Friday, June 22, 2018

"Torn From Their Mothers' Arms..."


Be very careful not to watch "Law and Order" right after your Significant Other has been watching hours of MSNBC, which has been hyping the Border Crisis all day.  It might give you unorthodox ideas.

The story according to the news media is: a bunch of poor-poor refugees, fleeing from Violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, came north to the Texas border, seeking Asylum.  They were greeted by Cruel Immigration Agents of Trump, who promptly arrested the refugees, locked them up, and *Tore The Children From Their Mothers' Arms* and carried them off to hidden prisons all over the country, which the reporters Haven't Been Allowed To See -- and therefore *must* be Abusing the children, possibly even selling them to pedophiles, and in any case isn't keeping very good track of which kid belongs to which adult, so probably won't give them back.  Oooh, Humanitarian Crisis!  Summon the ACLU!  Call in the UN!  Kudos to a firm of lawyers offering to defend for free all government workers who refuse to remove the children for Reasons of Conscience. 

Eventually even Rasty got tired of this, handed over the TV remote-control wand and went off to his studio to deal with his email.  I promptly channel-surfed, seeking something more intelligent, and came across a "Law and Order" re-run.  The story followed the usual pattern: mysterious homicide leads to a white-collar scam perpetrated by rich man whose wife may-or-may-not be in on the scam.  To pressure a confession, the police arrest the wife.  There's a scene where she tries the Weepy Hysteria ploy, wailing: "Who'll take care of the children if I'm in jail?"  A cynical cop replies: "Child Protective Services will pick them up.  We're not going to put them in Rikers with you."

CLICK!!!  Revelation!!

Well, of course US police don't put little kids in adult jails!  CPS takes the kids off to processing centers, and from there the kids get put in foster-homes of various sizes.  Time spent in the processing centers depends on how old the kids are, and what they need.  According to folks who've worked there, the first thing the kids get is identified;  ask their names and parents' names, fingerprint them, nowadays retinal-print and DNA print them.  The kids are usually given cookies and milk during the process.  Next, the kids get washed. 

After that, they get a thorough physical exam -- and clean clothes -- and whatever medical treatment they need.  For Central and South American, African, and Middle-Eastern kids, that usually involves vaccinations, dental treatment, a course of antibiotics, de-lousing, de-fleaing, and worming.  Sometimes it takes more than that, even surgery.  In short, while their parents are in jail, the kids get lots of free healthcare.  There's even an underground system for desperate poor parents of sick kids to visibly 'sneak' across the US border where they know the border patrol is watching, just to get themselves jailed (and whatever healthcare they get there themselves) and get their kids free healthcare from CPS;  even if the lot of them get turned back to wherever they came from, it's often worth the effort just for the medical treatment.  Naturally, the US govt. doesn't want to advertise this arrangement;  it's having enough trouble providing healthcare to its own poor folks.

Once out of the processing centers, the kids usually go to licensed group-homes, usually tax-funded but privately managed households of 20 or fewer residents.  The group-homes are segregated by age and gender, obviously, and the very young children go to specialized "tender age" centers that provide professional care for infants.  For pretty obvious security reasons, the locations of the group-homes and tender-age centers are kept fairly secret -- yes, even from self-righteous, blabbering reporters. 

Needless to add, CPS is always overloaded, overworked, and underfunded.  Yes, the sudden influx of a few thousand kids on the Texas border would have caused amazing stress on the system.  Texas CPS would have had no choice but to send the excess kids to centers in other states.  I seriously doubt, though, that the system would have lost track of the kids -- not even any late-teenagers who might have wanted to run away and get loose in America. 

Another problem which the CPS workers have discovered is that a lot of those kids are not related to the adult "refugees" claiming to be their parents.  The whole "refugee" caper is beginning to look more and more like a set-up, wherein CPS and the border patrol -- and, of course, Trump -- are made to look Terribly Cruel for treating children of "refugee" lawbreakers the same as American citizens.  

So what's the solution, within the restrictions of federal immigration laws -- which, indeed, Trump inherited from Obama?  Especially knowing that, no matter what he does, the media will put the worst possible spin on it?

Well, what he's done is agree, in public, that he won't separate the children from the adult refugees who claim to be their parents anymore.  So far, the best the anti-Trump crowd can do with this is to claim victory for making Trump reverse course on his promised immigration policy.

I suspect that they're celebrating too soon.  If Trump does indeed have the political power to single-handedly suspend parts of the immigration laws and procedures, then he can indeed rejoin the kids to their supposed parents -- and then deport the lot of them, and use the whole incident as leverage to get The Wall built. 

The "refugees" will be shoved back into Mexico, which doesn't want them, so they'll probably be escorted back to the borders of Guatemala.  Guatemala is currently dealing with the aftermath of a 36-year-long war between the government and the Mayan Indians, plus the added crisis of a massive volcanic eruption.  Life in Guatemala isn't very easy right now, but it's definitely possible.  More, with the internal real refugees running from the volcano, there's enough 'confusion' that the returning, failed US-invaders would have no trouble fitting in, even with (now healthy) children in tow.  They wouldn't have to go all the way to Honduras or El Salvador, where the gang-violence is worse. 

The liberal media, of course, will then blame Trump for Sending Children To Certain Death -- but that will focus public attention on those miserable countries to see just why they're "death traps", instead of relying on vague references to "fleeing violence".  The result just might be enough international forces leaning on those wretched countries to finally solve their "violence" problems.  I can see Trump quietly pressuring the involved govt.s to let him send special forces troops into the jungles to hunt up the gangs with spy-drones, and wipe them out with other drones, in practice for going after the Jihadists elsewhere in the world.

Meanwhile, there are already people asking on the Internet just why the media is flapping all this outrage about foreigners, who are basically being treated no differently from Americans who break misdemeanor laws.  I can see the backlash rising already, using the same phrases the media gave everybody: "children torn from their mothers' arms!" 

Whoever put this setup together are not likely to get the results they wanted.


--Leslie <;)))><      



 

   

 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Red Tactic


Have you ever heard of the Red Tactic?  I learned about it while working for the IWW back in Chicago, and with its century-and-more history, the IWW should know. 

It's called the Red Tactic because it was invented by the hard-core communists, who wanted to rule the world as devoutly as the Jihadists do.  It consisted of making a social/political/economic system worse in order to make people desperate, so as to drive the people to revolution -- which, of course, their communist manipulators would steer in the proper direction.  The fact that this tactic usually didn't work, revolutions being notoriously difficult to manipulate, didn't stop its devotees from repeatedly trying it.  Possibly the righteous excuse for nasty behavior was irresistible.

The problem is that tactics are neutral, and anyone who understands them can use them -- or elaborate on them -- so that it can become difficult if not impossible to tell just who is using the tactic, and for what ultimate end.  Nonetheless, it's possible to recognize the tactic when you see it.

Looking at the "immigration problem" in Europe right now, I can't see it as anything else.

The European Union was formed in 1993, shortly after the collapse of the USSR, pretty obviously to forge all of Europe into a single country/empire/hegemony to balance the political/economic power of the US.  This implies that our European allies had a rather cynical attitude toward us, and were not necessarily our friends.  This is supported by the interesting tariffs that the EU applied to American goods, while busily reducing tariffs, and unifying currency, among themselves. 

Note particularly what the countries of the EU did next.  Those that didn't already have exceedingly strict gun-control laws, if not outright bans on civilian gun ownership, proceeded to pass them.  Then, after 9/11/2001, the US began conducting its confused and clumsy war on the Arab states.  Various allies in the EU cheered us on at first, but soon lost interest -- probably due to our inability or unwillingness to fight the war to a clear conclusion by conquering the Arab states outright -- and started making their own policy with the Arabs.  Their ultimate purpose is indeed the question.

What they did next was, apparently, to sell out to the Jihadists.  They opened their doors to "Syrian" refugees from all over the middle east and northern Africa, even as US troops were thrashing Jihadist armies in those countries.  Under the excuse of "compassion" and getting more cheap laborers to replace their own aging and shrinking populations, they welcomed in hordes of military-age Muslim males, and a few Muslim families, and a disturbing number of fundamentalist Muslim imams -- making little to no effort to discover which of them had connections to the Jihadist armies, let alone determine which of those "refugees" were willing to "assimilate", or even work for a living.  They did not consult their own populations before taking in these hordes, and -- having been disarmed -- their citizens could do little to effectively complain. 

Anyone who had studied Arab culture or history, or the Koran, could have predicted what would happen.  The refugees didn't assimilate but strove mightily to take over.  They avoided taking any kind of jobs, but demanded extensive amounts of Welfare -- the jizya, you know.  They also demanded that their host countries adapt their cultures to keep from "offending" the invaders.  The crime-rate, particularly rape -- of children as well as women -- skyrocketed, and when the victims identified their attackers as "foreigners", the police deftly avoided making any such "Islamophobic" identifications.  The number of Arab terrorist attacks climbed likewise.  So did public anti-semitism and mainstream-media anti-Israel propaganda.  Neighborhoods and whole cities were taken over by the "refugees", who boast openly that in 20 years they'll take over completely. 

