

    Do you actually listen to his music and try to grok the message behind it? That song was about unscrupulous news reporters who would do anything for a juicy story to boost their ratings — not valiant, honest investigative journalists uncovering corruption.

    Now go back and listen to “The End of the Innocence”. Here’s a hint: The “tired old man that we elected king” is Ronald Reagan. He was singing about the loss of leftist values among boomers, and how they turned into greedy capitalists and militarists during the 80s.

    A country like the US, with a long tradition of airing it’s dirty linen in public, of investigative reporting and the like will have more “public conversations” about corruption than countries with cultures more inclined to sweep that under the rug.

    As Winter pointed out, those countries except for Singapore have a much freer press than in the U.S. American news outlets are motivated almost entirely by profit — and are “handled” extensively by the government. Drawing connections between this and that Don Henley song you misquothed is left as an exercise.

  129. It’s funny how leftists like Jeff often say that Henley – a confirmed leftist himself – that Dirty Laundry was written about Fox News, when it was out at least a decade before Fox News existed…

  130. That song was about unscrupulous news reporters who would do anything for a juicy story to boost their ratings — not valiant, honest investigative journalists uncovering corruption.

    There’s a fine line at best between them.

    There are three main classes of corruption: graft, squeeze, and bribery.

    graft – steering government business to self, family, friends, and supporters. Results are usually shoddy to nonexistent, with huge overruns above and beyond the original sweetheart contract.

    squeeze – Uncivil servants work slowly or not at all without tips. Required tip amounts skyrocket.

    bribery – Money paid to uncivil servant to break the law.

    Digging these out requires actual work, often including arithmetic.

    Too many would-be Woodward & Bernsteins prefer to get flash pictures of indiscretions not actually against the law.

  131. > The Nordic model is not all it’s cracked up to be.

    You know something I think is ironic? One of the arguments for socialism is the idea that the government can create an environment where people can prosper and grow. For example, buy providing a stable economy, social peace and justice, that a country will prosper. These things, they argue, justify forcibly taking large amounts of tax out of the economy they putatively created.

    Ironic why? Well the plain fact is that these little countries live under the wing and protection of the United States. The Nordic countries spend something in the order of 25% on defense compared to the United States (as a % of GDP, 1-1.5% vs 4.5%.) So the United States pays for much of the tranquility that makes their super high tax states possible.

    Of course it applies to a lot more than just military protection, but the the preening chutzpah does chafe a little on me, an American taxpayer.

  132. What about people who serve the country by creating great new businesses? Or people who serve the country by working within those businesses to create useful products and services? Or what about people who serve the country by cutting the country’s hair, or flipping their burgers, or driving their buses, or washing their windows?

    They can do those things after a couple years service to the country.

    The idea that school teachers or peace corps members are more righteous is plain wrong headed. One could equally argue that people who suck from the government payroll have a conflict of interest, and consequently shouldn’t get to vote at all.

    You could limit it to just those that serve in the military if you like but I think there should be other valid ways of serving the country if some folks are pacifists.

    /shrug

    Maybe folks would care more about their vote if they had to earn it by spending a year or two serving the country. How you confuse that with “sucking from the government payroll” is just weird. If you don’t want to pay people during those two years I guess that’s okay but it seems a little harsh not to at least get beer money.

    Never heard of “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”? Oh yeah, he was a democrat. Great speech though.

  133. @Nigel
    >They can do those things after a couple years service to the country.

    I assume you are missing the point. “Doing those things” is just as much serving the country as the other things you think so laudable.

    > You could limit it to just those that serve in the military

    Why? The military do lots of good and important things, and it is full of effective, brave and decent people. But if you think the thing that is great about America is the military, I have to respectfully disagree.

    > Maybe folks would care more about their vote if they had to earn it by spending a year or two serving the country.

    You are making the mistake of thinking that people SHOULD care about their vote. People don’t much care about their vote for a very good reason — it isn’t very valuable. There are almost no elections in history where a dozen votes made a difference, never mind one. Voting is important because it is a final stem against tyranny. But your individual vote is probably worth less than ten dollars.

    > Never heard of “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”? Oh yeah, he was a democrat. Great speech though.

    I have heard that speech, however, a far greater President said this: “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” The purpose of the government and the state is, or at least should be, to serve the people, not the other way around. In his inauguration JFK said a few decent things. This statement though, is, to me, utterly horrifying. It is the foundation for the nightmare of tyranny. To me it speaks of goosestepping North Koreans, or Soviet children turning in their parents for thought crime.

    I am also reminded of the words of an even greater president, in a document that long preceded his premiership:

    “that [all men] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,”

    Governments and the state are not constituted for us to serve, they are constituted to serve us. America’s worst moments were when we forgot that.

  134. Foo on Wednesday, May 8 2013 at 8:38 am said:
    > Presumably anyone who fails the test will not have to pay taxes? Unless you have forgotten the trigger for that little disagreement a ~230 years ago.

    Less than half the population pays income tax, and more than half the population receive most of their income from welfare. So a rule that excluded the stupid and the feckless from voting, taxes and welfare would reduce the cost of government to a small fraction of its current cost.

  135. BobW on Wednesday, May 8 2013 at 6:44 pm said:
    > There are three main classes of corruption: graft, squeeze, and bribery.
    >
    > graft – steering government business to self, family, friends, and supporters. Results are usually shoddy to nonexistent, with huge overruns above and beyond the original sweetheart contract.
    >
    > squeeze – Uncivil servants work slowly or not at all without tips. Required tip amounts skyrocket.

    In the US and the rest of the english speaking world, one does not tip or bribe civil servants directly. One employs “consultants”, aka bagmen. One generally has to employ one bagman per civil servant whose permission is required, and the number of permissions required tends to multiply. In Italy and Greece, bagmen are generally lawyers, but in the English speaking world, the lawyer will direct you to the bagman, without getting his own hands dirty.

  136. “So a rule that excluded the stupid and the feckless from voting, taxes and welfare would reduce the cost of government to a small fraction of its current cost.”

    Uh…no. The basic financial problem is that most of the welfare spending in the US is welfare for the middle class…and there is no shame in it. You’ll often hear appeals for more, or at least its preservation, as in calls for the extension of rent control in New York City, or more college tuition aid, blocking fundamental reform of medicare entitlements, etc. Until the largest voting blocks stop raiding the treasury the bankruptcy train wreck is full speed ahead.

  137. @LS
    >Uh…no. The basic financial problem is that most of the welfare spending in the US is welfare for the middle class … blocking fundamental reform of medicare entitlements

    That is entirely unfair. Medicare (and a presume you are also concerned about social security reform) is a kind of soft insurance program. People have paid very large amounts of money into it, and have a reasonable expectation of getting it back, regardless of the financial hokum of the administrators of the fund.

    The fact that it isn’t really an insurance program at all is irrelevant in a sense. The fact that it is horribly badly run is also irrelevant. It is entirely unfair to call it “welfare” as if it were the same as SNAP or subsidized housing.

    Don’t get me wrong, it is a disaster and should totally go away, it is also unsustainable, unjust, horribly run, a Ponzi scheme etc, etc, It is all those things, It just isn’t welfare.

  138. @Jessica Boxer: Please explain how government subsidized medical care for poor people is welfare, while government subsidized medical care for old people isn’t.

  139. I assume you are missing the point. “Doing those things” is just as much serving the country as the other things you think so laudable.

    Nope, we do those things for ourselves. To earn a living, make money, etc. All important but not part of civic duty (aside from paying taxes).


    > You could limit it to just those that serve in the military

    Why? The military do lots of good and important things, and it is full of effective, brave and decent people. But if you think the thing that is great about America is the military, I have to respectfully disagree.

    No military = no republic. The final arbiter of the safety of a country is the strength and effectiveness of its military against threats. (And that, of course, depends on the strength of the economy, education, etc but I digress).

    Besides, I’m the one who suggested the alternatives to just military service that you poo-poo. Other aspects are important but to me the military, as a civic duty, is the most important.

    Contrast this with societies that do not value military like China with the phrase ‘???????????’ – good iron isn’t for making nails, good men isn’t for making soldiers. Overrun by countries a fraction their size, abused by colonial powers, terrorized by internal warlords, etc. Only 50 years of ruthless communist propaganda has reversed this meme that devastated China in the 19th and early 20th century. Today the PLA may not be staffed by the best and the brightest but they are (mostly) professionals as good as many other militaries in the world.

    When average americans are no longer willing to send their own sons and daughters into the military to uphold the constitution is when we stop being relevant and should start actually worrying about government tyranny because the only people that will be in the military will be thugs and the mercenaries.

    “Ask not” is even more relevant today than in the 1960s and is entirely consistent with “by the people”. If we fail to serve then the government will no longer BE “by the people” and the “for the people” part quickly falls by the wayside.

    Likewise if we don’t vote or think that voting doesn’t matter. Voting is not the “final stem” against tyranny but the first. A “right” hard fought for and precious to everyone except for those who know no better because they grew up with it, did nothing to gain it and therefore value it at “less than ten dollars”. Immigrants from brutal dictatorships know that if there are such things as “God given rights” they must still be won by blood and steel against those that would take them away.

    Being engaged and voting is the first and best line of defense against tyranny.

    Governments and the state are not constituted for us to serve, they are constituted to serve us. America’s worst moments were when we forgot that.

    You CAN NOT sever the relationship between service by citizens and freedom and expect anything but failure and tyranny. I would say that America’s BEST moments are when we remembered that service was a requirement for freedom and rose to the challenge.

    I will not force my kids into the military but I will encourage them.

    “Utterly horrifying”? You simply don’t understand what it costs to live in a free society because others have paid that price for you. Folks deride the “welfare state” here but this is the worst sort of entitlement mentality.

    I would argue what is great about America IS the military. Not the planes and tanks and guns. Not because we are the biggest and baddest. But the hearts that beat within it. That there are millions of americans that would endure hardship, to be away from family and friends for long periods, to risk being maimed and killed because it is their duty as a free people to defend not just themselves and their own families but to defend the lives and liberty of others as well.

