Monday, December 27, 2010

The problem with being responsible

Responsible firearm owners follow the Four Rules:

  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target (and you have made the decision to shoot).
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

This means that I get a nagging at the back of my mind whenever I see a Rule 3 violation in video games by supposedly “professional” characters in their idle animations.

I have been known to yell “Rule 3, dammit!” at the TV, too. Why do you ask? To be fair, gun handling on TV has gotten MILES better in the past few years.

Child rearing theory

Every so often, I’ll comment on something related to raising children, such as chores, or supervision (or lack thereof), or introduction to firearms, &c. And the odds are good I’ll get some parent who goes off on me, saying that I can’t possibly know how to raise kids, since I don’t have any of my own.

This usually provokes a headscratch from me (occasionally a headdesk); while it’s true I have not got children, I was one once! A lot of what I have said I’d do in one situation or another, I was the kid in that situation. A bunch else has been informed by the parents with whom I am close friends and or family with – its not like I haven’t (as an adult) been exposed to children I have been in a caretaker situation wiht.


Parenting, it’s not rocket science. Hard work, spread out over a double decade (and more, if you’re lucky), sure. But something everyone but the golems have been through from one end already.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feline driving techniques

Chez Argent has a lot of hardwood flooring and a certain amount of linoleum, not to mention bathroom tiling. So our two cats have had to learn how to maneuver on slick surfaces. Their differing attitudes towards cornering are instructive.

Our older cat, Puck, has spent the majority of his life in a fully-carpeted apartment. When it comes time for him to make a turn on slick surfaces, he slows down, approaches the turn cautiously, and signals his turn well in advance.

The younger one, Nimitz, came to us after we have moved into this house. He’s also just out of the feline equivalent of the teenage years. His technique is much more of a powersliding, oversteering, 4-paw-drifting, attack on the turn without any braking to speak of.

To each their own, I guess. Neither of them can be provoked into doing donuts while chasing the laser pointer, however.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Who said what now?

Brian Miller, anti-freedom spokesperson had this to say about NJ gun laws in the wake of Brian Aitken’s release from prison

Bryan Miller, project director for the anti-gun violence group Ceasefire NJ, said only a "tiny majority" of people actually want to loosen the state’s gun laws. He hopes others don’t see the governor’s decision on Aitken as a precendent for "a get-out-of-jail free card for breaking our gun laws."

A tiny MAJORITY? That’s almost certainly a slip, but I’m going to laugh about it anyway. Your fears have come, Mr. Miller, because you’re right with that slip – we have the (political) power.




Monday, December 20, 2010

Corpus Delecti Amendment

There’s a concept in Common Law called Corpus Delecti which “refers to the principle that it must be proven that a crime has occurred before a person can be convicted of committing the crime.” Famously (and currently incorrectly) it is seen as the requirement to have a body before you can have a murder case (though this used to be literally true).

In a murder case, of course, the body is that of the victim, so if you have a body, you have evidence that there was both an identifiable crime and an identifiable victim. Regrettably, in other crimes, the lack of a victim is seen as no bar to prosecution.

What I’d like to see is a return to our Common Law roots of justice, perhaps with an amendment such as proposed below:

No person shall be, by the United States, or any State or other lesser authority under this Constitution, convicted of a felonious crime or subject to lengthy term of imprisonment or loss of civil rights, or ruinous fine, or a sentence of death, save that it be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in open court that their actions were both criminal in nature and that they were directed at an identifiable and unwilling victim or victims, or that the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these actions were the result of felonious criminal neglect or depraved indifference"

This would of course go with my previous suggestion requiring intent, harm, or indifference be proved for a sentence of felonious penalties.

Neither one of which have a Snowflake's chance in the face of “for the children”. For one thing, it’d pretty much do in the War on (disfavored) Drugs, and a whole bunch of felony-level regulatory crimes.

Brian Aitken has his sentence commuted

Brian Aitken’s sentence has been commuted to “time served”. He should be home for Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Plus ca change

The last time Scott EVest sold an explicitly “tactical” jacket (a few years back), they only mentioned Law Enforcement as the target market, and made it moderately difficult on their site to find.