It didn't help that various countries in Europe found their economies collapsing under the burden of excessive Socialistic regulations and taxation, especially with their Welfare systems overloaded by the non-taxpaying/tax-absorbing hordes of refugees. 

Naturally, the native citizens were perturbed by this -- but found no support or sympathy from their own Liberal-to-Socialist governments.  If anything, their governments have ordered the police to silence all complaint, in fact to spend more time hunting out and punishing "Islamophobia" than solving and punishing real crimes. 

Just as naturally, the resistance is growing.  The UK, in the famous "Brexit" vote, withdrew from the EU entirely, though it did nothing about its "refugee problem".  Other countries, notably those to the eastern side of Europe, refused to take in any more "refugees" -- and a few of them have begun efforts to round up and throw out the ones already there.  Others have begun investigating and deporting particularly active imams, closing down proven Jihadist mosques, ordering their police to actively investigate crimes by "refugees" and deporting any convicted. 

Most recently, when the UK government arrested-tried-convicted-and-jailed, in 13 hours flat, a public complainer -- Tommy Robinson -- the public exploded in protests.  22,000 Britons protested in London and clashed noisily with police.  The political party Robinson supports, which the sitting government calls "right-wing", has gained enough followers that they just might win the majority at the next election.

In short, the countries of the EU are turning politically right-wing and anti-Muslim from the roots up, as a result of the incredibly stupid policies of their own -- basically Socialistic -- governments.  It's hard to see how those governments could have been so suicidally stupid...

...Unless they intended this from the beginning.

As I said, one doesn't have to be a Red to use the Red Tactic -- only devoted and patient.

--Leslie <;)))><  )O(                     

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Stuggling Orchard



Sorry I haven’t reported back in so long, but it’s been a really rough spring for my mini-orchard. 

First there was the treacherous weather.  A delightfully mild and wet winter encouraged a lot of growth, but it was followed by an early and devastatingly hot and dry spring.  I’ve had to water all the trees and the grapevines every other day, if not more – and remember that water is expensive here in Arizona.  Our single biggest expenditure of water has been for irrigating the plants.  It doesn’t help that the irrigation system that Bill put in sprang a serious leak and became useless, so I have to water by hand – which wastes a lot of water.

Even so, all the trees suffered, and some of them – and one of the grapevines – died.  The Bears Lime died back almost to the roots, then put up a new sprout – but unfortunately that sprout came from below the graft, which means that it’s going to be a Sour Orange tree.  Oh well, Sour Oranges make great marmalade, from what I’ve heard.  The Pawnee Pecan died well and truly, and the last fig tree seems to be dying to the roots.  If it can’t regenerate, I’m just going to give up on figs and replace it with a new Bearss Lime.  The almond and apricot trees suffered severely, but seem to be making a comeback.  The tangerine is surviving well, but looks squat and dwarfish.  On the other hand, the Moringa tree is growing tall and spindly, putting more effort into growing new seed-pods than leaves.  The Papershell Pecan is surviving, but won’t put out any fruit unless it cross-pollinates with another breed of pecan, so I’m going to have to replace that Pawnee.  The problem is that I can’t replace any trees until after what looks like it’s going to be a brutally hot summer.  *Sigh*

When I do replace them, I’m going to make another stab at planting an American Chestnut and a Macadamia as well as the Pawnee Pecan and the Bearss Lime.  I’m not sure I want to replace the dead Flamme Seedless grapevine, since the Thompson Seedless is doing so well that it’s spread across the top of the front porch trellis and is happily moving in on the section of trellis where the Flamme used to be.  I’m of two minds about it, especially now that the Thompson has begun fruiting.  We didn’t get that fruit ourselves, since the bird-netting we put all over the whole plant didn’t succeed in keeping out the bugs.  I’m just going to have to cut that netting all away and replace it with small netting-bags to wrap over each bunch of fruit as it shows up.  That, and spray like hell with Neem Oil and Pyrethrin.

Other problem: this is the worst year for house-flies that I’ve ever seen here in the valley.  They’ve been coming in through the cat-door, apparently taking advantage of the cats going in and out.  The house is strewn with fly-paper streamers, and Rasty swears that he’s getting more exercise “going on fly-safari” with a fly-swatter than he gets from his Gazelle Walk-Master.  I have no idea why there’s such an overpopulation of flies;  these are house-flies, not horse-flies, so the presence of horses around the corner at the end of the block wouldn’t account for it.  Also, some of the horses have been sold, so their number is fewer.  I can’t figure it out.    

On the other hand, the pomegranates are thriving.  All but the smallest/youngest are putting out fruit already.  Their only problem is that I didn’t get to prune them last winter, so there’s a helluva-lotta scraggly growth.  There’s also the problem of the runaway Bermuda Grass, which of course has gotten the benefit of all that hand-watering.  It’s put out runners six and seven feet long, some of which have climbed up into the pomegranate trees, and trimming it out is going to be a royal mess.  *Sigh* again.

 So why didn’t I get the pruning and mowing done during the winter?  Well, the simple answer is thievery.  Four hired handymen in a row have ripped off both me and Sharan next door.  They’ve stolen power-tools, hand-tools, building materials, tires, wheel-rims, and even a whole septic tank while we were out shopping and Sharan was out at work.  Sharan took the legal route and reported all of them to the cops, besides getting restraining orders on all of them.  I took a more practical road, doing some shooting practice in my yard with homemade targets, and letting all the neighbors see it, so as to spread the word around.  The four handymen have quietly vanished from the neighborhood, and it’s anyone’s guess whose tactics – probably both – were more effective, but the damage was already done.  Among other things, one of them did such an incredibly bad job or repairs on Sharan’s house that she would have fallen through the floor if she’d ventured up onto the second floor.  When our pal Larry visited and looked at the damage, he commented that it looked like a deliberate booby-trap.  Sharan’s had to come out of retirement and go back to work for the county in order to make enough money to repair the mess those so-called handymen left.  Rasty and I managed to replace the stolen hand-tools, but the power-tools are going to cost a bit more.  We’re hoping to have enough cash to get the new mower/weed-whacker this week, but replacing the power-saw is going to take a good bit longer. 

I’m sorry to have to say it, but all of those thieves were Mexican – and of very questionable immigration status.  Though they did make good effort to conceal it, they constantly dropped unconscious clues to their general sexism, racism, ethnocentricity, and self-pitying, self-righteous arrogance;  characteristics too common to all of them to be just individual oddities, but had to be cultural.  Bear in mind that “Mexican” is not a race but a nationality and a culture;  genetically, all Latinos are a mixture of White and Indian, and so are a lot of perfectly good Americans – including me.  It’s that culture that’s the problem, as many an honest historian has noted – though you can’t say even that in public in these days of rampant Political Correctitude.  As I grumbled to Sharan, I never disliked Mexicans until I met some.  Her response was: “I resemble that remark.”

Anyway, I’ve been looking up local licensed general contractors in town, and getting bids on what it will take to fix up our house – after which I’ll refer them to Sharan.  We’re both applying for a USDA grant for a couple thousand bucks to get our houses repaired.  There may or may not be other USDA grants that would cover yard-work for my orchard, on the grounds(!) that I’m trying to preserve rare and endangered species of fruit-plants, but I haven’t been able to find out much about that yet. 

Meanwhile, we’ll get the mower/weed-whacker this week and go after the Bermuda Grass (and the plethora of weeds hiding among them).  By the time we can save up enough to replace the reciprocal power-saw, it just may be late enough in the year to do the pruning.  Ah, well. 

So, all my pals who’ve seen my Go Fund Me site (the one named Rare and Endangered Orchard), I’ll be eternally grateful for any help you can chip in.  Any fans who already have albums and books of mine, let me know what you’ve got already;  for donations of $50 or $100 I’ll send you an album or book, and I’ll want to give you something you don’t already have.

Best wishes to all of you, and Happy Summer Solstice.

--Leslie <;)))><      

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Fencing with the Dragon


As I've mentioned before, Rasty loves to watch MSNBC -- for hours per night -- which means that we get most of our TV news from MSNBC, and I swear, if the pundits at MSNBC stepped in dog-shit, they'd swear Trump put it there.  They spend 20 hours out of every 24 denouncing Trump, his cronies, his lawyers, his cronies' lawyers, and everybody remotely connected with him -- and maybe four hours on everything happening in the rest of the world.

So it's not surprising that they spent a good hour denouncing Trump's statement that he was going to back off on sanctions of a Chinese telecom company that had previously been caught trying to spy on the US.  Trump claimed he was doing it in order to "create jobs in China", which sounds rather weird, considering his main purpose of creating jobs in the US, and MSNBC practically bristled with theories about what he was really up to.  The most popular speculation is that the company was hoping to provide communications for an Indonesian theme-park, which would include hotels built and owned by Trump's company.

Only one speaker, briefly, considered that this might have been an indication of some quiet game between Trump and China.  Even that one didn't mention that this deal might have anything to do with North Korea.