    Because the US military is the most obvious indication that millions and millions of Americans understand it is their civic duty to serve and not just take.

    This is what makes OUR government BY the people. We may falter. We may make mistakes, even horrible ones. But so long as the American people continue to serve we won’t fail.

  140. @LS

    Perhaps Jessica distinguishes between programs where the same people paying in will eventually get money out and programs where other people pay in for the benefit of others who will rarely pay in themselves. The government also charges a premium for Medicare Part B and Part C. There are also deductibles and coinsurance.

  141. 1) A profitable business adds more to the world than the sum of its inputs. Profit is confirmation by the external world that you are not merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    2) A vote in a state election is more valuable than a vote in a national election. A vote in a local election is much more valuable than either. Therefore you have more influence on your local government. It follows that governmental functions most important to you should be run at as low a level as possible.

  142. I don’t know much about American politics, but Nigel’s post about military and duty to the country, about upholding freedom and meaning of the vote, is more like a cliched political speech than a convincing argument for any particular position… lots of words that don’t mean a whole lot and usually used by right-wing politicians to raise some kind of patriotic fervour at election time.

    I would say that by itself reduces the impact of such sentiments. I am as patriotic as anybody, but that doesn’t mean I owe allegiance to any particular form of government or wish to support such governments by joining under their service, military or otherwise.

    Would just like to say that any military under a political leadership is usually toothless to upload the constitution against the will of that political leadership. A military free of political leadership is usually a rogue military, governed by ambitious and self-serving generals – aggressive and arrogant. In neither case is a military an upholder of constitution.

    I have no doubt that a military serves many purposes useful to the citizens of a country, security from external aggression being one of them, but I seriously doubt that the military can save a country from the tyranny of its own political leadership.

  143. > , but I seriously doubt that the military can save a country from the tyranny of its own political leadership.
    Wanted to add to that, if a military does depose the political tyranny, it usually replaces it with its own tyranny.

  144. @BobW: The key words are ‘government- subsidized’. I know all about medicare; I’m a recipient!
    Still, for all the talk about it being an insurance program, it costs more than it collects. This is not surprising, as it ‘insures’ the oldest, and therefore sickest, segment of the population. This is not unlike Fannie and Freddie, which ought to have made a profit on all those mortgages, but the government rules forced them to gag on all those liar loans that the banks stuck them with.

    “The trouble with Socialism is that you run out of other peoples’ money.” – Margaret Thatcher

  145. meat.paste: Ah, much clearer.

    And agreed, I have no objections to speak of to what you turn out to have meant.

    (And while you’re absolutely right that for purely Second Amendment-as-intended purposes, all relevant guns are intended to kill (or close enough as makes no difference), the trope is so commonly used by “guns are just EVIL” people that the confusion is worth dispelling.

    Guns as a class of object are not all designed to kill, but even if they were, that trope conflates “design” with “intent of the user”, as if they’re somehow even the same class of moral entity.)

  146. @ESR

    You said several weeks ago that you had talked to the guy behind Defence Distributed, do you know anything / have any comment now that the hammer is coming down?

    — Foo Quuxman

    • >You said several weeks ago that you had talked to the guy behind Defence Distributed, do you know anything / have any comment now that the hammer is coming down?

      What hammer is that? Last I heard the BATF had issued him a manufacturing license.

  147. On the DEFCAD downloads page:
    “DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls.
    Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.”

    Needless to say the torrents are flying far and wide.

    — Foo Quuxman

  148. LS on Thursday, May 9 2013 at 8:56 am said:
    > Uh…no. The basic financial problem is that most of the welfare spending in the US is welfare for the middle class.

    I assume you are counting medicaid, medicare, social security supplemental income, the hospital emergency room, section eight housing, and the earned income tax credit as aid to the middle class, and indeed everything that does not have the word “needy” explicitly in the title, as aid to the middle class. They are not.

    In California you cannot get into emergency, except at Stanford, because there is a queue of short fat pregnant Mestizo single women and their bastard spawn a mile long. Social security supplemental income is markedly and strikingly whiter, but they are still pretty much all of them subhumans. We need white ghettos to put people like that in and not let them out. One would expect the earned income tax credit to be whiter, but it is not.

    Three percent down mortgage loans to people with no credit are not counted as welfare, but they are welfare, a massive and expensive form of welfare, and in California, very few of the recipients are white. Section eight housing is not only as close to 100% black and mestizo as makes no difference, it is majority criminal.

    The only substantial form of middle class welfare is student loans, but most of these student loans go to women who take out useless recreational and political degrees, that not only can a complete moron pass, but that you have to be something of a moron to pass since they mainly consist of absorbing mindless stupid propaganda and regurgitating it unchanged. They should not be allowed vote either. Although their courses are basically a literacy test (“read this propaganda and prove you have read it by regurgitating in in slightly different words”) they should be excluded by some other means, such as a property requirement.

  149. “DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls.
    Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.”

    Not surprising, they are effectively trafficking in illegal firearms.

  150. James A. Donald on Thursday, May 9 2013 at 5:58 pm said:

    LS on Thursday, May 9 2013 at 8:56 am said:
    > Uh…no. The basic financial problem is that most of the welfare spending in the US is welfare for the middle class.

    If you don’t pay income tax, you are not middle class. Almost all “middle class welfare” goes to people who do not pay income tax.

    This goes double for “loans” Student loans are welfare if they are given to people who are unlikely to ever pay them back. If you are unlikely to ever pay them back, you are not middle class. Similarly with mortgages.

  151. LS on Thursday, May 9 2013 at 8:56 am said:
    > Uh…no. The basic financial problem is that most of the welfare spending in the US is welfare for the middle class

    I, my sons, my wife, my friends, are the middle class. What welfare spending did any of us benefit from?

  152. LS on Thursday, May 9 2013 at 8:56 am said:
    > Uh…no. The basic financial problem is that most of the welfare spending in the US is welfare for the middle class

    So: Where is my family’s share?

  153. LS commented on Destroying the middle ground, redux.
    > Please explain how government subsidized medical care for poor people is welfare, while government subsidized medical care for old people isn’t.

    Not welfare because the return on social security payments is negative for the affluent.

  154. Nigel on Thursday, May 9 2013 at 10:26 am said:
    > No military = no republic.

    The founding fathers believed, recalling what happened to the Roman Republic, that a standing army = no republic.

  155. @LS
    >Please explain how government subsidized medical care for poor people is welfare, while government subsidized medical care for old people isn’t.

    Sure, one has been paid for by contributions, and one hasn’t. You can argue about the economics, you can’t argue with the 1.45% both me and my employer pay for my future healthcare. It might be different for retired people who never paid in, but you were talking about the middle class.

    To be clear, it totally sucks, but they are categorically different.

  156. @Nigel
    > Nope, we do those things for ourselves. To earn a living, make money, etc. All important but not part of civic duty (aside from paying taxes).

    You think military personnel serve for purely altruistic reasons? Perhaps you should talk to some of them. They serve for many reasons, altruism and love of country being one of many. You would be surprised at how many evil capitalist pigs on Wall Street are passionately patriotic, and believe what they are doing is very much for the benefit of the nation.

    For sure, they make us all rich, and they provide the country an enormous service, regardless of their motivation.

    North Korea has a very dedicated military, but I don’t want to live there.

    > No military = no republic.

    No Wall Street bankers = no republic too. So what is your point. The republic is a motley collection of different contributors. I think we should celebrate them all.

    > The final arbiter of the safety of a country is the strength and effectiveness of its military against threats.

    That is not true. The United States could reduce its military by 90% and still remain entirely invulnerable to invasion. In naval war, the United States Navy would most likely prevail against all the other Navys in the world put together. So our military could be vastly less effective and strong and still provide safety to the country. (BTW, just as an aside, the military is SHOCKING inefficient and ineffective. Its efficacy comes from the fact that they fight against the even more ineffective and inefficient militaries of other nations. I remember hearing a Navy SEAL interviewed. He was asked why they were so good. He said they weren’t all that great, it is just that everyone else really sucked.)

    > Besides, I’m the one who suggested the alternatives to just military service that you poo-poo.

    Au contraire, you didn’t cast your net wide enough.

    > Other aspects are important but to me the military, as a civic duty, is the most important.

    Civic duty is a tool used by proto tyrants to get labor from citizens for free out of a dreadful emotional manipulation. The duty is the other way — the duty of the state to the individual.

    > When average americans are no longer willing to send their own sons and daughters into the military to uphold the constitution

    In case you hadn’t noticed we don’t do that any more. People volunteer, because they think the benefits to them personally of serving in the military outweigh the costs and risks. Some exceptions exist of course, but a lot of kids serve a couple of years to get their college paid for.

    > Likewise if we don’t vote or think that voting doesn’t matter. Voting is not the “final stem” against tyranny but the first.

    Yes, that is the lie they propagate in civics class. It isn’t true though. The first barrier against tyranny is a population that gives a damn. The second is a constitution of limited and fractured government, and the third a court that enforces that constitution.

    > Immigrants from brutal dictatorships know that if there are such things as “God given rights” they must still be won by blood and steel against those that would take them away.

    There are few things so effective at taking away rights as the veneer of legitimacy conferred by democracy. I’ll leave it to you to think of examples of popular legislation that is very detrimental to individual rights. They aren’t hard to find.

    etc…

  157. Jeff: No, the Defender is not an illegal weapon. If you claim it is, cite the reasons why.

    And that’s not the stated reason for the takedown anyway. The stated reason is that making it available on the Internet is internationally trafficking in arms. I think that’s bullshit, but, unlike you, I’m not going to categorically say it is or isn’t.

    I did grab my copy of the ZIP file earlier today when I was it was available, just in case I wind up being able to help ensure it remains freely available.

  158. @LS:

    To give you a more accurate answer, Ms. Boxer was talking about *Medicare*, which is mostly an insurance program for the elderly. Medicaid is government health care for those who cannot afford it.