Today, they sell their Outback Jacket and the first of the “Key Features” lists ”20 Pockets designed for Concealed Carry, Law Enforcement and more”. Still a little targeted toward the LEO end of things (I need “special features to accomodate sleeve mics”? I think not), but still…

Disclosure: I am a moderately satisfied customer, nothing more, and nothing less. I;m going to be ordering a different jacket/vest (sip-off sleeves) from them later, as a replacement for a hard-worn jacket/vest. This fills the need for a turse for me, as well as increasing the amount of carry-on stuff I can take with me on a plane, etc. Furthermore, when I do need to go through a secure checkpoint (such as at jury duty or into the sterile section of an airport) I can place everything that’ll trip the magentometer into it and glide on through.

I’d like to be able to give my experience using it as a CCW cover garment or a pocket-carry garment, but other than once or twice having placed my (unloaded) G17 into the right-hand main pocket for grins while at home, I can’t. Maybe in a couple years when SCOTUS makes NJ go shall-issue.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Julian Assange vs Bradley Manning

These are the two most famous players in the ongoing Wikileaks scandal, and there are calls to prosecute both, up to and including the most severe penalties available under the Espionage Act, and in fact, charging one or both with Treason.

Ex-PFC Bradley Manning, a US citizen and Private First Class in the US Army, is the alleged leaker of sensitive information to a foreign national (Julian Assange) who published the information far and wide. He is subject to US jurisdiction both by citizenship and by location of the alleged actions, and as a US citizen and member of the military owes a duty to both. By copying classified information and distributing it to non-authorized persons, in gross violation of duty owed, he committed crimes possibly rising to the Constitutionally-defined level of treason by “adhering to [the United States] enemies, [and] giving them aid…” (Art 3, Sec3 US Constitution). If he did these things, he is (IMHO) an honorless oathbreaking traitor. The US federal government has moral and legal claim on him, and therefore may prosecute him to the fullest extent.

Julian Assange, Australian citizen, sometime resident of Sweden is the admitted publisher of this sensitive material, and probably did so with the express desire to harm the interests of the United States. But he is not a US citizen or resident and is (and was at the time) not on US soil when the events took place; and owes no duty to the US. The US has no jurisdiction, and thus no ability to prosecute criminally his actions. The US can bar him from ever entering the US, or becoming a citizen. I suppose the US could declare war on him, but not charge him with a crime. He opposes the interests of the US, but acting against the interests of the US is neither a dishonorable action or a violation of trust for him. The US Government has no moral or legal claim on him, and may not prosecute him for anything.

Citizenship means something, as do borders, remember. Otherwise, why bother fighting illegal immigration and the efforts of the US and EU to undermine US sovereignty?

Cheap Guns

Caleb goes on about “Life being too short for cheap gear” and a lively argument has broken out in the comments about whether the “one-bedside-gun” owner should save up for a $300-$400 gun or buy a $100-$200 used gun. The reliability goes down quite sharply at the low end and an unreliable gun in the hands of a novice is a bad idea, goes one side of the argument; they are better served by paying double for the security of knowing that their bedside conversation starter will speak for them all the time.

Which brings me to my thought: why are guns so durn expensive. Answer is two-fold: “economies of scale,” and “purchaser conservatism.” The first is at least partially due to government meddling; the harder it is to manufacture, purchase, own, and transport firearms, the less people will do any of those, and the smaller the market for firearms. It’s terribly hard to be a garage-shop innovator in firearms due to the insane over-regulation of firearms manufacturers, for example; and the smaller the market, the less customers you have to spread the fixed costs of innovation over. This should get better as we move closer to Constitutional scheme for firearms regulation, thankfully, as the forces driving lower firearms ownership will be reversed.

The second is harder to overcome. For a number of reasons, purchasers of firearms aren’t looking for the Next Big Thing; in fact they prefer the familiar to an astonishing extent. The continued wild popularity of the 1911-pattern pistol is one of the best examples. The validity of the reasons is outside the scope of my post; so I’ll take it as given. But I don’t have any good arguments against dependence on proven designs, either.

There’s a third reason that the market space for new firearms is lower than you might think; firearms are durable goods. There’s no reason in the world that you can’t continue to use a smokeless-powder firearm manufactured a hundred years or more ago today, if the weapon itself if sound; and there are plenty of mechanically-sound firearms kicking around. However, this should force down the costs of new firearms, because they have to compete with used firearms – which doesn’t help innovation because that meanst here’s less profit margin on the new guns.