Quite separately, the newsies chattered about Kim Young-'Un's latest temper-tantrum, wherein he threatened to cancel the peace-talks with South Korea, and with Trump, about ridding NKorea of nukes, because he suddenly felt offended by the annual US/SKorean military games.  MSNBC seems to think that Kim has played Trump somehow, giving NKorea equal standing the US in Asia.  Not once in their dithering did they mention the name of China.

Now anyone who's studied recent history should know that NKorea, for the past half-century and more, has not really been an independent country;  it's been a front for China.  The Kim family throne has been set in the mouth of a dragon, and that dragon could close its jaws any time it wanted.  A few years back, when Kim II started playing with nukes and actually managed to set off one, China said nothing in public but obviously considered the reactions of the other countries in Asia, particularly Japan, India and South Korea.  A few months after that active nuke-test, Kim II mysteriously died -- of natural causes, everyone insisted -- and Kim Young-'Un hastily gave up his playboy lifestyle and ascended to the throne.  His reign so far has been notable for his amazing bragging, his continuing with the nuclear program, and his assassinating of random officials -- as if he were trying to catch and kill off secret agents who might be in a position to take him out.

His reign has also been notable, among those who think to look for subtleties, for its cooling relationship to China.  When the Chinese govt. announced to the world that, if Kim threw real missiles at the US or any of its allies, China would stay neutral and not defend North Korea, that was a clear signal.  Of course this was paired with a threat to the US as well, should the US hit NKorea first -- which of course the US had no intention of doing.

Meanwhile, the US State Department -- and particularly the Trump administration -- has been quietly and politely dueling with China over matters of trade.  Understand that the Chinese government has long been addicted to economic warfare, even when -- as in the build-up to the Opium Wars -- the result is ruinous for China.  Over the past few decades the US has built up an alarming debt -- a large part of it with China -- but China has also been having employment problems of its own.  This explains its WPA-like building programs, that have put up whole cities out in the boondocks that have no economic reason to exist.  China has always had a problem with overpopulation, and all the troubles that brings.  One of those problems is famine, and North Korea has never been any help with that.  The western nations -- particularly the US, Canada and Australia -- have always been good at producing abundances of food, possibly enough to pay off a multi-trillion-dollar debt.  China will, of course, dicker and duel to get the most advantage out of any deal, but it absolutely does need food and jobs for that excess population.  The State Dept. is aware of economic warfare and how to play it, and so is Trump.

Point is, China is quite willing to dump NKorea -- and it's megalomaniac leader -- in exchange for advantageous deals with the west, particularly the US.  This is why Kim Young-'Un suddenly agreed to stop his nuclear program, end the long-unfinished Korean War, hold negotiations with SKorea for uniting the peninsula and even chat with Trump.  The Chinese dragon began closing its mouth that Kim's throne sits in.  Just what China threatened Kim with is anyone's guess, but it scared him badly.  I suspect that soon enough our spies will report that a lot of people around Kim have been assassinated, as he flailed out trying to catch Chinese agents.  Now he's reversed himself on the negotiations, and is insisting that NKorea will never give up its nukes.  This is not what China wants to hear.  Trump's counter-offer, taking the sanctions off the communications company (with, I think we can be sure, certain guarantees that it can't effectively spy on the US again), is quite enough to make the dragon close its jaws completely.

I predict one of two outcomes;  either Kim quietly reverses himself again and lets the negotiations go ahead, complete with the even quieter arrangement that all his nukes and their supplies go to China, or...  He suffers from a sudden, fatal aneurysm.  Natural causes.

In Asia, at least, nobody gets away with underestimating the dragon.

--Leslie <;)))><   

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Sneaky Flu


Now for something completely different:

Friends and fellow-fans, has anybody else out there noticed this?  For no particular reason, you find yourself being sleepy at odd hours, tired all the time, weak and lacking endurance;  there are no other symptoms, except maybe occasionally aching joints -- but this condition hangs on for weeks, and weeks, and weeks, making it hard to do anything above basic daily maintenance.  It's rather like Mononucleosis, but milder.

I noticed this a few weeks ago myself, and I might have thought it was just getting old, except that Rasty felt it too.  Hmmm.  A few questions revealed that my neighbor Sharan had it too.  Okay, maybe it was a local cold.  Then I got reports from my old pal Chris, who lives in Wisconsin -- a good thousand miles away -- and whom I haven't met in person for years.  Hmmm, indeed.

So I'm conducting my own survey here, to see if the problem is nationwide, or whatever.  Have any of you out there suffered this?  Did you see any doctor about it?  Did you get any tests?  Did they reveal anything? 

I think it's not any bacterial infection, or it would have been noticed.  That leaves some kind of virus, probably airborne.  Now there are no broad-spectrum antivirals known to official (i.e. your insurance will pay for it) medicine, but there are some herbal/folk/naturopathic remedies that have had pretty good successes with virus infections.  These include Vitamin C, fresh raw garlic, fresh raw onions, fresh raw cabbage, and various extractions of Feverfew.  Rasty and I have noticed that the symptoms slack off whenever we eat pico de gallo with lots of raw onions and garlic -- and maybe the chopped raw peppers help too -- but we haven't cast off the infection completely yet.

Obviously more information is needed.  So, everybody out there, check your own health and let me know if you've been suffering from this sneaky flu.  Try eating onion-garlic-cabbage-and-maybe-medium-hot-peppers salad, and see if there's a change.  And let me know, folks.  I think we're hot on the trail of something important here.


--Leslie <;)))>< 


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Heinlein Experiment


This happened around 20 years ago, at a SciFi convention in California, but I'd like to know if there are any fans out there who remember seeing it.

Back then, in California at least, a lot of conventions were pushing a strict "weapons policy" that limited or outright forbade any "real" or even "realistic looking" weapons.  Given the imaginations of SciFi fans, "realistic looking" covered a lot of ground, even more than Democrats give to "assault weapons".  Remember, this was at the height of the popularity of gun control.

This led to an amazing number of stupid actions.  I met a ten-year-old boy in a Ninja costume who complained that his plastic "throwing stars" had been stolen by an officious gopher.  I met a fantasy fan dressed as a wizard who'd had to have a plastic "peace-tie" attached to his wizard's staff.  I met an asthmatic fan who'd had to fight to keep his asthma-inhaler from being confiscated because it looked like a ray-gun.  Needless to add, I'd made my opinion known -- loudly and often.

In the midst of all this, some fans at a northern convention went out and bought me a present: an electric guitar with the body shaped like an AK-47, and a form-fitting guitar-case to match.  I had a good laugh over it, dubbed the instrument "Hambo", promised I'd learn to play it and would bring it back and perform with it at the same convention next year.  Well, I kept my promise -- though it involved buying some heavy-duty cables and an amplifier, and experimenting with different kinds of strings and slide techniques.

The year rolled around and I came to the convention, as promised -- but I came prepared.  I'd hunted up the convention's archivist-videotaper and let him know when I'd be arriving.  I also took care to have my and my colleagues' luggage collected at the front door curbside and sent up to our room, so that I walked into the hotel carrying nothing but my gun-shaped guitar case, with the gun-shaped guitar inside.  Yep, the videotaper met me at the door and dutifully followed me around inside, recording my adventures.  First, trusting my roommates to handle the hotel registration and pick up the keys, I went straight to the convention registration table to pick up my membership.  The Con-Reg clerks spotted my guitar-case, and the videotaper, giggled like mad and handed over my badge and convention books.  We all carefully ignored the prominently-posted flyers displaying the Weapons Policy.  One of the clerks deliberately asked: "Is that the guitar you were awarded here last year?"  I happily agreed, and added: "I promised then that I'd bring it back and play it for the filk-track, so here it is."  The videotaper caught it all.

Next I went to the dealers' room, where I made my usual first circuit, greeting friends -- who likewise spotted the guitar-case and snickered -- while the videotaper dutifully followed.  I'd reached the far end of the room when one of the dealers, a bookseller as I recall, looked over my shoulder and then quickly asked: "Oh, is that the guitar I head about?  Can I see it?"  Guessing that something was up, I cheerfully agreed.  I laid out the case on the table and flipped the lid open, revealing the gun-shaped guitar -- which the dealers admired and cooed over while the videotaper recorded.

Just then, up came huffing a member of the ConCom, glowering furiously.  She glared at the exposed guitar, glared at me, opened her mouth -- and then saw the videotaper, with his camera aimed straight at her.  She shut her mouth quickly, opened and shut it a couple more times, then asked sulkily: "Did you bring that here just to defy our weapons policy?"

Carefully not breaking character, I looked innocent and replied: "Nonsense.  I was awarded this guitar by the Filk fans at this convention last year, and I promised I'd play it here this year, so here it is."

The petty enforcer glowered at me, glowered at the videotaper, then turned her back and walked away quickly.  Dealers all over the room, who had seen the whole thing, exploded into a storm of giggles.  One of them came up to me and announced: "You know, there's space on the schedule for a write-in panel, and I really think that convention weapons-policies deserve a panel of their own.  Would you like to serve on it?"