    Medicare is, sort of, insurance that one pays into most of one’s working life and collects during “retirement”.

    Medicaid is welfare.

  159. @Jessica Boxer:

    That is not true. The United States could reduce its military by 90% and still remain entirely invulnerable to invasion. In naval war, the United States Navy would most likely prevail against all the other Navys in the world put together. So our military could be vastly less effective and strong and still provide safety to the country. (BTW, just as an aside, the military is SHOCKING inefficient and ineffective. Its efficacy comes from the fact that they fight against the even more ineffective and inefficient militaries of other nations. I remember hearing a Navy SEAL interviewed. He was asked why they were so good. He said they weren’t all that great, it is just that everyone else really sucked.)

    In today’s world our military in general cannot be more effective or more efficient, but for different reasons.

    The easiest to dispose of is the “efficient” part. The military has a choice, it can spare the material or it can spare the soldiers. Soldiers–especially modern ones–are particularly expensive, both in terms of training and fielding, and in negative propaganda when they are killed. Also logistics is a fine, fine art. It is cheaper to buy LOTS of shit and scatter it around the would in case we need it there than to store it here and disperse it rapidly. And finally the military mind says “it’s better to have too many beans/bullets/bandages/bedrolls than not enough. War breaks things, and broken things need replacing.

    As to the US Military “not being all that great” and other organizations just sucking more, lets reach way the f* back into history where Heraclitus is reported to have said:

    Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.

    I’ve worked with and shot with SEALs, Rangers, and Army SF types (one of my groomsmen went on to pass the SF Q course *in his late 30s*), I have either been in the military, or worked for the military in each of the last 4 decades (As in 80s, 90s, 00s and this one). I have served in multiple services.

    You know why our military isn’t as good as it could be? Because it’s not a military designed for breaking things and killing people any more. It’s a fucking social services organization for the lower and middle classes.

    The Army and the Air Force recruit on the back of the GI bill and the Army/Air Force college fund. The Navy the same way.

    Only the Marines don’t play that shit.

    So we get asswipes who are there *only* for the college benefits. I went through a school with one who had quit the Regular Air Force and transferred to the reserves because (and this shitbag joined after 9/11) the recruiter lied to him about the chances of going to war. We have women who think they can run with the men, and congressmen who know they can get votes by forcing the issue.

    You cannot make a good weapon out of inferior iron.

    Also the SEALs are essentially Olympic class athletes who use too much hair product and kill people. They are like the math geeks in school who are *so* good naturally that they can’t understand how anyone can’t do quadratic equations in their heads.

  160. Oh, I should add:

    When you talk about reducing the military by “90%” and still protect the nation, you’re wrong.

    I’ve worked combat arms to support to other duties, from “down range” in Baghdad (admittedly towards the end) to as far “up range” as you can get and not be political.

    The navy you talk about? It is *hugely* expensive, and utterly useless w/out the sort of intelligence that is also hella expensive.

    There is a tremendous amount of waste in the DoD and associated agencies that could be eliminated, but remember this is *military* stuff you’re talking about, and often redundancy looks like waste until a rocket lands in the wrong spot.

  161. LS on Thursday, May 9 2013 at 4:52 pm said:
    > Still, for all the talk about it being an insurance program, [Medicare] costs more than it collects.

    Medicare is part of social security, part of a compulsory retirement program. For the affluent, social security collects considerably more than it disburses. It is a mighty sucky retirement program.

  162. @William O. B’Livion
    >When you talk about reducing the military by “90%” and still protect the nation, you’re wrong.

    Of course we couldn’t do what we do now with that size of a reduced military, but that isn’t what I said. I said we could prevent invasion of the homeland, and that is certainly true. (is 90% the right number, don’t know, it is a swag, but it is a huge reduction for sure.)

    As an example, why exactly do we need eight gigantic aircraft carriers to protect the borders of America? Why do we even need one?

    The size of the military depends on the mission of the military. The mission is far huger than the concept of “protect the homeland.” Is that right? You judge, but that is not the question at hand.

    And in terms of waste, I remember when they were talking about a deployment to Iraq, they said something like 10,000 soldiers would cost $10bn per year. That is a million dollars per soldier. How is that even possible? The answer of course is simple — big bloated bureaucracy. I’m not fan of the leftie wingdings, but their ranting about Halliburton was not without cause.

  163. @Jessica Boxer:

    By “protect the nation” I meant exactly what you said “prevent invasion”.

    We might not need 8 aircraft carriers, but we’d need still need a fairly large deep water navy. We’d need at least as many aircraft, we’d still need the satellites, the nuclear weapons, etc.

    If we were to close all foreign bases and re-deploy those troops home, transfer most of the heavy lift stuff from the AF to the Navy, decommission 1/2 the aircraft carriers (we’d still need two on the east coast and at least 2 in the pacific, we’ve got a LOT of territory in the Pacific that needs protecting). We’d need to keep even more of the rest of our blue water navy as we wouldn’t be tying up our enemies on *their* turf, we’d have to wait until they got close to the 200 mile limit.

    You’d need to increase the size and training of the National Guard, including armor and armored cav units.

    The problem is you’d still need–need even more–the various intel collection systems out there, and those m’lady are NOT cheap.

    Look, I spent a year in Iraq, and I know a LOT of what went on there. Halliburton was operating on about a 4-5% margin for most of the time it was there, and it would have been a LOT more expensive had they not been there. They were able to provide a lot of low-end labor, mostly by hiring Africans, to do the work that in previous wars had been done by Construction Battalions and lower ranking enlisted men. There was a *ton* of waste that went on there, and some of it was not knowing what the conditions on the ground would be (wars are like that), but a LOT of the waste in Iraq (and I don’t know what article you were looking at, so I can’t say) was from the stupid requirements from the State Department. This is *NOT* on the military. While I was there here was a lot of up-armored German Luxury cars–around 500 of them–that State had ordered to provide to local officials and dignitaries. Because this was for Iraq and the war/reconstruction effort it looked like military spending.

    We don’t fight with just rifles anymore. Haven’t since WWII. Now it’s combined arms, electronics, intelligence from satellites etc.

    We could *maybe* cut 60% out of the military budget if we *completely* pulled back to the US, but that would leave our shipping (Remember the first extra-continental deployment of the US Military? “To the shores of Tripoli”?) exposed, we’d not have the ability to respond to attacks on US Embassies *at all*, and we’d basically be giving up our status as a world power.

    Now, some would like that, but frankly I think our values and mores, as fucked as they are, are better than most countries able to establish themselves as a world power.

    Oh, and if we got the politics completely out of the military and we started to really put the screws to the defense contractors we could probably cut ~20 off our defense budget.

    Of course, we could attack most of the rest of the US budget the same way. Problem is we’d have a lot of useless f*s on the street looking for work.

  164. @William O. B’Livion
    > We might not need 8 aircraft carriers, but we’d need still need a fairly large deep water navy.

    Why? Let’s consider the reasons you put forth (sorry if I missed some):

    1. To protect shipping. Why can’t shipping protect itself?
    2. To protect out territories. But, aside from Hawaii, those territories are basically a bunch of naval bases. We don’t really need Guam. We certainly don’t need Guantanamo bay.
    3. To protect our shores at the 200nm limit. Certainly, but air power is pretty effective for that, and fixed sonar, radar and satellites pretty good for pointing the planes in the right direction.

    I’m not saying we don’t need a navy. We do. But aircraft carrier groups are for the projection of power overseas. If we are protecting the homeland we don’t need to project. Evidence? Nobody else projects their power overseas. (Perhaps the only exception was the Falklands war, which was quite something…)

    > We’d need at least as many aircraft,

    Why? Why do we need those aircraft in Italy and Germany and Turkey and Japan, if the goal is to protect the homeland?

    > we’d still need the satellites, the nuclear weapons, etc.

    Indeed.

    > If we were to close all foreign bases and re-deploy those troops home, transfer most of the heavy lift stuff from the AF to the Navy,

    We could alternatively retire all those people and stuff and stop paying for them if we don’t need them.

    >You’d need to increase the size and training of the National Guard, including armor and armored cav units.

    Why? You just brought all these guys home from South Korea, they can do the job.

    > The problem is you’d still need–need even more–the various intel collection systems out there, and those m’lady are NOT cheap.

    Yes. And it sure isn’t cheap the way we do it. There are vastly cheaper ways to intel than massive leviathans such as the CIA or the NSA. However, cheap is never the goal. Arguably, it is the opposite of the goal.

    > we’d not have the ability to respond to attacks on US Embassies *at all*,

    How do you think we should respond to embassy attacks? Send in the Navy? Roll some tanks over there? Finland doesn’t do that. You can do a Reagan with a few long range bombers.

    > We could *maybe* cut 60% out of the military budget if we *completely* pulled back to the US, > …Oh, and if we got the politics completely out of the military and we started to really put the screws to the defense contractors we could probably cut ~20 off our defense budget.

    So by your estimate we could cut 70%. I think you are being conservative, but lets split the difference, I’ll take 80%.

    That is based on the premise that the mission of the US military should be only to protect the homeland. I don’t entirely hold that opinion; I think it should do a little more than that, but not much more.

    • >If we are protecting the homeland we don’t need to project

      Jessica, you’re pretty sharp as a rule but you’re tripping over some ignorance of history and geostrategy here and (sorry) it’s making you sound stupid.

      As much as possible you want to fight defensive wars on the aggressor’s turf, not your own. But our armies can’t march to where they’d need to be to do that. This means the U.S. has to have a power-projection navy and expeditionary capability even in the no-longer-really-plausible case that its foreign-policy doctrine is isolationist. Isolationism and dependence on transoceanic trade don’t mix.

      This situation is almost unique because historically all great powers except one other were located on the Eurasian landmass. The exception was Great Britain. Surprise, surprise, U.S. grand strategy resembles Britain’s; the point being that this would be necessarily so even if there weren’t cultural descent, for purely geostrategic reasons.