Simple Gun for the ADD shooter

I’ve been known to say that a Glock, with its lack of extraneous controls, is the best gun for someone with ADD. There are 4 controls (outside of adjustable sights) on mine: the trigger, the magazine release, the slide release, and the slide itself. In keeping with Rule 1 (and subject to the same exclusions), I know that whenever I pull the trigger, it will go bang, and if it didn’t, there was a failure in the mechanism or ammunition. This facilitates the best remedy for dealing with ADD, setting routines. In this case, there is no routine to set, really. Insert magazine, rack slide, align sights, and pull trigger. I don’t have to check the position of any toggle or switch, unlock a frame-lock, etc. This is the minimal number of steps necessary to operate a semi-automatic firearm.

I could cut back the number of steps by using a double-action revolver or by keeping a magazine inserted and a round chambered. But at the range, I have to eventually reload, and the steps needed to reload a detachable-magazine weapon are  notably simpler than those needed to reload a revolver, even assuming speedloaders for the revolver. Press the magazine release, insert new magazine, release slide; all of the fine manipulations can be done by my master hand, leaving my off hand to insert magazine and yank the slide off the hold-back lever (and if I was willing to accept the wear on the slide lock notch, I could do that with my master hand as well). With a revolver, I have to release the cylinder, eject the empty cases, grab the speedloader, insert speedloader, close the cylinder. All of that is done with my off hand; leaving my master hand to hold the gun. For me, who is intensely right-side dominant (seriously, I am much less dexterous with my left hand; and my left eye is notably weaker than my right eye to the point that I can shoot with both eyes open with little difficulty), the less I have to do with my left hand, the better.

I suppose much the same effective simplicity is to be found in the 1911, with the grip safety and the thumb safety both being placed where the gripping hand will naturally fall, but there is the manual safety as well; and as a single-action pistol, I have to also be aware of the position of the hammer. Technically on the Glock I have to know whether the striker is cocked or not, but the position of the trigger will tell me that; I don’t have to look (and in fact can’t “look” at the striker). If the position of the trigger on a 1911 tells you what state the hammer is in, I will retract this last; I’ve fired a 1911-pattern gun once and only put one magazine through it.

Obviously, Glock is not the only provider of firearms with the minimal necessary controls, but their products are the ones I am familiar with.

New Template

Do not adjust your browser - I decided to poke at the templates and column widths.



Not only is that terrible in general, but you just KNOW Billy's going to open the root present first, and then everyone will have to wait while the heap is rebuilt.

Fri, 17 Dec 2010 00:00:00 GMT

OK – that’s two things I got out of almost getting my CS degree at Stevens. My lovely and talented wife, and the ability to LOL at the alt-text.

QotD – Metaphor and language

“What the whole series is, is Harry camping Voldemort's respawn points, to use a videogame metaphor. ;) “ – Gregg in comments to Howard Tayler’s mini-review of HP7, part 1

I think this one is going to take the award for “best use of metaphor via slang” for 2010 for me.

(And, yes, there’s a reason I’m adding a “Harry Potter” tag for later use in the blog)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More funny quotes

Yup, Obama is being so subtle and “effective” at pushing his gun control agenda that I’m pretty sure if he keeps it up the NFA will be repealed by the 2012 election.”

Which isn’t to say that we should lean back and relax; only that, like any politician, he has a limited amount of political capital, and there are much more important things that he wants to spend it on. Gun control is an easy thing for him to speak in favor of and then quietly compromise on.

The worst thing that has actually come to pass, initiated by President Obama, has been his appointment of Andrew Traver as BATFE head. And I’m trying to find out if he actually did it as a recess appointment, instead of submitting him for “advice and consent”. There’s a bunch of FUD on the topic in the ‘tubes. It appears he’s going to get submitted for approval by the lame duck session, but that’s not (quite) the same thing as a recess appointment – remember that this is the same Senate that came within a single vote of getting national CCW reciprocity onto a “must-pass” bill, and did pass National Parks Carry. If the president waited a few weeks, he could have gotten his recess appointment and for a year we’d have been stuck with this guy with no Senate input. His appointment of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan certainly didn't help matters, but they didn’t really harm things at the SCOTUS either. Long-term, it depends on who is president when othe rjustices require, an act of fortune-telling I don’t feel like performing.