Well, of course I would -- just so long as it wasn't before noon.  He promised to write it in for after lunch, and trotted off to gather more panelists.  And the videotaper recorded it all.  Seeing that the stage was set, I didn't bother heading off to Convention Security -- which otherwise would have been my next stop -- but commented that I had to go up to my room and get unpacked.  Scene end: fadeout.

Fade in: a large discussion room filled with at least a hundred fans, five people (including me) seated at the table in the front, with hastily-printed name-cards before us.  The same videotaper is standing in the back of the room, camera now mounted on a tripod, recording everything.  The panel moderator announces the title of the subject and opens the panel for discussion.

Now I'll name no names, except to mention that I recognized three of the other four as published authors -- including a distinguished older gentleman with snowy hair and moustache, and a dark-complected middle-aged athlete.  I was seated at (wouldn't you guess!) the far left end of the table.  The fourth panelist (seated at the far right end of the table) was a fiercely passionate-looking young man in a slightly-rumpled sports shirt whom I'd never seen before.  The topic fell like a stone into a pool, and away we went.         

The topic of SciFi convention policies soon slid into the concept of gun control and weapons control in general, and patterns soon emerged.  The white-haired gentleman quoted facts and statistics and their verifications, the athlete described his own experiences, the other panelist and I varied between the two, and we politely waited until each of us was done speaking before cutting in with a relevant fact, figure or anecdote.  It was the Terribly Passionate Young Man who cut in without warning, shouted refutations without basis, argued purely from emotion, insisted that no really moral person could possibly disagree with him, and quoted slogans.  Four of us argued patiently that "hoplophobia" -- fear of weapons and armed citizens -- was irrational as well as unconstitutional.  The fifth (guess who!) insisted that weapons are always evil because "they kill people!", and that any connection with them -- even in harmless imitation -- was evil by similarity, if not contagion (which is classic Magical Thinking).

After more than half an hour of this, I was fed up and looking for an opportunity to break the pattern.  I found it when one of the other reasonable panelists rather pointedly brought up Heinlein's famous quote -- "An armed society is a polite society" -- and the Terribly Passionate Young Man promptly down-shouted him with an unsupported slogan: "How can you say that, when more guns in a society mean more gun-crimes?!"

At that point I stood up and said: "I propose an experiment."

That, of course, caught the attention of the audience -- they being Science-Fiction fans.

"An experiment to test Heinlein's Hypothesis, right here and right now.  Will someone please close the doors so we won't be interrupted?"

Two or three fans hastily stood up to close the doors, and then stand beside them to make sure they wouldn't be easily opened.

To the audience I went on: "In the last 40 minutes you've all had ample opportunity to see for yourselves just which of us up here on the panel have been reasonable and polite, and which have been... not so much." Then I turned to my fellow panelists and said: "Members of the panel, will each of you take out and display here on the table all the weapons that your have on you right now?"  While everyone else absorbed that idea, I promised: "I'll go first."

I knew, of course, which weapons I always carry with me, and I'd made a pretty good guess about the others.  So, while everybody else was still reeling, I pulled up my sword-cane and drew it, and laid both blade and sheath down on the table.  When I drew and set out my little-bitty North American Arms .22 revolver it was almost anti-climactic.  By the time I'd pulled the folding-knife off my belt, the next panelist was reaching back between his shoulder-blades -- from which he drew a very respectable Bowie knife;  by the time I'd gotten into my belt-purse and took out my plastic airport-knife (disguised as a thick comb), he'd also laid out a small semi-auto pistol.  The white-moustached gentleman laid out a classic Colt .45 semi-auto and a couple of folding knives.  I didn't see where he drew it from, but the athlete laid down a small wakazashi short sword -- followed by a cluster of throwing-stars.  The audience was dead silent, watching.

Finally, all the panelists finished displaying their weaponry -- except for the Terribly Passionate Young Man at the end.  Everybody looked at him expectantly.  At last he pulled out his key-chain -- on which was a tiny (one-and-a-half inch) folding knife, and threw it down on the table -- and then started laughing hysterically.

I turned to the audience, poker-faced, and said: "I believe you have enough evidence to draw a conclusion."

The whole audience broke into uproarious laughter, which continued until the end of the assigned hour, while we panelists calmly packed up our assorted weapons and put them back where they'd been.

The Terribly Passionate Young Man was the last to put away his key-chain knife, and all that time he only sat there thoughtfully, not saying a word.

And the videotaper recorded the whole thing.

I never got that videotaper's name, but I hope he kept an edited copy of all that footage.  I'd really love to see it, after all this time.


--Leslie <;)))><     

       

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Almost Desperate Drooling

As I've mentioned before, Rasty likes to sit down in front of the TV in the late afternoon and watch MSNBC for hours, laughing uproariously at all the Trump jokes.  So of course we both got to see a good three hours worth of MSNBC's pundits practically drooling as they repeated -- and analyzed to death -- the FBI raiding Trump's lawyer Cohen's office and hotel room and storage unit and grabbing everything they could find, supposedly in relation to the Stormy Daniels case.  Of course the FBI didn't say if they'd found anything juicy, but the media pundits hoped out loud for anything from more tidbits about Daniels' performances to revelations of the Russian Caper.

They did mention how unusual it was for the FBI to go after a sitting President's lawyer, and they speculated endlessly on how getting a federal judge's okay for the raid must have meant showing him oodles of Probable Cause -- specifically concern that vital evidence might disappear if the suspect's door didn't get kicked down this very night.  Oooh, with all that smoke, there just has to be a flame!

It doesn't seem to have occurred to the newsies that this was a simple case of vengeance, the FBI getting back at Trump for his shucking of Comey... and Comey's cronies.  And yes, the FBI is quite capable of such nasty vengeances, as Rasty could tell you.  ...And there are dark rumors about the "accidental overdose" death of Abbie Hoffman...

The "Deep State" -- i.e. the federal bureaucracy and its corporate friends -- as I've noted before, has its own politics, with different departments often at loggerheads.  Usually -- though not always -- the departments stay loyal to the political party that first established them, which explains why the FBI remains fiercely supportive and protective of Democrat administrations. Obama was a master at manipulating the federal bureaucracy, and he installed a lot of adoring followers in the FBI who happily accepted his own political bent.  Particularly, Comey was an Islamophiliac who invited CAIR agents into the FBI as "advisers", and wouldn't let the FBI even use the words "Islamic terrorist".  Considering where we're fighting wars right now, Comey's passion verged close to treason.  That's the real reason Trump fired Comey, and it's understandable why he didn't say so outright.  He's been busy since then throwing more of Comey's cronies out of the FBI, and the remaining cronies resent it.  That's why they raided his lawyer's office: intimidation, throwing their weight around, and hopefully grabbing something they can use against him.  I hope Cohen had the sense to keep all his important papers somewhere other than his office, or storage unit.  I suspect that, as Trump's legal fixer, he did.

And then there's the enigmatic Stormy Daniels herself, who is clearly no fool;  she wouldn't  have lasted so long and so well in the porn-film business if she were.  Certainly she has the sense not to try blackmailing a sitting POTUS, so just what game is she playing?  I suspect that the infamous $130,000 that Cohen paid her was not just for her "entertainment services", nor just for her "non-disclosure" during the campaign;  what if it was specifically to come forward and create a distraction when Trump needed one?  Heaven knows, she's provided one spectacular distraction!  She's managed to make the media almost forget about the Mueller investigation and the supposed Russian Caper --and the interesting fact that Trump has not made any effort to fire Mueller, much as the media are expecting he will. 

My take on it is that Trump has no intention of firing Mueller.  He's got Mueller right where he wants him: in the spotlight, the darling of the Democrats, watched intently to see what he'll do next.  I daresay Mueller can't scratch his butt without a dozen upper-class paparazzi counting the strokes.  Mueller absolutely can't make a legally shady move, but has to go strictly by the book.   And therefore, when Trump finally goes to talk to Mueller -- and drops the other shoe he's been holding so long about the real Russia story -- Mueller will have no choice but to clear him, and all the anti-Trump media will go into a screeching meltdown.

During the frenzy Trump will go on quietly draining the bureaucratic swamp, letting the military actually win the long war against the Jihadis, and dealing decisively with North Korea.  He'll be able to do it because he has the help, and advice, of both the military and the CIA -- two departments of the Deep State that are GOP-supportive for a change. 

Trump has always been good at playing off recalcitrant underlings against each other, and that's what I think is going on here. 


--Leslie <;)))><           

      

Monday, April 2, 2018

Bully in the Alley: Another Chicago Tale


This was back when I and my roommate Mary were living in a rental coach-house behind a rental residential house, in a working-class neighborhood off Halsted Avenue.  Our house was backed up right on the alley, where we could see and hear everything that happened there. 