      You also underestimate the problem of protecting shipping. In a world without purpose-built navies, armed merchantmen can defend themselves against armed merchantmen. Purpose-built warships change everything.

      Here again the U.S. is condemned to needing a large navy for the simple reasons that (a) it fronts on two oceans, and (b) some of the commodities it depends on (think oil) come from halfway around the planet.

  165. I should also point out that, between the two World Wars, when the US was very strongly isolationist, Congress cut the army down to only 50,000 men – but they lavished resources on the navy. The navy was supposed to keep those foreigners away from us.

  166. @nigel
    Maybe it is useful to remind those in the USA that what royalty is left in Europe tends to enter active military service. British princes fought in active battle.

  167. Pingback: Daily Linkage – May 10, 2013 | The Second Estate

  168. Winter: British princes fight in active battles. Remember Captain Harry Wales, helicopter pilot?

    Jessica: It’s really quite simple. Would you rather fight in Afghanistan or California?

    • >British princes fight in active battles.

      I admire this feature of the British system. It’s a shame we don’t have any effective way to translate it into our politics.

  169. It’s a shame we don’t have any effective way to translate it into our politics.

    If we went all Heinlein “Starship Troopers” we could…no vote, no public office, until you’ve served.

    j/k ;)

  170. @esr
    > As much as possible you want to fight defensive wars on the aggressor’s turf, not your own. But our armies can’t march to where they’d need to be to do that.

    I get the theory, but what are the realistic threats that the United States actually faces? We have no realistic threat of a naval invasion, and any such threat can be dealt with by a littoral navy, substantial air cover, good space based intel, and excellent missile technology. Instead we spend our money of gigantic carriers that are insanely expensive to build, and maintain, and such vast concentrations of capital that they make fabulous targets.

    The countries that could make a substantial attempt to invade (excluding allies), would be China and Russia. But they also have nuclear weapons, so naval invasion is hardly the top threat. The threats of invasion we face are really quite different. Not large concentrations of military, but small cell based attacks. With all the money we spend, we remain remarkably vulnerable to this very real threat.

    From what I see, our large navy is fighting the last war rather than the next.

    Lets talk about history for a moment. Since WWII probably the four most important carrier actions were Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf War (and its follow ons) and the Falklands War. From my perspective all of these were basically imperialist actions, and probably shouldn’t have been fought at all, notwithstanding the remarkably achievements of the British in particular. I have a lot of ambivalence about the Gulf war and Gulf war two, but it was much less carrier dependent than the others.

    > Isolationism and dependence on transoceanic trade don’t mix.

    We aren’t talking about isolationism, we are talking about military isolationism. Trade is the best defensive strategy of all.

    > You also underestimate the problem of protecting shipping. In a world without purpose-built navies,

    Perhaps, but you are an anarchist. Surely you don’t think that the only people capable of protecting shipping are large state built navies? Surely when it comes to commercial shipping we have the very lowest hanging fruit of private based military.

    > some of the commodities it depends on (think oil) come from halfway around the planet.

    Some of their oil for sure, but more than half comes from a combination of Venezuela, Mexico and Canada. The thing about having a big navy is that you are tempted to use it, rather than find alternatives.

    • >I get the theory, but what are the realistic threats that the United States actually faces?

      I can think of half a dozen that require force projection, but I’ll pick just one that’s representative: nuclearized Iran actually does what its foaming-loony leadership says it wants to do and nukes Tel Aviv; shortly afterwards a container nuke vaporizes a U.S. port city.

      >Trade is the best defensive strategy of all.

      Didn’t prevent WWI. Or WWII.

      >Surely you don’t think that the only people capable of protecting shipping are large state built navies?

      They’re the only thing that will do it if your commerce has a national flag. If the U.S., per se, no longer exists, the options get a little broader. One is that crime-insurance syndicates contract with other state navies to cover their clients’ shipping.

  171. Jeff: No, the Defender is not an illegal weapon. If you claim it is, cite the reasons why.

    The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988. Firearms that aren’t detectable by metal detectors, and ones that don’t show up on X-ray machines, are illegal in the United States.

    As you said, it also violates ITAR, but then again so does a motion sensor that’s too sensitive, or encryption that’s too strong.

  172. @Jeff Read

    The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988. Firearms that aren’t detectable by metal detectors, and ones that don’t show up on X-ray machines, are illegal in the United States.

    The Defender uses a nail for a firing pin, for exactly that reason.

  173. @BobW –

    Actually, as I read this Forbes article about the Defender, there is an (otherwise inert) largish chunk of steel embedded in the handle precisely to make it detectable. I suspect the firing pin is metal for stiffness and sharpness, not for detectability.

  174. The Defender uses a nail for a firing pin, for exactly that reason.

    More than that, in the README instructions, it specifically instructs the manufacturer to print the frame first, epoxy a chunk of metal into a hole in front of the trigger guard, *then* print the rest of the gun.

    The Liberator (not “Defender”) is compliant with the Undetectable Firearms Act.

    As for exporting arms illegally…utter hogwash….there are any number of CNC plans for various firearms openly available online. Digital blueprints are not firearms. Heck, the AR15 platform is an open standard, is it not?

  175. @John D. Bell

    I bet you’re right. I conflated the two, and didn’t go back to check.

    Anyway, the design is intended to be detectable.

  176. @Jessica Boxer

    During the cold war everyone realized that the carrier battle group was also a high-value target perfect for a nuke.

  177. @esr
    >nuclearized Iran actually does what its foaming-loony leadership says it wants to do and nukes Tel Aviv;

    Is that an invasion of the US, which is the scenario we are trying to prevent? It is horrible, but it assumes the conclusion, namely that the USA is somehow responsible for the protection of other countries. Commerce would be an excellent solution here — namely the sale of defensive weapons to Israel. But even if that isn’t possible, it is Israel’s problem, not the USA’s problem.

    > shortly afterwards a container nuke vaporizes a U.S. port city.

    That is a littoral threat. We are spending all our money on force projection that we are neglecting exactly this sort of threat. I believe I made that point above already.

    > Didn’t prevent WWI. Or WWII.

    Neither did the US Navy. (And as an aside, there is a pretty strong argument to be made that cessation of trade with Japan, such as the export of oil, was one of the causes of WWII, for the USA anyway.)

    > They’re the only thing that will do it if your commerce has a national flag. If the U.S., per se, no longer exists, the options get a little broader.

    Or the destination ports provide protection for ships destined for them. Or Singapore provides protection for ships in the straits of Malaca. Or BP and Shell get together to provide protection for Oil tankers in the Gulf, or a thousand other scenarios. The thing about private enterprise is that they are remarkably resourceful, and exceptionally good at finding a balance between cost and risk.

    Of course if you get it for free from someone else, like the US Navy, why bother? Kind of like how public healthcare insurance destroys private healthcare.

    • >That is a littoral threat.

      You misunderstood. “container nuke” = nuke smuggled in a civilian shipping container. If you don’t think that’s plausible, there are lots of other threat axes a littoral navy wouldn’t do much about either.

      But you’re not thinking enough about what happens if interdiction fails. In that case, the U.S. needs some way to take down the Iranian regime. If you’re not willing for Iranian cities to be WMDed wholesale (I’m not) the U.S. will require a way to impose its will on Iran. That means a power-projection navy and an expeditionary army.

      I hate statism, but I understand how geopolitics has to be played in the Westphalian system. The U.S. is more or less stuck with being a great power and having great-power problems.

  178. @Ms. boxer:

    > 1. To protect shipping. Why can’t shipping protect itself?

    Because modern naval gunnery isn’t one dude with a really good intuition about ballistics and 3 dudes who can swab a barrel, pour powder light a fuse and get out of the way. Modern gunnery is a technical specialty and involves expensive equipment.

    Once you get merchant fleets sufficiently armed to protect shipping from predation by other *nations*, you get ships that are basically really big destroyers. Once you *allow* merchant ships to arm themselves you will get what are basically destroyers with some storage space.

    Also many societies/nations in the world do not draw quite as big a distinction between Government actions and Citizens actions. The first time a merchant fleet (because they’d have to travel in packs) lights up a Somali pirate or sinks a NK cruiser trying to board them you have an international incident.

    > To protect out territories. But, aside from Hawaii, those territories are basically a bunch
    > of naval bases. We don’t really need Guam. We certainly don’t need Guantanamo bay.

    So we should give up territory because we want to shrink the military? Guam and Puerto Rico are American *territory*. The territory you want to protect from invasion.

    First you said:
    > To protect our shores at the 200nm limit. Certainly, but air power is pretty effective for that,
    > and fixed sonar, radar and satellites pretty good for pointing the planes in the right direction.

    Then when I said:
    > > We’d need at least as many aircraft,

    You ask:
    > Why? Why do we need those aircraft in Italy and Germany and Turkey and Japan,
    > if the goal is to protect the homeland?

    We don’t need them based overseas if your only goal is protecting some of our borders. However we still need to *keep* them. It is not inherently that much more expensive to keep them overseas than it is to keep them here, and it might even be less expensive or a wash because it *possibly* allows us to recruit a slightly higher quality serviceman. Possibly.

    I know that if I hadn’t been a wise teenager I’d have joined the f*ing Air Force out of high school and gotten a much better choice of assignments than the Marine Corps.

    > I’m not saying we don’t need a navy. We do. But aircraft carrier groups are for the
    > projection of power overseas. If we are protecting the homeland we don’t need to project.

    Yes, but they’re really, really awesome for projecting power over THE seas too. You need 2 carriers/groups in each ocean because this allows 1 to be in port at any given time (or rather prevents your entire carrier group from being offline for months at a time while they refuel and refit, rest and recreate).

    In certain areas–the Gulf of Mexico for example, the response time from shore based units is much slower than the response time from a carrier 300 miles closer.

    It also allows for REALLY effective disaster relief.