On the other hand, we did get National Park Carry, and several “administrative” efforts regarded as anti-gun etc, such as the reclassification of one-handed knives to switchblades and the decision to shred used military brass were publically and rapidly rescinded when they became known. Perhaps this is due to the intensive scrutiny his administration is getting. Perhaps he just doesn’t care. More likely, he’s got more important things to do. Symbols are easy – and to be honest, the appointment of a Traver to BATFE head is a symbol; the culture at the BATFE is so ingrained you could appoint Wayne LaPierre to head the BATFE and it wouldn’t make an immediate difference. (Note to CSPAN – I would pay cash money to see that Senate confirmation debate.) Not that it couldn’t mean change, just that Traver is not going to change the direction of an agency that already has demonstrated its institutional hostility towards firearms enthusiasts.

Questions and answers

Radley Balko poses a question that I’d like everyone to answer (not just the lefties he poses it to):

Putting aside what’s codified Bill of Rights, which was ratified after the main body of the Constitution, do you believe the Constitution puts any restrictions on the powers of the federal government?

The Bill of Rights is a series of Amendments; after all. They may have been necessary for acceptance of the document, and do serve to limit government further. Without them, though, are there (meaningful) limits on the power of the federal government?

See Radley for musings on Yes and No. I don’t call myself a libertarian for a variety of reasons (much less a Libertarian), but that’s a matter of philosophy more than anything else.I suspect my views of the limits of government are only a little looser than those of a libertarian, but the libertarian would accuse me of being “a little bit pregnant". Nonetheless, I do believe in (tight) limits on the power of government.

So, since I answered Yes I suppose I should set the limits of the power of Federal government and a test to determine when those limits are crossed, under the Constitution. First, see Article 1, Section 9, which explicitly limits the Legislative Power, and Sec 10, limiting the power of the States. Art 1, Sec 8 delineates the powers of Congress, and consequently by omission, anything not on the list is not within the Federal Government’s power.

The important “omission” clause is the last “directive” one in Art 1 Sec 8: “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings.” The Federal Government does not have the power of legislation or like authority (regulation) outside of federal land, unless it is pursuant to one of the other clauses. I will grant that the Federal Park system, which was acquired by the consent of the Legislature in the “State in which it be” or was set up in federal territory where there was no State legislature, is a “needful building” for the purposes of this clause – which is one of the points of conflict between myself and a libertarian. Not sure about Federal Land outside of the park system or military bases, but almost all of that is in areas that were federal territories before they were states – perhaps the feds didn’t transfer those bits to the state when the state was organized as such., For more powers granted to the Federal Government in these cases, see Article 4, Section 3, which clearly contemplates the United States owning property that is not organized as Territories.. Likewise, the Interstate system is a Needful Building (particularly given that Congress has the power to provide for the “Common Defense”).

The next most important “omission” clause is: “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”. If the item or servicein Commerce is not travelling “among the several States”, then the Federal Government has no power over it. Period. The absence of commerce is not itself commerce. Some thing or service possessed by one of the participants in a transaction must have started in one state (or country, or one end must be under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe) and ended in another for this clause to kick in. Furthermore, transiting across a state would NOT kick it in – if I build my widget in Ocean City MD and ship it by boat to New Castle DE, load it onto a truck and drive it to Hancock MD (possibly passing through VA and even DC, depending on route chosen), this would not be an interstate transaction – though the truck’s trip might be, and the boat trip is almost certainly, even if their cargoes aren’t. (A little bit of thought should show why the conveyance should be considered interstate in these cases).

The negatives of those two clauses should set the limits of federal power pretty clearly, as, in fact, the 10th amendment specifically states, so it’s not like I have a radical idea here. The powers of the Federal Government can, and have been, expanded by Amendment, of course. It’s hard work, but it’s been done.

No, thanks, I’d rather see the egress

Exit is pretty powerful. It's pretty much the only thing restraining Wal-Mart from offering you terrible goods that don't work, in a dirty, smelly environment with sullen clerks who cuss you out when you ask for things. And yet most stores are brightly lit, clean, filled with terrific merchandise that largely works as promised, and staffed by people who do try to ensure that you have a decent shopping experience.
The DMV, which is theoretically owned by us, less so.”

- Megan McArdle

This is a (perhaps the) difference between government and private industry. Private industry has to deal with their customers being able to go across the street, or they go out of business. There will be cases where one business can’t compete, of course. Government doesn’t have to compete. The customers must pay (via taxes) for services that they may or may not personally benefit from (which is admittedly larger than the set of services they use. I haven’t had the need to use the Fire Department’s services, and as an individual I am unlikely to directly use the services of the United States military, but I do benefit from both, for example). Regardless of the level of “customer service” from my governments, I must pay, however. An important part of the feedback loop is muted.