One night while we were channel-surfing (remember, this was before cable TV), looking for something halfway decent on local TV, when we heard shouting coming from the alley.  Naturally, we went to the alley-facing window and sneaked a peak through the curtains.  There we saw a young couple dressed in Yuppie clothes, consisting of a tall medium-build man and a small willowy woman, halted under the alley's lone streetlamp, arguing...sort of.  We couldn't work out what they were saying, but the man was doing all the outraged-tone shouting -- and waving his fists around in the air -- while the young woman looked and sounded apologetic, mollifying, taking the classic Submission Posture of the Chacma Baboon.  Since the young man showed no sign of being mollified, but was clearly stoking his outrage -- working himself up to... something, we decided to stroll outside and provide witnesses. 

Just as a precaution, I took along my sturdy 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. 

So out the front door we went, over to the passageway between our house and the neighbor's garage, through the alley gate and out to the edge of the alley, where we stopped to watch.  I held the shotgun by the grip, with the barrel hanging down along my leg where it wouldn't readily be seen.  Bellowing Boy had gotten to the "She said you said I said" stage of the argument, and didn't notice.  No sooner had we taken out position than a couple more neighbors quietly came out and joined us.  I saw some neighbors come out of the houses on the opposite side of the alley and do the same.  As we watched, still more neighbors came out and added to the lines, bending them into a circle that crossed the alley.  None of them said or did anything;  we just encircled the couple at a respectful -- 20 foot -- distance, and watched.

Eventually, even Bellowing Boy noticed the crowd.  He stopped intimidating and yelling at his girlfriend, and looked around, going "Whuh...?"

Nobody said anything.  We just looked at him. 

He looked around the circle again, this time clearly calculating, looking for a weak spot.  I could see as well as he could that all the other neighbors were men, of moderate to respectable size, with the usual working-class muscle.  The only women in the circle were me and Mary, and Mary was maybe an inch taller than I was and easily 50 pounds heavier.  In short, the smallest person in the circle was me.

Therefore it didn't surprise me at all that Bellowing Boy came stomping toward me, yelling curses and shaking his fists.  Seeing what he'd displayed of his personality, I was the obvious choice.

I didn't flinch nor say a word.  I only flipped up the muzzle of the shotgun, clamped my other hand firmly on the fore-stock, and pointed the muzzle toward his midsection.

Oboy, you never saw a bully screech to a halt and back-scramble so fast!  He retreated to the center of the circle beside his girlfriend, who had gone silent and was looking around the circle too. 

Finally she took a step toward the far end of the alley, intending to walk away.  The neighbors at that end of the circle, seeing what she wanted, obligingly got out of the way.  Seeing a clear path, Bellowing Boy reasserted his Mastery by saying, "C'mon, let's get out of here," and hurrying ahead of her so he could play the Leader.   

As they walked past me, I couldn't help calling out: "Leave him, girl.  You can do better." 

The rest of the crowd chuckled quietly, and then took up the chant: "Leave him, girl.  Leave him, girl."  And repeated that chant after them all the way through their walk to the end of the alley and out to the street.  Once they were gone, the neighbors dispersed and went back to their own houses and business.  Nobody, as far as I know, even called the cops.  And why should we?  The crisis was past, none of us even knew the participants, and if the girl chose to continue mollifying Bellowing Boy, that was her choice.

No, we never saw Bellowing Bully-Boy again -- nor his mollifying girlfriend, as far as I know.

What I particularly remember about that incident was how effective simply displaying the shotgun was.  Hoo-hah, did that ever deflate that bully fast!  I was under the impression that bullies take a little more than that to make them back off.  The second memorable thing about that incident was how obvious Bellowing Bully-Boy's personality was.  How could anybody watch him for more than a few minutes and not know him for what he was?  Why did that masochistic girl bother to stay with him that long?  How naive could she have been? 

But the third memorable thing was how the neighbors all responded to the noise, and the situation.  They all showed up, did nothing to interfere but only watched, providing witnesses.  The fact that nobody seemed surprised, or upset, when I flipped up my shotgun shows that they were quite willing to use vi-o-lence if Bellowing Bully-Boy had actually taken a real swing at his girlfriend with those wagging fists.  The way they parted the line to let the girl through showed a wonderfully keen observation, and the way they took up my commentary as a chant shows a nice practical morality.

Now this was just a random collection of working-class Chicagoans, united by nothing more than geography and situation.  I've seen similar remarkable performances in a Michigan winter, in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake in California, and minor crises here in Arizona.  What they all show me is that the American masses are remarkably smart, level-headed and practical -- and share a common practical morality. 

This shows why democracy works as well as it does -- which is way ahead of whatever is in second place.

--Leslie <;)))>< 


Saturday, March 24, 2018

ERSATZ



I don’t think it’s coincidence that the TV cable channels which specialize in history have been running documentaries about the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-War movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s – during the same couple of weeks that CNN and MSNBC have been hyping the Parkland students’ anti-gun movement, destined to climax in the “March For Our Lives” today.  For anybody who had any real experience with those historic grassroots movements, the contrast is downright painful.

First off, nobody helped us organize any picket-lines or demonstrations, let alone big marches on the capitol.  We had to learn the whole process ourselves, from the ground up. Before the age of the Internet, we had telephone-trees and community bulletin-boards to spread the word;  newspapers, TV stations and radio stations wouldn’t touch us – unless we bought paid advertising.  We had to learn for ourselves that any chapter of a reform group, no matter how small, needed at least one lawyer – to bail us out when the cops grabbed us up for “disturbing the peace” or “blocking a public thoroughfare”, and also to figure out what permits and paperwork we needed to file in order to march in the streets or rally in a public park.  We needed to learn about transport, to find out where to rent busses, calculate how many busses would be needed, where they would pick us up, let us off, and park until we needed them to get home.  We had to learn the hard way about getting extra garbage services, renting and servicing porta-potties, getting sound-systems set up, providing insurance for the same, and arranging for discreet medical tents and staffs.  We also learned how to go to legislators’ offices and present petitions.  We evolved a handful of standard slogans and symbols that were instantly recognizable.  And of course we had to learn how to collect funds for all this.  Even with the help of old and experienced labor union organizers, it took us years to learn all these techniques.  It took still longer to get the media to recognize us as anything but “rioters”. 

Eventually we produced an organization called the National Mobilization to End the War – the “Mobe” for short – which specialized in organizing big political demonstrations in Washington, DC, and nothing else.  We timed our actions by the Mobe’s calendar, experimented with new techniques locally and sent their descriptions to the Mobe’s headquarters if they were successful.  The Mobe was certainly not a governing body for the movement – nothing could be – but any technique or tactic that the Mobe disapproved of was left to the local group that favored it, which was then completely on its own.  I’ve often wondered what happened to the old Mobe organization after the Civil Rights law was passed and the war ended.  I doubt if those experienced organizers just disappeared.

Considering all that, no, I don’t believe that this new March For Our Lives anti-gun movement was created entirely by some 700 high school kids, in less than a month.  I don’t think the kids really organized any of it.

What I’ve seen, over the past month, was first CNN (and then MSCNBC) blatting the story of the school massacre – and carefully blaming gun owners and the NRA -- all over the airwaves, at least 12 hours out of every 24, supplying sympathetic Talking Heads to weep and wail over The Horror, staging interviews with particular kids from the school – even grooming and coaching and providing scripts for especially good actors among them (see David Hogge) – and carefully weeding out kids from the school who came up with different ideas about the cause of the massacre and prevention of any such future event (see Ariana Klein, Kyle Kashuv, and Colton Haab).  Before the first week was out, they’d attracted some enthusiastic Democrat politicians and had organized the first demonstrations and marches on the Florida state capital – all thoroughly covered and advertised by CNN. 

This is strangely reminiscent of William Randolph Hearst using his newspapers to start a completely unnecessary war.  I know that media professionals have regarded that feat with awe and envy ever since.

Of course, the media managers didn’t do it by themselves.  Anti-gun-rights politicians, celebrities, corporate managers and certain labor union administrators were happy to jump on the bandwagon, providing funds and support.  The mayor of Baltimore happily promised $100,000 to send local schoolkids to the march on Washington, despite the fact that her city’s school board didn’t have enough money to keep the schools heated this winter.  There are reports of schoolteachers urging their students to join the protests, giving homework assignments about “why I’m in favor of gun control”, and actually punishing students who complained or came up with alternate ideas.  There are a dozen corporations, including Citigroup, which have come up with tricks for punishing firearms companies, legal firearms dealers, and of course the NRA.  None of this, obviously, was organized by schoolkids.  It certainly was not the students of that Parkland high school who organized the anti-gun/anti-NRA marches, walkouts, and demonstrations in all the other states in the US.  Neither did the kids alone come up with that list of “common sense” gun laws which the campaign is pushing – blissfully unaware that some of the laws they’re asking for are already on the books, and poorly enforced.  Other laws that they’re thoughtlessly crying for – because they’ve had the slogans handed to them – are plainly unconstitutional, and are already beset with lawsuits.    
   
Right now, no doubt, the kids are thrilled at all the attention and flattery and TV time being given to them, not to mention the encouragement to Express Their Emotions – rather than think.  Some of them have blissfully mentioned their dreams of going into politics.  They seem to have nary a clue about how much they’re being used, or by whom.