    > Nobody else projects their power overseas. (Perhaps the only exception was the
    > Falklands war, which was quite something…)

    Every major nation maintains the ability to do so. (True scotsman fallacy, if they do not maintain the ability to do so they aren’t a major nation). They may not make a big deal out of it, they may not keep their boat or boats at sea as much as we do, but they have it. (France and England both have aircraft carriers. China IIRC bought one and is trying to refit it. Russia keeps her’s around but they’re not active).

    Now, if we want to completely turn our back on the rest of the world and go completely isolationist we can do that.

    > If we were to close all foreign bases and re-deploy those troops home, transfer most of the heavy lift stuff from the AF to the Navy,

    We could alternatively retire all those people and stuff and stop paying for them if we don’t need them.

    > >You’d need to increase the size and training of the National Guard, including armor and armored cav units.

    > Why? You just brought all these guys home from South Korea, they can do the job.

    Because America is a LOT bigger than Korea, and if you’re going to *save money* you need to take those troops off full time status. You need to retrain them to their new mission, you’re going to lose many who don’t want to be part time soldiers, etc.

    We have relatively small numbers of troops in Germany, Korea and Japan because they are there to hold the line until we can MORE people there, or to more rapidly deploy to trouble spots. At least in theory.

    > > The problem is you’d still need–need even more–the various intel collection systems out there, and those m’lady are NOT cheap.

    > Yes. And it sure isn’t cheap the way we do it. There are vastly cheaper ways to intel than
    > massive leviathans such as the CIA or the NSA. However, cheap is never the goal.
    > Arguably, it is the opposite of the goal.

    I’m getting really close to things I’m not allowed to talk about here, but yeah, there might be ways, but we stopped doing those things in the 70s for a reason, mostly because (depending on your point of view) the kind of people willing to do those sorts of jobs generally are the kind you can in front of a congressional sub-committee without lots of people complaining about their character and past. Or because the left in this country was really opposed to the US winning or even holding it’s own.

    > > we’d not have the ability to respond to attacks on US Embassies *at all*,
    > How do you think we should respond to embassy attacks? Send in the Navy?
    > Roll some tanks over there?

    Understand that I spent my 18th birthday in Marine Corps boot camp. Marines (and some Army guys, not knocking them) have a particular attitude towards gunfire. We run towards it. As fast and has heavily armed as we can. Which might mean a fucking pocket knife, but we go because we’re Marines.

    However, I think that Mr. Bill Whittle pretty much nails the appropriate response here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vHhU4JU5Ug starting slightly past 8 minutes in.

    > Finland doesn’t do that. You can do a Reagan with a few long range bombers.

    Finland isn’t a country of consequence. Almost no one looks at Finland and says “I really want to move to Finland and live a better life”. Finland *exports* smart people, it doesn’t import them.

    > > We could *maybe* cut 60% out of the military budget if we *completely* pulled back to
    > > the US,
    > > …Oh, and if we got the politics completely out of the military and we started to
    > > really put the screws to the defense contractors we could probably cut ~20 off our
    > > defense budget.

    > So by your estimate we could cut 70%. I think you are being conservative,
    > but lets split the difference, I’ll take 80%.

    Nope, Because if you do the first, you’re NOT going to get the second.

    And no, I wasn’t being conservative. I was being fairly brutal.

  179. @Jay Maynard:
    > Jessica: It’s really quite simple. Would you rather fight in Afghanistan or California?

    I’ve been saying for ~11 years now, “We can fight them over there, or we can fight them over here. I’d rather fight them were they can’t hit my family, but I don’t get that choice.”

    @ESR:
    > I admire this feature of the British system. It’s a shame we don’t have any effective way
    > to translate it into our politics.

    We already do. Both the right and the left like to put forth officers who’ve served.

    But note that the role of the Royalty in England is much reduced.

  180. “Is that an invasion of the US, which is the scenario we are trying to prevent?”

    “What’s this ‘we’ shit, kemosabe?”

    There are far more ways to damage the US than a full-on military invasion, and our national interest requires that we be able to actively defend those interests all around the globe.

  181. During the cold war everyone realized that the carrier battle group was also a high-value target perfect for a nuke.

    Indeed. And this may come as a surprise to some people, but the Navy is surprisingly good at *hiding* carrier groups at sea. They don’t steam in formation like you see in publicity photos, they know all the tricks and they’re good at them. Almost as if it’s a matter of life and death.

    There’s a reason the Russians were so fanatic about launching huge numbers of ocean search recon satellites during the Cold War. They needed them.

  182. @esr
    > You misunderstood. “container nuke” = nuke smuggled in a civilian shipping container.

    No, I got it. The problem is that we don’t screen cargo adequately coming into US ports. A while ago I read about a proposal to build offshore islands (meaning big concrete piles) where every container goes through an XRay machine to look for threats. I suppose you could even build a machine big enough to XRay a whole container ship.

    And of course we could reduce the expense by racially profiling the containers :-)

    Expensive and time consuming, but way cheaper than an Empire Navy.

    > If you don’t think that’s plausible,

    I think it is terrifyingly plausible. The only more terrifying thing is how little we are doing about it.

    > But you’re not thinking enough about what happens if interdiction fails. In that case, the U.S. needs some way to take down the Iranian regime.

    Iran is not Iraq. That would be a real blood bath. Boots on the ground is a dreadful solution as the Iraq quagmire goes to show. We need a solution to that problem that wasn’t conceived by the Duke of Wellington.

    Especially when your eight carriers are eight stealth torpedoes (or eight really primitive nuclear weapons) away from Davy Jones’ locker. To me it is a classic government solution — big iron, massive systems of overwhelming complexity, concentrated capital, dreadful organization, top down planning, rather than a bottom up, innovative, emergent solution.

    Ultimately the Death Star is vulnerable to a band of scrappy x-wing fighters. Ask the USS Cole or HMS Sheffield.

  183. I’ve worked with and shot with SEALs, Rangers, and Army SF types (one of my groomsmen went on to pass the SF Q course *in his late 30s*), I have either been in the military, or worked for the military in each of the last 4 decades (As in 80s, 90s, 00s and this one). I have served in multiple services.

    You know why our military isn’t as good as it could be? Because it’s not a military designed for breaking things and killing people any more.

    /shrug

    The objective isn’t aways to break things and kill people when you’re doing COIN.

    Planning and training for Fulda Gap is a lot easier.

    It’s a fucking social services organization for the lower and middle classes.

    The Army and the Air Force recruit on the back of the GI bill and the Army/Air Force college fund. The Navy the same way

    So we get asswipes who are there *only* for the college benefits.

    Please. There are still lots of guys that ask to be 0311 or 11b and not because they didn’t know better but because they wanted to serve unlike your AF example.

    Sure, some guys and gals are there just for the benefits but it’s bullshit that the percentages have increased from the 80s and 90s when were weren’t in the middle of an actual war.

    We have women who think they can run with the men, and congressmen who know they can get votes by forcing the issue.

    /shrug

    There are a few that can even as infantry. Maybe not many, but a few. We can learn lessons from the IDF how to make that actually work.

    You cannot make a good weapon out of inferior iron.

    As opposed to the 70s and 80s? Methinks you’re looking on the past with some seriously rose colored shades. I bet there were some grizzled old f’s saying the same thing about you back then too.

  184. Iran is not Iraq. That would be a real blood bath. Boots on the ground is a dreadful solution as the Iraq quagmire goes to show.

    Iran would go down quickly just like Iraq. That’s not the problem. The problem is after.

    /shrug

    I won’t discuss many of the things you bring up so I’ll let ESR carry on. He’s a lot more right than you are and not because he agrees with me.

    My only comment is that peacetime is a lot different that wartime. Things you can get away with doing in peacetime wont work in wartime.

  185. We might not need 8 aircraft carriers, but we’d need still need a fairly large deep water navy.

    We don’t need 8 we need 15 to support MCOs but we only have 10 and are supposed to have 11. On average a third will be in port refitting, a third will be working up or transiting and a third actually usefully deployed.

    As long as we still get CVN-80 I’m happy (the next USS Enterprise).

    A deep water navy without carriers is called “targets” which is why the Chinese are building them too (they are called that anyway by bubbleheads). They are well aware of their own risks of blockade. Sea denial is insufficient given they wish to be a global power as well.

  186. You cannot make a good weapon out of inferior iron.

    Isn’t that how the art of katana making developed — the feudal Japanese had to find a way to get decent weaponry out of shite-quality metal?

    Of course good metal + good technique = a sword that can cut M16 bullets in half, Samurai Jack style.

  187. > I understand how geopolitics has to be played in the Westphalian system.

    Speaking of which, can you recommend a _good_ history book(s) broadening one’s knowledge of the subject? It’s so easy to stumble upon crap like Zinn that, given also academia’s biases, I’m rather reluctant going after the first thing the Internets recommend.

  188. @Dan

    > Heck, the AR15 platform is an open standard, is it not?

    Not intentionally. Colt’s Manufacturing own’s the Technical Data Package for the M4. The U.S. Government owns the TDP for the M16. It’s my understanding that the TDP for all variations of the M16 (A1-A4) and the M4 have at one time or another been circulated, but they do remain the intellectual property of those respective organizations.

    That said, there are no big secrets about the M16/M4 – they’ve been torn apart, studied, measured and talked about publicly for decades. About the only thing that’s not’s public knowledge is design tolerances – but you can make an educated guess about that too.

  189. > The U.S. Government owns the TDP for the M16.

    Correcting myself. Colt’s Manufacturing still owns the M16 TDP as well, with the U.S. Government only having a perpetual license.

  190. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
    ~Thomas Jefferson

    Do you think it’s time for a rebellion? Because if Jefferson was alive today…

  191. It appears I’ve got a comment stuck in the queue somewhere, but:

    @Jessica Boxer:

    @esr
    > You misunderstood. “container nuke” = nuke smuggled in a civilian shipping container.

    No, I got it. The problem is that we don’t screen cargo adequately coming into US ports. A while ago I read about a proposal to build offshore islands (meaning big concrete piles) where every container goes through an XRay machine to look for threats. I suppose you could even build a machine big enough to XRay a whole container ship.