I could “Vote with my feet” I suppose. That’d get me out of New Jersey to a more free state, but, sad to say, the US is pretty much the most free nation on earth, and NJ isn’t exactly the nadir of freedom in this country either. Where can I go from here? And why would I? I love my country, and to tell the truth, while I can’t stand some of the aspects of living in New Jersey, I bought a house here after sober consideration. I can’t say it’s bad enough to make me leave, and there appears to be a move afoot to make it better.

It’s not really at the large end of things that government fails, really. The US Military works (it costs something wicked, but the cost of the second-best military is even more wicked, should it come down to cases.)

Government in general is all about saying “No” to someone or several someones. Even the military is an organization dedicated to saying “No”; it’s just that they say “No” to the rest of the world, not the US Citizen - “No, you may not invade X, conquer Y, or pillage Z.” It’s at the small end of things where things go pear-shaped, because the someone the government is saying “No” to is the taxpayer. The DMV, for example. PA’s alcohol agency. The IRS. One thing some of the legendarily bad government agencies share is that they are “gatekeepers” for things the customer of that government want. That is to say, their job is to guard access to a resource (yes, even the IRS – whose job is to protect the nation’s purse from tax cheats). As gatekeepers, their role is to say “No.”  Their policies, procedures, and training all revolve around “No.” Whereas a private company must be primarily about “Yes” or they will go out of business. Their customers will go looking for the egress, and someone who will say “Yes.”

I don’t want a government that will say “Yes". That’s not the government’s role. I just want one that only answers when ABSOLUTELY necessary. Maybe some of the money saved by this can go to training people to say “No” politely.

Bob Ingle on Brian Aitken

At the Asbury Park Press. Some interesting new information there, including a note that Brian wasn't arrested on the scene, a police watch commander making stuff up (“a new law”) and a more detailed list of the contents of Brian’s car that is yet more suggestive that Brian was moving (“clothes, silverware, plates, a computer”)


Governor Christie, free Brian Aitken

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A second QotD

Because I can:

“Jeeze you think the head of security at a major metropolitan airport would make more money than that in a month.” Brian @ Tam’s


One no-prize to the person who, without following up on the link, can tell me why that caused me to laugh my fool head off. The hint is “t’is the season”.

Quote of the Day

“It's a complex game of chess, and attempting to win the game with the queen on the first move would probably end in disaster” – Robb Allen on the next batch of legislation in his home state. RTWT as they say, because his entire comment is relevant.

I bow to no-one in my burning passion to see Constitutional firearms regulation; but it won’t happen today, or this year. If we don’t build the foundation with small steps, we risk having the tables turned when (inevitably) the pendulum swings back. That’s what happened to the enemies of freedom, they built their edifice on the sand of Miller and the Collective Rights Theory; they played the Big Game, and now we’re playing the Small Game. It’s going to take us some time and a lot of effort. Detail work is tedious, but taking pains makes the end result that much better and stronger.


(OK – I have had my metaphor-mixing privileges revoked for the night)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Zombie Dreaming

So I woke at about 0630 this morning from the point in the dream where Johnnie Zed and his shambling buddies had just broken into the house I was in with a bunch of people and were milling about violently. It wasn’t my house, or any house I’ve lived in or even really recall having been in (the floor plan was a tad unfamiliar).

Two things struck me as odd after I woke up (aside from having remembered a dream – that’s really unusual for me). First of all, I was aware in the dream of having barricaded this house against zombies before and was wondering why we weren’t reinforcing the locations they had broken in at that time. Secondly, I was ineffectually fending them off with a broken broom handle. Whyfor no firearm, dream self? It wasn’t that I couldn’t get to one; it never occurred to my dreaming self. I demand a better-armed subconscious, Mr. Sandman!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Interesting news

Heritage Firearms is opening a range just over the Delaware River in Easton PA in March or April. Their store in Rahway NJ is the New Jersey Firearms Guild, the place I’ve bought both my guns from; whose only fault has been a lack of a range.

Looking forward to another place to smell the gunsmoke and poke holes in paper.