Then again, the Salem Witch Trials – which likewise centered around a group of Afflicted Children – were orchestrated by adult political factions too.  So was the original Children’s Crusade.  Those did not end well for the involved children.  


--Leslie <;)))><              


Friday, March 16, 2018

"A Nation of Cowards"

--Leslie <;)))><

As I've said elsewhere, I rarely reprint other folks' articles, but this one summarizes the whole argument extraordinarily well, despite having been written nearly 25 years ago -- at the height of the gun-control mania, just as the pendulum was beginning to swing back.  Enjoy!

************************

To get plaintext: ftp ftp.rkba.org, get /public_html/comment/cowards.txt The WWW URL is: http://rkba.org/comment/cowards.txt
Jeff Chan


A NATION OF COWARDS


Jeffrey R. Snyder


OUR SOCIETY has reached a pinnacle of self-expression and respect for individuality rare or unmatched in history. Our entire popular culture -- from fashion magazines to the cinema -- positively screams the matchless worth of the individual, and glories in eccentricity, nonconformity, independent judgment, and self-determination. This enthusiasm is reflected in the prevalent notion that helping someone entails increasing that person's "self-esteem"; that if a person properly values himself, he will naturally be a happy, productive, and, in some inexplicable fashion, responsible member of society.
And yet, while people are encouraged to revel in their individuality and incalculable self-worth, the media and the law enforcement establishment continually advise us that, when confronted with the threat of lethal violence, we should not resist, but simply give the attacker what he wants. If the crime under consideration is rape, there is some notable waffling on this point, and the discussion quickly moves to how the woman can change her behavior to minimize the risk of rape, and the various ridiculous, non-lethal weapons she may acceptably carry, such as whistles, keys, mace or, that weapon which really sends shivers down a rapist's spine, the portable cellular phone.
Now how can this be? How can a person who values himself so highly calmly accept the indignity of a criminal assault? How can one who believes that the essence of his dignity lies in his self-determination passively accept the forcible deprivation of that self-determination? How can he, quietly, with great dignity and poise, simply hand over the goods?
The assumption, of course, is that there is no inconsistency. The advice not to resist a criminal assault and simply hand over the goods is founded on the notion that one's life is of incalculable value, and that no amount of property is worth it. Put aside, for a moment, the outrageousness of the suggestion that a criminal who proffers lethal violence should be treated as if he has instituted a new social contract: "I will not hurt or kill you if you give me what I want." For years, feminists have labored to educate people that rape is not about sex, but about domination, degradation, and control. Evidently, someone needs to inform the law enforcement establishment and the media that kidnapping, robbery, carjacking, and assault are not about property.
Crime is not only a complete disavowal of the social contract, but also a commandeering of the victim's person and liberty. If the individual's dignity lies in the fact that he is a moral agent engaging in actions of his own will, in free exchange with others, then crime always violates the victim's dignity. It is, in fact, an act of enslavement. Your wallet, your purse, or your car may not be worth your life, but your dignity is; and if it is not worth fighting for, it can hardly be said to exist.

The Gift of Life

Although difficult for modern man to fathom, it was once widely believed that life was a gift from God, that to not defend that life when offered violence was to hold God's gift in contempt, to be a coward and to breach one's duty to one's community. A sermon given in Philadelphia in 1747 unequivocally equated the failure to defend oneself with suicide:

He that suffers his life to be taken from him by one that hath no authority for that purpose, when he might preserve it by defense, incurs the Guilt of self murder since God hath enjoined him to seek the continuance of his life, and Nature itself teaches every creature to defend itself.
"Cowardice" and "self-respect" have largely disappeared from public discourse. In their place we are offered "self-esteem" as the bellwether of success and a proxy for dignity. "Self-respect" implies that one recognizes standards, and judges oneself worthy by the degree to which one lives up to them. "Self-esteem" simply means that one feels good about oneself. "Dignity" used to refer to the self-mastery and fortitude with which a person conducted himself in the face of life's vicissitudes and the boorish behavior of others. Now, judging by campus speech codes, dignity requires that we never encounter a discouraging word and that others be coerced into acting respectfully, evidently on the assumption that we are powerless to prevent our degradation if exposed to the demeaning behavior of others. These are signposts proclaiming the insubstantiality of our character, the hollowness of our souls.
It is impossible to address the problem of rampant crime without talking about the moral responsibility of the intended victim. Crime is rampant because the law-abiding, each of us, condone it, excuse it, permit it, submit to it. We permit and encourage it because we do not fight back, immediately, then and there, where it happens. Crime is not rampant because we do not have enough prisons, because judges and prosecutors are too soft, because the police are hamstrung with absurd technicalities. The defect is there, in our character. We are a nation of cowards and shirkers.

Do You Feel Lucky?

In 1991, when then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh released the FBI's annual crime statistics, he noted that it is now more likely that a person will be the victim of a violent crime than that he will be in an auto accident. Despite this, most people readily believe that the existence of the police relieves them of the responsibility to take full measures to protect themselves. The police, however, are not personal bodyguards. Rather, they act as a general deterrent to crime, both by their presence and by apprehending criminals after the fact. As numerous courts have held, they have no legal obligation to protect anyone in particular. You cannot sue them for failing to prevent you from being the victim of a crime.
Insofar as the police deter by their presence, they are very, very good. Criminals take great pains not to commit a crime in front of them. Unfortunately, the corollary is that you can pretty much bet your life (and you are) that they won't be there at the moment you actually need them.
Should you ever be the victim of an assault, a robbery, or a rape, you will find it very difficult to call the police while the act is in progress, even if you are carrying a portable cellular phone. Nevertheless, you might be interested to know how long it takes them to show up. Department of Justice statistics for 1991 show that, for all crimes of violence, only 28 percent of calls are responded to within five minutes. The idea that protection is a service people can call to have delivered and expect to receive in a timely fashion is often mocked by gun owners, who love to recite the challenge, "Call for a cop, call for an ambulance, and call for a pizza. See who shows up first."
Many people deal with the problem of crime by convincing themselves that they live, work, and travel only in special "crime-free" zones. Invariably, they react with shock and hurt surprise when they discover that criminals do not play by the rules and do not respect these imaginary boundaries. If, however, you understand that crime can occur anywhere at anytime, and if you understand that you can be maimed or mortally wounded in mere seconds, you may wish to consider whether you are willing to place the responsibility for safeguarding your life in the hands of others.

Power And Responsibility

Is your life worth protecting? If so, whose responsibility is it to protect it? If you believe that it is the police's, not only are you wrong -- since the courts universally rule that they have no legal obligation to do so -- but you face some difficult moral quandaries. How can you rightfully ask another human being to risk his life to protect yours, when you will assume no responsibility yourself? Because that is his job and we pay him to do it? Because your life is of incalculable value, but his is only worth the $30,000 salary we pay him? If you believe it reprehensible to possess the means and will to use lethal force to repel a criminal assault, how can you call upon another to do so for you?
Do you believe that you are forbidden to protect yourself because the police are better qualified to protect you, because they know what they are doing but you're a rank amateur? Put aside that this is equivalent to believing that only concert pianists may play the piano and only professional athletes may play sports. What exactly are these special qualities possessed only by the police and beyond the rest of us mere mortals?
One who values his life and takes seriously his responsibilities to his family and community will possess and cultivate the means of fighting back, and will retaliate when threatened with death or grievous injury to himself or a loved one. He will never be content to rely solely on others for his safety, or to think he has done all that is possible by being aware of his surroundings and taking measures of avoidance. Let's not mince words: He will be armed, will be trained in the use of his weapon, and will defend himself when faced with lethal violence.
Fortunately, there is a weapon for preserving life and liberty that can be wielded effectively by almost anyone -- the handgun. Small and light enough to be carried habitually, lethal, but unlike the knife or sword, not demanding great skill or strength, it truly is the "great equalizer." Requiring only hand-eye coordination and a modicum of ability to remain cool under pressure, it can be used effectively by the old and the weak against the young and the strong, by the one against the many.
The handgun is the only weapon that would give a lone female jogger a chance of prevailing against a gang of thugs intent on rape, a teacher a chance of protecting children at recess from a madman intent on massacring them, a family of tourists waiting at a mid-town subway station the means to protect themselves from a gang of teens armed with razors and knives.
But since we live in a society that by and large outlaws the carrying of arms, we are brought into the fray of the Great American Gun War. Gun control is one of the most prominent battlegrounds in our current culture wars. Yet it is unique in the half-heartedness with which our conservative leaders and pundits -- our "conservative elite" -- do battle, and have conceded the moral high ground to liberal gun control proponents. It is not a topic often written about, or written about with any great fervor, by William F. Buckley or Patrick Buchanan. As drug czar, William Bennett advised President Bush to ban "assault weapons." George Will is on record as recommending the repeal of the Second Amendment, and Jack Kemp is on record as favoring a ban on the possession of semiautomatic "assault weapons." The battle for gun rights is one fought predominantly by the common man. The beliefs of both our liberal and conservative elites are in fact abetting the criminal rampage through our society.