    You ever see just how much s*t moves through any one of our deep water ports on a daily basis?

    What has (thus far) prevented the scenario described from playing out is that when a bunch of Muslims destroyed 3 or 4 buildings and a few thousand lives we flipped the governments of TWO countries without significantly disrupting the lives of most citizens.

    The funders and organizers of Islamic jihad and the heads of European countries know exactly what would happen should one of them ship a nuke in a container labeled “General Delivery, Oakland CA”. Shaytan could come avisiting Mecca riding on a MRV like Major Kong.

    THEN we’d track down whoever sent it and we’d *REALLY mess their country up.

    It is our very ability to basically destroy any building, anywhere, whenever we want with the only limitation being “how much collateral damage do we want” that is limiting the number of Bostons and Ft. Hoods that we are seeing.

    And of course we could reduce the expense by racially profiling the containers :-)

    I freaken wish.

    I just imported a large vehicle from Australia (where I’d been for 2 years working indirectly for the government), and MAN what a PITA.

    > Expensive and time consuming, but way cheaper than an Empire Navy.

    I don’t think so. Why did piracy drop so much in the late 1700s? Why has it never made a return? Force projection by empires.

    As I mentioned earlier the *first* force projection by the US was to end the Barbary Pirates.

    > I think it is terrifyingly plausible. The only more terrifying thing is how little we
    > are doing about it.

    We’re doing as much as we can, but from the other end.

  192. William O. B’Livion on Saturday, May 11 2013 at 12:19 am said:
    >You ever see just how much s*t moves through any one of our deep water ports on a daily basis?

    Yes it is truly fabulous to see the back up at customs. A perfect illustration of the productivity of free enterprise contrasted clearly against the lack of productivity of states. However, the solution is the same. Privatize the container screening, and have the container companies pay for the screening as a standard part of their shipping cost. That privatization would make for a quick efficient screening, at a cost effective price. Have test shipments in to measure the success rate of the contractors, and ensure they are doing an adequate job.

    >What has (thus far) prevented the scenario described from playing out is that when a bunch of Muslims destroyed 3 or 4 buildings and a few thousand lives we flipped the governments of TWO countries without significantly disrupting the lives of most citizens.

    What proof do you have of that? The plain fact is that nearly all the bad actors I hear of are not state actors at all. As far as I am aware none of those states had anything to do with 9/11 or any other terrorist assault in the US. I’ll grant you big resources are needed to make a nuclear weapon, but smaller resources are required to steal them, especially when the guards are sympathetic to your viewpoint.

    Intelligence operatives are really at the core of the success of the “war on terror” as far as I can see (based on the bombings that have been prevented.)

    I could equally tell you that the TSA has prevented all that bad stuff from happening. You’d be rightly skeptical. I am skeptical of your claim too.

    > It is our very ability to basically destroy any building, anywhere, whenever we want with the only limitation being “how much collateral damage do we want” that is limiting the number of Bostons and Ft. Hoods that we are seeing.

    First of all, I see no reason to believe that either the Boston bombers or Hassan at Ft. Hood had any concern about the destructive force of the US Navy against their “home countries”. So I think your claim above is plainly wrong.

    But more to the point, if, as you claim, it is our accurate missile targeting systems, and the hard part of missile targetting is the terminal phase, we could surely make those self same missiles have a vastly longer range than current for vastly less money that it takes to feed breakfast to the crew of the USS George Washington, never mind all the other costs of maintaining a vast fleet of carriers and support.

    > We’re doing as much as we can, but from the other end.

    No we aren’t. We have a huge, vastly gigantic, unfathomably expensive hammer, and apparently all we can see are nails.

  193. esr wrote:
    > But you’re not thinking enough about what happens if interdiction fails. In that case, the U.S. needs some way to take down the Iranian regime. If you’re not willing for Iranian cities to be WMDed wholesale (I’m not) the U.S. will require a way to impose its will on Iran. That means a power-projection navy and an expeditionary army.

    Imposing US will on hostile states has proven difficult. Reviewing over a thousand years of conflict between Christendom and Dar al Islam, deterring hostile states has proven considerably less difficult. States are hard to build, easy to destroy.

    The crusader states lacked central authority, they were something more than a family, less than a gang, but they proved quite effective at denying other people state power. More recently, anti society forces without any unified command smashed Soviet power in various places, notably Afghanistan.

  194. What proof do you have of that? The plain fact is that nearly all the bad actors I hear of are not state actors at all. As far as I am aware none of those states had anything to do with 9/11 or any other terrorist assault in the US. I’ll grant you big resources are needed to make a nuclear weapon, but smaller resources are required to steal them, especially when the guards are sympathetic to your viewpoint.

    You clearly haven’t been paying attention. Look at Libya, which has been openly supporting terrorists and attempting to develop WMD, and how the regime there reacted in 2003. And even the most hostile state will tend to guard it’s nukes very highly, because we can determine whose it was after it detonates (even without having an obvious missile or aircraft to track). So again, deterrence.

    Intelligence operatives are really at the core of the success of the “war on terror” as far as I can see (based on the bombings that have been prevented.)

    And where do you think those intelligence operatives are operating? In whose countries? And how well do you think those operatives would be doing if the WOT weren’t a military, but rather a criminal justice affair? You can’t really argue that intelligence that is gathered by the military directly, or by others only able to operate because of the direct support of the military and with the cooperating that the military is able to extract, is proof that the military isn’t necessary.

    First of all, I see no reason to believe that either the Boston bombers or Hassan at Ft. Hood had any concern about the destructive force of the US Navy against their “home countries”. So I think your claim above is plainly wrong.

    The fact that genuinely crazy people are difficult to deter is not grounds to argue that deterrence doesn’t exist, and doesn’t work.

    Frankly, all I see is logic fail, lack of knowledge, and lack of knowledge of how much knowledge is lacking.

  195. @ ESR

    I have finally moved and have Internet access on a new version of Linux; Eris has been having her way with me for some time, but my life has finally sort of stabilized…

    I have a few unrelated but relevant points and questions…

    (1) I am not sure what conclusions to draw from this, other than “Most generalizations about politics have exceptions”, but I have always been a fan of the concept that an armed populace is the best defence against tyranny. Then, early in the second war against Iraq, I learned that most men in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq owned a gun. Go figure, huh?

    (2) You know vastly more history than I do, but I am swayed by Jessica’s arguments. Wouldn’t satellite surveillance and very good missiles be a much cheaper yet effective way to project power world-wide? (As a point of etiquette, if you are right about Jessica’s arguments, I believe “ignorant”, as in lacking knowledge, would be a more appropriate word than “stupid”.)

    (3) The following question is not meant to be rhetorical… getting rid of the Taliban and Saddam were good causes but: Since the war in Afghanistan and the second war in Iraq, are there more or fewer young men in the Middle East that would like to kill Americans? Or, from a different perspective: After 9/11, the US really wanted to go to war, but Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t seem to me to really address the matter at hand square on. It wasn’t countries that pulled off 9/11 – the scary thing is how little the operation cost.

    (4) The scariest question of all – with the US debt and deficit, all the “off-balance-sheet” stuff and apparently vast quantities of extremely toxic derivatives and “proprietary products” hiding in the slime, a loss of faith in US Treasury debt could rapidly turn into a run on that debt and the US dollar, and the US will no longer be able to afford to project power in the conventional fashion. People have been talking about this for decades but there seems reason to believe that this may be the last decade… what then? I am not expecting you to have the answer, but I am interested in what you have to say about it.

  196. @BRM
    To give you my take:
    1) Shooting people does not solve problems. Sadam and the Taliban stayed in power because they prevented the populace from murdering each other.

    2) Shooting more people with missiles does still not solve problems. You need to have feet on the ground or deck.

    3) There are now much more angry young muslims. Both Gitmo and the drone attack work wonders for recruiting.

    4) The dollar is doomed. Not because of the derivatives. The real problem is the chronic trade deficit with the rest of the world.

  197. @JAD
    “States are hard to build, easy to destroy.”

    You have it backwards. Iran/Persia has existed as a “state” fore close to 3 millenia. Persians have rebuild their nations within decades after every disaster.

    Previous interventions in Iran are the very reason of the current mess.

  198. @JAD
    > > “States are hard to build, easy to destroy.”

    Winter on Saturday, May 11 2013 at 6:54 am said:
    > You have it backwards. Iran/Persia has existed as a “state” fore close to 3 millenia. Persians have rebuild their nations within decades after every disaster.

    After Alexander took them down, it took them five centuries to recover and recreate a unified state from a collection of half starved bandit chieftains.

    When Caliph Umar, pissed off by stubborn Persian raids, took them down, they were down and out for two centuries, again with no unified government, or indeed much of any government at all.

  199. “Previous interventions in Iran are the very reason of the current mess.”

    No, extreme Islamism is the reason for the current mess. Previous interventions are just the excuse.

  200. @Greg
    > Look at Libya,

    I agree that Libya under the previous regime did seem to change course on this after the invasion of Iraq. However, that Libya doesn’t exist anymore, so doesn’t seem particularly good evidence for your case.

    > And even the most hostile state will tend to guard it’s nukes very highly, because we can determine whose it was after it detonates

    States do guard their nuclear weapons carefully, but not for the reason you say. We can guess where they came from, but we certainly can’t know for certain, simply because we have limited intelligence on the weapons (given how closely guarded they are, as you point out.)

    > And where do you think those intelligence operatives are operating? In whose countries?

    I am in favor of intelligence operatives working overseas. However, intelligence operatives do not need aircraft carriers or a massive Navy, which is the subject under discussion.

    > if the WOT weren’t a military, but rather a criminal justice affair?

    You are confusing me with someone else. I have never advocated treating the “WOT” as a criminal justice affair.

    > The fact that genuinely crazy people are difficult to deter is not grounds to argue that deterrence doesn’t exist, and doesn’t work.

    That is true, however equally you (or whoever did) can’t use them to prove (by “exception to the rule”) deterrence does work: the point to which I was responding.