(H/T NJDiverTony posting on

Wayne LaPierre and Brian Aitken

One of the honchos of the NRA speaks out on behalf of Brian Aitken (launguishing in prison despite transporting firearms legally because a judge didn’t tell the jury the law). He asks Governor Christie to pardon this young man, and notes that “The NRA's Civil Rights Defense Fund is helping to pay for Brian Aitken's appeal, and we will continue to support legal efforts to free Aitken from his sentence, but the governor can act much more quickly than the courts.”

(Updated: The link is no longer good - anyone know how I can get a permalink to 12/8 Wayne's Commentary?)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Freedom inches forward

My good friend Cemetery posts at NJ Gun Forums that Fred “One Gun a Month” Madden is seeking redemption.

The intent of S2190 is to  “streamline, without weakening, the regulatory oversight of handgun sales and transfers in New Jersey.” It sets up a Handgun Purchase Card system, which card “shall be available to persons of good character and good repute in the community in which they live and who are not subject to any of the disabilities set forth in subsection c. of N.J.S.2C:58-3; nominally good for 2 years (see below) and only allowing purchase from an FFL. (Private sale would still require a Pistol Purchase Permit).

A couple of interesting notes: first, the 5-year term is flexible. The superindendent sets the expiration date, between 2 and 6 years, with the fee prorated if it isn't a 60-month term.

To facilitate a balance in the administrative processing and issuing of handgun purchaser identification cards, the superintendent may issue an initial handgun purchaser identification card which expires on a date fixed by him, provided that the card shall not expire on a date less than two years or more than six years from the date of issuance. The fee for an initial card having an expiration date of other than 60 months shall be fixed proportionally by the superintendent.

It also does not repeal OGaM for HPP holders. The exclusion in the "new" section says that "except for OGaM" there no limitations on the number of firearms purchased

Except as otherwise prescribed in subsection i. of N.J.S.2C:58-3, there shall be no limit on the number of handguns a handgun purchaser identification cardholder may purchase from a retail dealer licensed pursuant to N.J.S.2C:58-2.

The limitations referred to are (underlining indicates an addition to the existing law):

Only one handgun shall be purchased or delivered on each permit and no more than one handgun shall be purchased within any 30- day period, regardless of whether that firearm is purchased or delivered to the holder of a permit to purchase a handgun or a handgun purchaser identification card

The law would almost certainly require the HPP to be laminated by the issuing authority, due to the requirement that the card be highly tamper-resistant (a sore spot with NJ firearms owners is that the Firearms Purchasers ID is not provided laminated and it not the same size as a credit card/driver’s license). OTOH, the photgraphy is to be done "at a time and place" of the superindendent's discretion.

Looks like it's a half-step down the road of eliminating purchase permits, which are fairly clearly unconstitutional, with a 5-year ID card which may or may not be ruled unconstitutional when the case hits SCOTUS. It is a loosening of the process, nothing more, but nothing less, either.

Who benefits if it passes in substantially similar form? FFLs who sell handguns. Handgun purchasers who live in a town with an anti-gun CLEO. Rep Madden (iffy). Gov Christie if he signs. The NJSP from a paperwork angle. The state from a financial angle.

Who loses: anyone who wants no permits after a SCOTUS challenge IFF the SCOTUS rules on one but not the other. They might decide that NICS at Point of Sale is enough and anything more is an infringement; but more likely they'll move incrementally.
Overall, long-term neutral, short-term positive. In the political game- extremely positive - this is a rearguard action by the enemies of freedom. Which means it’s time to advance rapidly with due caution…

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bad memetic puns

This Schlock Mercenary strip deserves this bad pun: “The wedding cake was a lie”.

Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Notes on Collapse

For the record: I believe we were closer to doom, gloom, political/social collapse, and general rioting in the streets in the 1970’s than we are today. For that matter, we were closer in the 1930’s than we are today. And while I don’t think we’re at the bottom of this economy yet, I don’t think we’re close to either of those economic, political, or social nadirs either

Designed for instability

Saw an interesting comment on an article at esr’s blog today

You want an industrial society, so you need:
- Insurance
- banks
- financial markets

All three require heavy regulations. Insurance companies and banks are insolvent by definition: The whole point of having them is to have short term liabilities and long term assets. So they can always get in a situation where they will have to pay out more than they can liquidate in cash.

I don’t agree with Winter’s conclusion (read the whole thing), or the “heavy regulation” bit. But there are useful things in there. He’s right about needing insurance, banks, and financial markets, and he’s also right about insurance companies and banks being insolvent by definition – and therefore unstable institutions. Some people say that a business that is insolvent and unstable by design is always and everywhere a bad thing. Instability, like fire, is an excellent servant, but a poor master. The trick is to light your fire in the fireplace, on the stovetop, and under the boiler, AND KEEP IT THERE.