Selling Crime Prevention

By any rational measure, nearly all gun control proposals are hokum. The Brady Bill, for example, would not have prevented John Hinckley from obtaining a gun to shoot President Reagan; Hinckley purchased his weapon five months before the attack, and his medical records could not have served as a basis to deny his purchase of a gun, since medical records are not public documents filed with the police. Similarly, California's waiting period and background check did not stop Patrick Purdy from purchasing the "assault rifle" and handguns he used to massacre children during recess in a Stockton schoolyard; the felony conviction that would have provided the basis for stopping the sales did not exist, because Mr. Purdy's previous weapons violations were plea-bargained down from felonies to misdemeanors.
In the mid-sixties there was a public service advertising campaign targeted at car owners about the prevention of car theft. The purpose of the ad was to urge car owners not to leave their keys in their cars. The message was, "Don't help a good boy go bad." The implication was that, by leaving his keys in his car, the normal, law-abiding car owner was contributing to the delinquency of minors who, if they just weren't tempted beyond their limits, would be "good." Now, in those days people still had a fair sense of just who was responsible for whose behavior. The ad succeeded in enraging a goodly portion of the populace, and was soon dropped.
Nearly all of the gun control measures offered by Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI) and its ilk embody the same philosophy. They are founded on the belief that America's law-abiding gun owners are the source of the problem. With their unholy desire for firearms, they are creating a society awash in a sea of guns, thereby helping good boys go bad, and helping bad boys be badder. This laying of moral blame for violent crime at the feet of the law-abiding, and the implicit absolution of violent criminals for their misdeeds, naturally infuriates honest gun owners.
The files of HCI and other gun control organizations are filled with proposals to limit the availability of semiautomatic and other firearms to law-abiding citizens, and barren of proposals for apprehending and punishing violent criminals. It is ludicrous to expect that the proposals of HCI, or any gun control laws, will significantly curb crime. According to Department of Justice and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) statistics, fully 90 percent of violent crimes are committed without a handgun, and 93 percent of the guns obtained by violent criminals are not obtained through the lawful purchase and sale transactions that are the object of most gun control legislation. Furthermore, the number of violent criminals is minute in comparison to the number of firearms in America -- estimated by the ATF at about 200 million, approximately one-third of which are handguns. With so abundant a supply, there will always be enough guns available for those who wish to use them for nefarious ends, no matter how complete the legal prohibitions against them, or how draconian the punishment for their acquisition or use. No, the gun control proposals of HCI and other organizations are not seriously intended as crime control. Something else is at work here.

The Tyranny of the Elite

Gun control is a moral crusade against a benighted, barbaric citizenry. This is demonstrated not only by the ineffectualness of gun control in preventing crime, and by the fact that it focuses on restricting the behavior of the law-abiding rather than apprehending and punishing the guilty, but also by the execration that gun control proponents heap on gun owners and their evil instrumentality, the NRA. Gun owners are routinely portrayed as uneducated, paranoid rednecks fascinated by and prone to violence, i.e., exactly the type of person who opposes the liberal agenda and whose moral and social "re-education" is the object of liberal social policies. Typical of such bigotry is New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's famous characterization of gun-owners as "hunters who drink beer, don't vote, and lie to their wives about where they were all weekend." Similar vituperation is rained upon the NRA, characterized by Sen. Edward Kennedy as the "pusher's best friend," lampooned in political cartoons as standing for the right of children to carry firearms to school and, in general, portrayed as standing for an individual's God-given right to blow people away at will.
The stereotype is, of course, false. As criminologist and constitutional lawyer Don B. Kates, Jr. and former HCI contributor Dr. Patricia Harris have pointed out, "[s]tudies consistently show that, on the average, gun owners are better educated and have more prestigious jobs than non-owners.... Later studies show that gun owners are less likely than non-owners to approve of police brutality, violence against dissenters, etc."
Conservatives must understand that the antipathy many liberals have for gun owners arises in good measure from their statist utopianism. This habit of mind has nowhere been better explored than in The Republic. There, Plato argues that the perfectly just society is one in which an unarmed people exhibit virtue by minding their own business in the performance of their assigned functions, while the government of philosopher-kings, above the law and protected by armed guardians unquestioning in their loyalty to the state, engineers, implements, and fine-tunes the creation of that society, aided and abetted by myths that both hide and justify their totalitarian manipulation.

The Unarmed Life

When columnist Carl Rowan preaches gun control and uses a gun to defend his home, when Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer seeks legislation year after year to ban semiautomatic "assault weapons" whose only purpose, we are told, is to kill people, while he is at the same time escorted by state police armed with large-capacity 9mm semiautomatic pistols, it is not simple hypocrisy. It is the workings of that habit of mind possessed by all superior beings who have taken upon themselves the terrible burden of civilizing the masses and who understand, like our Congress, that laws are for other people.
The liberal elite know that they are philosopher-kings. They know that the people simply cannot be trusted; that they are incapable of just and fair self-government; that left to their own devices, their society will be racist, sexist, homophobic, and inequitable -- and the liberal elite know how to fix things. They are going to help us live the good and just life, even if they have to lie to us and force us to do it. And they detest those who stand in their way.
The private ownership of firearms is a rebuke to this utopian zeal. To own firearms is to affirm that freedom and liberty are not gifts from the state. It is to reserve final judgment about whether the state is encroaching on freedom and liberty, to stand ready to defend that freedom with more than mere words, and to stand outside the state's totalitarian reach.

The Florida Experience

The elitist distrust of the people underlying the gun control movement is illustrated beautifully in HCI's campaign against a new concealed-carry law in Florida. Prior to 1987, the Florida law permitting the issuance of concealed-carry permits was administered at the county level. The law was vague, and, as a result, was subject to conflicting interpretation and political manipulation. Permits were issued principally to security personnel and the privileged few with political connections. Permits were valid only within the county of issuance.
In 1987, however, Florida enacted a uniform concealed-carry law which mandates that county authorities issue a permit to anyone who satisfies certain objective criteria. The law requires that a permit be issued to any applicant who is a resident, at least twenty-one years of age, has no criminal record, no record of alcohol or drug abuse, no history of mental illness, and provides evidence of having satisfactorily completed a firearms safety course offered by the NRA or other competent instructor. The applicant must provide a set of fingerprints, after which the authorities make a background check. The permit must be issued or denied within ninety days, is valid throughout the state, and must be renewed every three years, which provides authorities a regular means of reevaluating whether the permit holder still qualifies.
Passage of this legislation was vehemently opposed by HCI and the media. The law, they said, would lead to citizens shooting each other over everyday disputes involving fender benders, impolite behavior, and other slights to their dignity. Terms like "Florida, the Gunshine State" and "Dodge City East" were coined to suggest that the state, and those seeking passage of the law, were encouraging individuals to act as judge, jury, and executioner in a "Death Wish" society.
No HCI campaign more clearly demonstrates the elitist beliefs underlying the campaign to eradicate gun ownership. Given the qualifications required of permit holders, HCI and the media can only believe that common, law-abiding citizens are seething cauldrons of homicidal rage, ready to kill to avenge any slight to their dignity, eager to seek out and summarily execute the lawless. Only lack of immediate access to a gun restrains them and prevents the blood from flowing in the streets. They are so mentally and morally deficient that they would mistake a permit to carry a weapon in self-defense as a state-sanctioned license to kill at will.
Did the dire predictions come true? Despite the fact that Miami and Dade County have severe problems with the drug trade, the homicide rate fell in Florida following enactment of this law, as it did in Oregon following enactment of similar legislation there. There are, in addition, several documented cases of new permit holders successfully using their weapons to defend themselves. Information from the Florida Department of State shows that, from the beginning of the program in 1987 through June 1993, 160,823 permits have been issued, and only 530, or about 0.33 percent of the applicants, have been denied a permit for failure to satisfy the criteria, indicating that the law is benefitting those whom it was intended to benefit -- the law-abiding. Only 16 permits, less than 1/100th of 1 percent, have been revoked due to the post-issuance commission of a crime involving a firearm.
The Florida legislation has been used as a model for legislation adopted by Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Mississippi. There are, in addition, seven other states (Maine, North and South Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and, with the exception of cities with a population in excess of 1 million, Pennsylvania) which provide that concealed-carry permits must be issued to law-abiding citizens who satisfy various objective criteria. Finally, no permit is required at all in Vermont. Altogether, then, there are thirteen states in which law-abiding citizens who wish to carry arms to defend themselves may do so. While no one appears to have compiled the statistics from all of these jurisdictions, there is certainly an ample data base for those seeking the truth about the trustworthiness of law-abiding citizens who carry firearms.
Other evidence also suggests that armed citizens are very responsible in using guns to defend themselves. Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck, using surveys and other data, has determined that armed citizens defend their lives or property with firearms against criminals approximately 1 million times a year. In 98 percent of these instances, the citizen merely brandishes the weapon or fires a warning shot. Only in 2 percent of the cases do citizens actually shoot their assailants. In defending themselves with their firearms, armed citizens kill 2,000 to 3,000 criminals each year, three times the number killed by the police. A nationwide study by Kates, the constitutional lawyer and criminologist, found that only 2 percent of civilian shootings involved an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal. The "error rate" for the police, however, was 11 percent, over five times as high.
It is simply not possible to square the numbers above and the experience of Florida with the notions that honest, law-abiding gun owners are borderline psychopaths itching for an excuse to shoot someone, vigilantes eager to seek out and summarily execute the lawless, or incompetent fools incapable of determining when it is proper to use lethal force in defense of their lives. Nor upon reflection should these results seem surprising. Rape, robbery, and attempted murder are not typically actions rife with ambiguity or subtlety, requiring special powers of observation and great book-learning to discern. When a man pulls a knife on a woman and says, "You're coming with me," her judgment that a crime is being committed is not likely to be in error. There is little chance that she is going to shoot the wrong person. It is the police, because they are rarely at the scene of the crime when it occurs, who are more likely to find themselves in circumstances where guilt and innocence are not so clear-cut, and in which the probability for mistakes is higher.