  201. Interesting developments in the 3d printing field brought this article to mind:

    Defense Distributed developed a lexan single shot .22 pistol. Not impressive as far as pistols go, but the fact that anyone could make one with desktop hardware (without controls, permission, or ending up on an enemies list) drove the control freaks in Washington up a wall. The State Department demanded that they take it down, and dredged up the usual raft of ITAR nonsense to justify it.

    Now the files are up on pirate bay, while Washington deliberates about how to render this technology (3d printing – they’ll have to outlaw that to control its products) inaccessible.

    It seems violating the second amendment will require violating the first amendment. All rights, it seems, are part of a continuous whole. The real battle lines appear to be whether or not a political class will tolerate the existence of personal power.

    • > The real battle lines appear to be whether or not a political class will tolerate the existence of personal power.

      That has always been the case. The real service Cody Wilson is doing (and he knows he’s doing it) is to make this conflict obvious.

  202. Let’s do a gedanken-experiment on gun control.

    1) 70% of homicides come in the inner urban areas of the fifteen or sixteen largest US cities.
    2) Those areas routinely poll 80% or more Democratic.
    3) Even among spree killers, registry along party lines skews heavily Democratic.
    4) We already register political party affiliation.

    So, using information we already have at hand, we can make a very good predictive case on making a class of people subject to restrictions on firearms ownership:

    If you are a registered Democrat, or post a residence address in a Democratic district, you are not allowed to own a firearm. If you are caught with a firearm, we cut off your shooting hand, since you violated the social contract that keeps us all safe in a civil society.

    You can evade these restrictions by A) registering as something other than Democratic Party or B) moving out of heavily Democratic voting districts.

    How could anyone possibly object to such reasonable and sensible restrictions? After all, it’s For The Children, and we all know that children shouldn’t be allowed guns without adult supervision.

  203. @ Winter

    There are now much more angry young muslims. Both Gitmo and the drone attack work wonders for recruiting.

    Yeah… Killing basically innocent people while killing bad guys increases the number of bad guys.

  204. There are now much more angry young muslims. Both Gitmo and the drone attack work wonders for recruiting.

    Of course I did know the answer to my question. There are more really, really angry Muslims, more people attracted to the most extreme fundamentalist form of Islam and more people willing to die to kill Americans.

    The question I should have asked was: Is there more or less:

    (1) money available to finance terrorism, and,

    (2) realistic planning of terrorist acts

    as a result of the war in Afganistan and the second war in Iraq?

    I think the answer to both is “more” – more in the Middle East and more in the US.

  205. @BRM:

    How much time have you spent in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia v.s. crap on the internet written by folks who IF they did make it to AF or Iraq, sat in the country equivalent of a 5 star hotel (means they had clean running water and cheese cloth over the AC fan)?

    @Jessica:

    “Privatizing” border security is a really, really bad idea. Think about it a while.

    Oh, and there already is a sur-charge for shipping containers into the US. There’s a $500 fee.

    Also the Ft. Hood shooting was not an Al Queada operation, it was an example of a lone muslim loosing his shit and blaming it on Islam. The government is working *very* *very* hard to keep to this line, but it is fairly clear he did this without outside help.

    The Boston bombing is getting interesting, and they may have had outside help, but notice that our government is VERY different from 2001, not only have they been doing almost annal World Apology Tours, but they not only allowed an attack on our consulate to go unanswered, the miserable fucking weasels blamed it on a move ABOUT MUSLIMS KILLING AND OPPRESSING COPTS, apologized for the movie and then threw the auteur in jail.

    Most Islamic Terror organizations are state sponsored in one way or another. Hezzbollah and Hamas are funded largely out of Iran and get their weapons there. Most of the IED attacks in the later years in Iraq were built by Syrians and Iranians.

    Even Al Queda was an outgrowth of the Saudi State trying to direct internal dissent elsewhere. The Taliban were inherently a state organization and will be again within a few years thanks to an unwillingness to think outside the box by the Bush administration, and an unwillingness to even acknowlege the possibility of there being an outside to the box by the current regime. No one *ever* wins in Afghanistan by fighting.

    @Winter:
    Winter:

    1) Shooting people does not solve problems. Sadam and the Taliban stayed in power because they prevented the populace from murdering each other.

    As usual you’re wrong.

    Shooting people *does* solve problems. Saddam (I’ve been in a couple of his palaces) stayed in power by SHOOTING PEOPLE. The Marsh Arabs (well, he didn’t shoot them, he KILLED THE FUCKING MARSH were more than decimated by him. The Kurds were gassed. LOTS of other people were shot.

    One of his palaces had a swimming pool that had never been filled with water. It had really interesting brown/black patterns on the walls and floor. Turns out those were blood spatter from where Saddam or one of his minions shot someone he was disgruntled at.

    Rumor had it that the army started to drain the lake on the lower left here: goo.gl/maps/BCyzy and saw bones, so they filled it back up. I can’t speak to the veracity of that though, I only ran around it once and a while for exercise. (I spent about 11 months in that area. Not that general are, that was basically the bounding box of my life in 2009.)

    2) Shooting more people with missiles does still not solve problems. You need to have feet on the ground or deck.

    Shooting people with missiles doesn’t usually solve the problem, but it sure makes it easier for those who go in afterwards. Let’s people know you’re serious.

    3) There are now much more angry young muslims. Both Gitmo and the drone attack work wonders for recruiting.

    No, not really. It did for a while, then those guys got dead. Dead is REALLY bad for recruiting. It’s only those who are actively getting shot at and those who’s families took them to mean, evil, oppressive places like London, Paris and Boston that are signing up.

    4) The dollar is doomed. Not because of the derivatives. The real problem is the chronic trade deficit with the rest of the world.

    Which is going to go away first, the Euro, or the USD?

  206. Mr. Raymond, two of my posts appear to be “stuck” somewhere.

    The both have links in them, one of which I tried to disguise a bit. Is this what’s preventing them from showing?

  207. James A. Donald on Thursday, May 9 2013 at 12:26 am said:Less than half the population pays income tax, and more than half the population receive most of their income from welfare.

    Both of these statements are false.

    In 2008, 142M income tax returns were file; these returns covered households with 282M people (total personal and dependent exemptions claimed). 282M is a lot more than half. Now, some returns were filed by people who paid no tax or received an “Earned Income Tax Credit” – but I very much doubt that this included 100M filers and dependents. One can expand the definition of non-payers to include the non-working spouses and minor children of filers; but that’s casuistry.

    In any case, an even broader swath of the population is subject to “payroll taxes”, which are taxes on a class of income.

  208. > > You know why our military isn’t as good as it could be? Because it’s not a military designed for breaking things and killing people any more.

    Nigel on Friday, May 10 2013 at 4:22 pm said:
    > The objective isn’t aways to break things and kill people when you’re doing COIN.

    “COIN” is sending in heavily armed nursemaids to show our enemies how nice we are. We build schools, and they blow them up.

    Viscount Garnet Wolseley would have thought us total morons if he could have seen what we are doing. Note that he won every war and every campaign when fighting against backward and inferior peoples, while we seem to be losing most of them. I recommend we deal with insurgencies as he did.

  209. Rich Rostrom on Saturday, May 11 2013 at 6:44 pm said:
    > In 2008, 142M income tax returns were file; these returns covered households with 282M people (total personal and dependent exemptions claimed). 282M is a lot more than half.

    Many, perhaps most, of these income tax returns were filed in order to claim the earned income credit, which is to say, welfare.

  210. Winter on Saturday, May 11 2013 at 5:53 am said:
    > 3) There are now much more angry young muslims. Both Gitmo and the drone attack work wonders for recruiting.

    Gitmo and so forth have nothing to do with the story.

    They have very long memories in the middle east.

    The reason Al Quaeda is now trying to overthrow Alawite rule in Syria is that during the crusades, the Alawites denied being Muslims and signed up with the crusaders. Al Quaeda, and indeed most Sunni Muslims, think the crusades are still going, and the Alawites are still signed up with the crusaders.

    Al Quaeda forgets that during the crusades, the Jews generally signed up with the Muslims against the Crusaders, which turned out to be really bad idea for the Jews, but the Alawites remember it well, and think it happened yesterday.

    Al Quaeda’s ultimate objective in defeating the Alawites, is as a stepping stone to recovering Al Andalus (Spain) for Dar al Islam, which is itself a stepping stone to finish the project that Charles the Hammer so bloodily thwarted.

    They think all this stuff happened yesterday, which is why the various factions now fighting in Syria refer to themselves by names that reference events that happened a thousand years ago.

  211. @Rich Rostrom
    > In 2008, 142M income tax returns were file; these returns covered households with 282M people

    By law everyone has to file (one per household) and so that is quite misleading. It is indisputable that over half of Americans pay no federal income tax. See:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/09/18/who-doesnt-pay-taxes-in-charts/

    > In any case, an even broader swath of the population is subject to “payroll taxes”, which are taxes on a class of income.

    About half of the remaining half. However, the law carefully draws a distinction here between that and the general fund income tax. Of course it is all smoke an mirrors, but these payroll taxes are supposed to be mandatory savings for retirement and insurance. So hardly the same thing. The fact that they are pilfered by the general fund is another matter entirely.

  212. @BRM
    The question I should have asked was: Is there more or less:

    (1) money available to finance terrorism, and,

    (2) realistic planning of terrorist acts

    as a result of the war in Afganistan and the second war in Iraq?

    There was less money available and less planning done and less willing fighters if for no other reason than it is much safer to attack infidels in the middle east than the almost certain capture or death when attacking infidels in the west. Money, planning and effort that might otherwise have gone into terrorist plots went into attacking Army and Marine targets.

    Plus fighting on their turf vs on our turf means we get to kill more of the bad guys that do the planning and damage more of their networks as opposed to just the trigger pullers or suicide bombers.

    We could have done it a lot better but between Rumsfeld and the boys at State it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Iraq was going to turn into a mess, especially after Shinseki got shafted for telling the truth about how many boots we needed on the ground after the war.