“I'm above you, better than!”

Senator Lugar gets a puff piece from the NYTimes claiming in the first two paragraphs that “Mavericks are not in vogue these days” and that “Senator Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican who played that role long before it had a brand name”, before launching in to the meat of the issue, that “[Senator] Lugar’s willingness to buck his party is leading to talk that he will face a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate when he runs for re-election in 2012,” and ends with a quote from the Senator himself:

But in the end, he said, “I will continue to be Dick Lugar, and I will try to do the best job I can” in explaining his positions to the people of Indiana. “It’s not my nature to simply seek controversy.”

Which is fine – we live in a representative Republic, and one of the duties owed by the people’s representatives is to do the right thing, not necessarily the popular thing. But what struck in my craw was a quote not from Senator Lugar, but from a one-time colleague, John Danforth:

“If Dick Lugar,” said John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, “having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”

No. You, sir, are 180 degrees away from the heading towards redemption and pouring on the steam. Every representative of the people ought to face a “serious” challenge to their office at each election cycle. They are free to take their positions as their conscience dictates, but they must explain themselves to those people that they represent. The attitude that a primary challenge could ever be a “symbol of symbolism” (NYTimes’ words, not mine. Yeesh) is repugnant to the core values of the US Constitution. No-one is above the law, or deserves to hold office. Not. One. Person. They must prove it with each vote, with each action, with each thought.

(h/t instapundit for the content, and another tip of the old bowler to Badger for the title)

Laws and Men

Jay G wrote this before I wrote my piece – I’ve been remiss in my reading. He focuses on the silliness of permit laws in preventing the Bad Folks from carrying directly, where I sort of glossed over it. He makes a good point, though; and one that trumpeting the lack of lawbreakers in the ranks of the people with concealed carry permits sort of misses. The harder the process to get a permit is, the less likely anyone is to get a permit. Sounds good, right? Well, except that (as I already noted here and here) the vast majority of people are perfectly safe to have and to hold firearms. Any generally applicable law to prevent, restrict, or infringe the right to keep and bear arms will fall disproportionally on people that society has no reason to expect need to have that right infringed upon. And the people that are anti-socially violent? A law isn’t going to stop them.

At best, a law stops the law-abiding from committing a crime by indicating that the legislature that passed it disapproves of the activity. More usually, it sets down how much that legislature disapproves of the activity (from “not very” in the case of traffic infractions to “quite a lot” in the case of Capital Murder), and remove a source of bias from a system that has humans running every facet of it. To be seen as “fair”, a law needs to “work”, in that most of society needs to agree that the activity is “bad” and that the mechanisms of law enforcement are brought to bear immediately and effectively on all violators. It’s that second part where laws against carriage of weapons (particularly concealed weapons) fails. It is simply impossible to enforce laws against concealed carry under the US Constitution. Not hard. Not expensive. Impossible.

This leads to the conclusion that such laws are bad laws. If we want to stop lawbreakers from carrying weapons, passing a law to do so is redundant. The lawbreakers will continue to carry, and the law-abiding will be disarmed victims.The only possible way such laws make a sliver of sense is if the vast majority of people are actually violently anti-social; and as I keep saying, that’s just not true. Gun Control != Criminal Control, at best they are orthogonal, at worst they are in opposition (a disarmed citizen cannot effectively control his interaction with any criminal, armed or unarmed; and the criminal may arm himself regardless of the law). It’s time to stop pretending they are parallel.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Man with a gun

Sebastian made light of a Man With A Gun, and longtime commentor Mikeb302000 went off on a rant because Sebastian (and Carl from Chicago) made light banter that not every gun owner is a crazed lunatic. Mikeb responded with the tired old lines of “We’re always talking about the smaller percentage who are not, about whom something should be done” and “The “good ones” are in the majority. And being good citizens they wouldn’t mind being inconvenienced for the Greater Good.” Finally, we have the most offensive (to me) line: “The message is not that ALL of you can go rogue at any moment.” This seems to be his rationale for restricting access to firearms on the law-abiding, that a certain small subgroup of the law-abiding may “go rogue at any moment” and this justifies restrictions on all the law-abiding “for the Greater Good”.