Arms and Liberty

Classical republican philosophy has long recognized the critical relationship between personal liberty and the possession of arms by a people ready and willing to use them. Political theorists as dissimilar as Niccolo Machiavelli, Sir Thomas More, James Harrington, Algernon Sidney, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau all shared the view that the possession of arms is vital for resisting tyranny, and that to be disarmed by one's government is tantamount to being enslaved by it. The possession of arms by the people is the ultimate warrant that government governs only with the consent of the governed. As Kates has shown, the Second Amendment is as much a product of this political philosophy as it is of the American experience in the Revolutionary War. Yet our conservative elite has abandoned this aspect of republican theory. Although our conservative pundits recognize and embrace gun owners as allies in other arenas, their battle for gun rights is desultory. The problem here is not a statist utopianism, although goodness knows that liberals are not alone in the confidence they have in the state's ability to solve society's problems. Rather, the problem seems to lie in certain cultural traits shared by our conservative and liberal elites.
One such trait is an abounding faith in the power of the word. The failure of our conservative elite to defend the Second Amendment stems in great measure from an overestimation of the power of the rights set forth in the First Amendment, and a general undervaluation of action. Implicit in calls for the repeal of the Second Amendment is the assumption that our First Amendment rights are sufficient to preserve our liberty. The belief is that liberty can be preserved as long as men freely speak their minds; that there is no tyranny or abuse that can survive being exposed in the press; and that the truth need only be disclosed for the culprits to be shamed. The people will act, and the truth shall set us, and keep us, free.
History is not kind to this belief, tending rather to support the view of Hobbes, Machiavelli, and other republican theorists that only people willing and able to defend themselves can preserve their liberties. While it may be tempting and comforting to believe that the existence of mass electronic communication has forever altered the balance of power between the state and its subjects, the belief has certainly not been tested by time, and what little history there is in the age of mass communication is not especially encouraging. The camera, radio, and press are mere tools and, like guns, can be used for good or ill. Hitler, after all, was a masterful orator, used radio to very good effect, and is well known to have pioneered and exploited the propaganda opportunities afforded by film. And then, of course, there were the Brownshirts, who knew very well how to quell dissent among intellectuals.

Polite Society

In addition to being enamored of the power of words, our conservative elite shares with liberals the notion that an armed society is just not civilized or progressive, that massive gun ownership is a blot on our civilization. This association of personal disarmament with civilized behavior is one of the great unexamined beliefs of our time.
Should you read English literature from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, you will discover numerous references to the fact that a gentleman, especially when out at night or traveling, armed himself with a sword or a pistol against the chance of encountering a highwayman or other such predator. This does not appear to have shocked the ladies accompanying him. True, for the most part there were no police in those days, but we have already addressed the notion that the presence of the police absolves people of the responsibility to look after their safety, and in any event the existence of the police cannot be said to have reduced crime to negligible levels.
It is by no means obvious why it is "civilized" to permit oneself to fall easy prey to criminal violence, and to permit criminals to continue unobstructed in their evil ways. While it may be that a society in which crime is so rare that no one ever needs to carry a weapon is "civilized," a society that stigmatizes the carrying of weapons by the law-abiding -- because it distrusts its citizens more than it fears rapists, robbers, and murderers -- certainly cannot claim this distinction. Perhaps the notion that defending oneself with lethal force is not "civilized" arises from the view that violence is always wrong, or the view that each human being is of such intrinsic worth that it is wrong to kill anyone under any circumstances. The necessary implication of these propositions, however, is that life is not worth defending. Far from being "civilized," the beliefs that counterviolence and killing are always wrong are an invitation to the spread of barbarism. Such beliefs announce loudly and clearly that those who do not respect the lives and property of others will rule over those who do.
In truth, one who believes it wrong to arm himself against criminal violence shows contempt of God's gift of life (or, in modern parlance, does not properly value himself), does not live up to his responsibilities to his family and community, and proclaims himself mentally and morally deficient, because he does not trust himself to behave responsibly. In truth, a state that deprives its law-abiding citizens of the means to effectively defend themselves is not civilized but barbarous, becoming an accomplice of murderers, rapists, and thugs and revealing its totalitarian nature by its tacit admission that the disorganized, random havoc created by criminals is far less a threat than are men and women who believe themselves free and independent, and act accordingly.
While gun control proponents and other advocates of a kinder, gentler society incessantly decry our "armed society," in truth we do not live in an armed society. We live in a society in which violent criminals and agents of the state habitually carry weapons, and in which many law-abiding citizens own firearms but do not go about armed. Department of Justice statistics indicate that 87 percent of all violent crimes occur outside the home. Essentially, although tens of millions own firearms, we are an unarmed society.

Take Back the Night

Clearly the police and the courts are not providing a significant brake on criminal activity. While liberals call for more poverty, education, and drug treatment programs, conservatives take a more direct tack. George Will advocates a massive increase in the number of police and a shift toward "community-based policing." Meanwhile, the NRA and many conservative leaders call for laws that would require violent criminals serve at least 85 percent of their sentences and would place repeat offenders permanently behind bars.
Our society suffers greatly from the beliefs that only official action is legitimate and that the state is the source of our earthly salvation. Both liberal and conservative prescriptions for violent crime suffer from the "not in my job description" school of thought regarding the responsibilities of the law-abiding citizen, and from an overestimation of the ability of the state to provide society's moral moorings. As long as law-abiding citizens assume no personal responsibility for combatting crime, liberal and conservative programs will fail to contain it.
Judging by the numerous articles about concealed-carry in gun magazines, the growing number of products advertised for such purpose, and the increase in the number of concealed-carry applications in states with mandatory-issuance laws, more and more people, including growing numbers of women, are carrying firearms for self-defense. Since there are still many states in which the issuance of permits is discretionary and in which law enforcement officials routinely deny applications, many people have been put to the hard choice between protecting their lives or respecting the law. Some of these people have learned the hard way, by being the victim of a crime, or by seeing a friend or loved one raped, robbed, or murdered, that violent crime can happen to anyone, anywhere at anytime, and that crime is not about sex or property but life, liberty, and dignity.
The laws proscribing concealed-carry of firearms by honest, law-abiding citizens breed nothing but disrespect for the law. As the Founding Fathers knew well, a government that does not trust its honest, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens with the means of self-defense is not itself worthy of trust. Laws disarming honest citizens proclaim that the government is the master, not the servant, of the people. A federal law along the lines of the Florida statute -- overriding all contradictory state and local laws and acknowledging that the carrying of firearms by law-abiding citizens is a privilege and immunity of citizenship -- is needed to correct the outrageous conduct of state and local officials operating under discretionary licensing systems.
What we certainly do not need is more gun control. Those who call for the repeal of the Second Amendment so that we can really begin controlling firearms betray a serious misunderstanding of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights does not grant rights to the people, such that its repeal would legitimately confer upon government the powers otherwise proscribed. The Bill of Rights is the list of the fundamental, inalienable rights, endowed in man by his Creator, that define what it means to be a free and independent people, the rights which must exist to ensure that government governs only with the consent of the people.
At one time this was even understood by the Supreme Court. In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the first case in which the Court had an opportunity to interpret the Second Amendment, it stated that the right confirmed by the Second Amendment "is not a right granted by the constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence." The repeal of the Second Amendment would no more render the outlawing of firearms legitimate than the repeal of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment would authorize the government to imprison and kill people at will. A government that abrogates any of the Bill of Rights, with or without majoritarian approval, forever acts illegitimately, becomes tyrannical, and loses the moral right to govern.



This is the uncompromising understanding reflected in the warning that America's gun owners will not go gently into that good, utopian night: "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands." While liberals take this statement as evidence of the retrograde, violent nature of gun owners, we gun owners hope that liberals hold equally strong sentiments about their printing presses, word processors, and television cameras. The republic depends upon fervent devotion to all our fundamental rights.