  213. @Nigel:

    Plus fighting on their turf vs on our turf means we get to kill more of the bad guys that do the planning and damage more of their networks as opposed to just the trigger pullers or suicide bombers.

    Fighting on their turf means that they’re not killing our non-combatants.

    Our “non-combatants” being a western notion including “Women, children and almost all of the people who read this blog”.

  214. @william

    Yes, I thought that was my point but evidently not made clear enough.

    We gave them a target rich environment of very local targets. Hardened targets that can shoot back perhaps but close at hand and for the average jihadi that’s all sorts of better than trying for soft targets way off in the US.

    That goes a long way in explaining why no repeats of 9/11. That and the state sponsors got the Afghanistan message we sent very well. Living in palaces is much better than living in caves or dead.

    The only ones that can flaunt this message are those that own nukes. Even then, they prefer to be not dead.

  215. @William O’ Blivion
    “Saddam (I’ve been in a couple of his palaces) stayed in power by SHOOTING PEOPLE.”

    The Red Queen problem: Murdering people just to stay put does not sound like a problem solved. In the end, Sadam stayed in power because his opponents feared each other more than him. Current Syria shows what happens when that balance is broken.

    The USA is trying to do what the Ismailis tried to do: Rule the region by assassination. They are loathed the same way.

    @William O’ Blivion
    “No, not really. It did for a while, then those guys got dead. Dead is REALLY bad for recruiting.” and the missile point.

    The USA is on the brink of losing both Pakistan and Jemen. In both cases mainly due to the drone attacks and targeted assassinations. So, the USA keeps the fight on foreign soil, and in the process loses the support of the people living there. The “war on terror” is proving to achieve exactly what OBL wanted the 9/11 attacks to achieve: Driving Westerners out of the Islamic countries.

    Over all, I think your main error is to think those “foreigners” are different to yourself. Those living in the USA would not give in to a foreign power bombing villages and sending in special forces to murder politicians. Surprise, Pakistani and Jemenites share that feeling.

    And Gitmo has proven a global boon for recruiting young men to fight the USA.

    @William O’ Blivion
    “Which is going to go away first, the Euro, or the USD?”

    Oh, the USD will not go away. It will just collapse to less than half its current value. The Euro might indeed go away, but the underlying DMark will keep its value for some time to come.

  216. Winter on Monday, May 13 2013 at 4:08 am said:
    > Over all, I think your main error is to think those “foreigners” are different to yourself. Those living in the USA would not give in to a foreign power bombing villages and sending in special forces to murder politicians. Surprise, Pakistani and Jemenites share that feeling.

    The colonialists before 1830 were way more brutal than we were, and not only did they have no trouble ruling Muslims, they had no trouble converting quite a lot of them to Christianity and, by and large, were loved by those they ruled.

  217. @JAD
    “The colonialists before 1830 were way more brutal than we were, and not only did they have no trouble ruling Muslims, they had no trouble converting quite a lot of them to Christianity and, by and large, were loved by those they ruled.”

    I have doubts about the “loved” part.

    Also, we are not in the early 19th century anymore. You could tell the same story about the Roman Empire, Caliphate, or Sultanate, but times have moved on and people have different expectations nowadays.

  218. @JAD
    “After Alexander took them down, it took them five centuries to recover and recreate a unified state from a collection of half starved bandit chieftains.”

    I forgot to answer. I am not sure where you are driving at, but most of “Persia” has been part of some empire or other, and able to fight the Romans, until they were conquered by the Arabs. After which they continued to be part of some empire.

    @JAD
    “When Caliph Umar, pissed off by stubborn Persian raids, took them down, they were down and out for two centuries, again with no unified government, or indeed much of any government at all.”

    Same here.

    In total, the strength of the Persian “nation” waxed and weaned (not least by demographic collapses) but it would rebuild time and again. Either as part of a bigger empire or as one (and occasionally, more) independent “nations” covering most of what is now Iran. Persia essentially followed the path of the Chinese empire, except that they had more troubles with foreign occupants.

    But I agree that if the USA decides to kill in the order of 80% of the population, Iranians would not pose a threat for the next decades. But that would put the USA on the same footing as Stalin.

  219. I am in favor of intelligence operatives working overseas. However, intelligence operatives do not need aircraft carriers or a massive Navy, which is the subject under discussion.

    OK, I’m almost done- you are definitely not a thirsty horse.

    But here’s a question for you: Why exactly do you think our “intelligence operatives” are so effective, and get so much cooperation? (You also seem to be determined to fail to realize, that soldiers in uniform are included in the category of “intelligence operatives” and in fact are often the best ones.)

  220. @Greg
    >OK, I’m almost done- you are definitely not a thirsty horse.

    I don’t know what that means.

    > But here’s a question for you: Why exactly do you think our “intelligence operatives” are so effective, and get so much cooperation?

    That is hardly a simple question. Your implication that the answer is “because we have lots of soldiers who kill people and blow things up along with other more positive things” is hardly, self evidently that answer.

    > soldiers in uniform are included in the category of “intelligence operatives”

    Of course. Anyone in the country can gather intelligence. The question is more how to do so effectively and efficiently. For the cost of 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan for one year ($10bn) you could bribe every family in the country with $1000. That buys a lot of intelligence in a country with a GDP of $600. Even better buy off the top 10,000 people with a $1,000,000 each, and you get higher value intelligence, no dead soldiers, and less pissed of Afghani mommies.

    Most Americans would sell their grandmother for $1,000,000, never mind impoverished Afghanis.

    Not that I am suggesting that is the best approach, but it is a different approach. No doubt some soldiers do a valuable job gathering intelligence. Undoubtedly the vast majority don’t. So just because I recognize the value of intelligence operatives overseas doesn’t mean I think all means of gathering intelligence overseas are cost effective and on net beneficial.

    You might say “you don’t know what you are talking about” and you might be right. However, this fits very well with a common pattern. When governments, and especially the US government, does stuff, they do MASSIVE things. Gigantic ships, thousands of men, millions of bullets, petabytes of information. Usually confusion and chaos reigns.

    Small, focused, targeted approaches are almost always better at everything. It is why Google buys companies rather than developing stuff themselves. The sclerosis of gigantic organizations usually overwhelms any ability to be effective. Add to that the fact the the US government is gigantic compared to corporations, and the fact that the incentive structure is totally screwed up, it is a wonder they can grab their ass with both hands. Good god, they can’t even honestly identify the enemy.

  221. @Greg
    > You’ve been led to water, but seem to have an aversion to drinking.

    Got it. So apparently the problem is not that your argument is insufficiently convincing, rather it is that I am too dumb or stubborn to get it. :-)

    You might be right. I’m not often called dumb, but frequently stubborn. Nonetheless, I do find your argument disturbingly conventional. And nobody ever called me conventional.

  222. @Nigel
    “The only ones that can flaunt this message are those that own nukes. Even then, they prefer to be not dead.”

    I believe the word you meant to use there is “flout”.

    -Grammar Nazi

  223. Got it. So apparently the problem is not that your argument is insufficiently convincing, rather it is that I am too dumb or stubborn to get it. :-)

    You might be right. I’m not often called dumb, but frequently stubborn. Nonetheless, I do find your argument disturbingly conventional. And nobody ever called me conventional.

    The main problem is you insist on arguing by analogy into a domain where you don’t know enough to know where and why the analogies break down.

    When anyone else tries introducing specific relevant facts, you ignore them. Whether that’s intentional, or it’s because you don’t know enough to realize what you’re not understanding so what we see as the critical bits of our arguments you see as insignificant details to be ignored, I don’t know.

  224. Jessica Boxer on Sunday, May 12 2013 at 12:29 am said:
    By law everyone has to file (one per household) and so that is quite misleading. It is indisputable that over half of Americans pay no federal income tax. See:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/09/18/who-doesnt-pay-taxes-in-charts/

    That report states that 53.2% (over half) of all households pay income tax.

    “Households” != “persons”. I don’t see any breakdown of “households” by number of people per household.

    IS very likely TM that large households are more likely to pay income tax than small households, as they are more likely to have two incomes.

    Also note this: the income tax was enacted in 1913, but it was not until 1943 that taxable returns exceeded half the adult population. (In 1935, there were only 2M taxable returns; 7M in 1940; 40M in 1943.)

    Which is to say that really broad income taxation is an artifact of the wartime welfare state.

  225. Please don’t take this as an accusation, but aren’t you on the middle ground in regards to Free / Open-Source software? On the one hand, you reject RMS’s ideology. On the other hand, you advocate open-source, without considering it necessary, or even important. But on the gripping hand, you usually are quick to defend RMS when somebody slams him.

    What do you say to this?

    • >On the other hand, you advocate open-source, without considering it necessary, or even important.

      Where the hell did you get the idea I don’t consider it important?

      >But on the gripping hand, you usually are quick to defend RMS when somebody slams him.

      …for the wrong reasons. I am quite willing to criticize RMS and have frequently done so on this blog.

  226. Please don’t take this as an accusation, but aren’t you on the middle ground in regards to Free / Open-Source software? On the one hand, you reject RMS’s ideology. On the other hand, you advocate open-source, without considering it necessary, or even important. But on the gripping hand, you usually are quick to defend RMS when somebody slams him.

    Eric disagrees with RMS’s political strategy more than his morality. Close readings of Eric’s output over the years suggest he feels much the same way as RMS: that, in general, proprietary software is abusive towards its users and exploitative of its developers. I don’t agree with a lot of Eric’s politics, but he is a brilliant strategist, especially compared to the thuddingly mindblind RMS. The open source movement has presented a successful value proposition of open source to business, communicating to business folks in language they can understand: the language of money. This has spurred the uptake of what to us is obviously a superior and righteous method of software development, but was to them until very recently a bunch of hippie lefties working on amateur-hour school projects.

    There are a wide variety of political movements (like, for example, the environmental movement) that could learn from Eric’s example in this regard.

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