Here’s the thing – that’s not an argument for making each individual firearms purchase legally difficult, it’s an argument for preventing access to firearms at all. The “reasonable restrictions” Mikeb is for (background checks for any sale, waiting periods, &c) won’t stop a “rogue” firearms owner; and I believe he is in favor of rather strict restrictions on obtaining carry permits as well – constitutional carry a la VT, AK, or AZ is right out. Once the gun is out in the world, the owner can do anything with it. The law-abiding one will, of course, limit himself to the lawful activities. But not one of New Jersey’s many strict and serious firearms laws could stop me from loading up my legally-purchased and legally-owned limited-capacity magazines and my legally-purchased and legally-owned handgun, and going out to cause mischief. It’s worth noting, by the way, that, given my lifestyle and normal mode of dress, I could be carrying my handgun and a hundred rounds of ready ammo at any time I carry a pocketknife (which is most of the time) and had I been doing so there is essentially no chance I would have been discovered doing so.

Of course, I don’t do any such thing. For one thing, that much ammo is HEAVY. I could get by with probably 2 extra magazines. But, more seriously, I don’t carry because it is against the law, and I don’t have a pressing need to. If that second changed, how is any law going to stop me, assuming that the pressing need does not make me a prohibited person? If a “rogue” gun owner determine that one or more people, alone or in couples and groups, need an unjustified killing, what law will stop him beforehand? He’s already decided to break the law of man and God were he choose to kill. Regardless if he were in New Jersey, where possession of firearms outside of strictly defined exceptions and it can take upwards of 6 months to get permission to purchase each handgun, or in Vermont, where a gun in the pocket requires no permission from any man, and the waiting period is no longer than the NICS check, the “rogue” gun owner is going rogue, and already having the gun means no restriction on purchase will stop him.

The Supreme Court has determined that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution recognizes a pre-existing right to own a functional handgun and to possess it in the home. There is no argument you can make any more that will justify banning firearms in the US; that’s simply barred by the US Constitution. Once that happened, restrictions on purchase and possession in the general case no longer make sense. There are specific people who should not possess firearms (I will even go so far as to admit that not all of them should be locked away from other people – others whom I respect will disagree). There are specific places that the general member of the public should not carry any weapon at all (though these places should provide, free of charge, safe and secure storage at the perimeter for the use of patrons who do not wish to be defenseless on their travels outside of that perimeter). To ban or infringe upon the right of the average citizen to carry a firearm while not actually intoxicated for any legal purpose in the vain expectation that doing so will prevent them from enacting a crime upon society or its members makes about as much sense as barring an average citizen not intoxicated from carrying keys to a car or any other object in the vain expectation that doing so will prevent them from enacting a crime upon society or its members with the car or with any other object. It makes as much sense as banning or infringing upon the average citizen’s right of free speech in the vain hope that doing so will prevent them from uttering a threat or slander. No law can prevent a person who desires breaking it from acting on that desire. The most it can do is punish them afterwards; and we already have laws against misusing a firearm, even unto the level of threatening someone with one or even displaying it inappropriately. Laws restricting or infringing upon the ability to purchase firearms serve no separate purpose on their own.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NRA Range Report

As you might have gathered from my previous post, I made it out to NRA HQ and their range over the weekend with family. Just like the last time I was there (3 years ago to the day) it was packed – we waited about an hour for a lane. Which was fine, actually – I’ve waited as long at ranges not nearly so nice, and NRA has a well-appointed waiting room that looks in on the firing line.

They recently renovated – that renovation caused me to not be able to go over the July 4 weekend, actually, as it hadn’t completed then. The main difference I saw was that the target carriers were programmed by touchscreen now, which allowed them to have a (somewhat) more user-friendly interface. I didn’t do much with the advanced features of the carriers, since I was there (more or less) to plink with a couple of pistols and a .22 rifle. The other thing I notices was that the baffle material on the side walls hadn’t been too badly ripped up yet :) (We were in the far right lane, and had been advised to place our targets a little to the left on the carrier, so as to not hit the right wall)

As for the shooting, we shot a Glock 17L, a Walther P22, an early-make Ruger Mk.I (which I actually didn’t fire myself this trip, but had gotten to shoot on my previous trip), and a Marlin 980S. All were relatively well-behaved except for the Ruger, which would consistently have feed and extraction issues if the lone magazine we had was filled with more than 5 or 6 rounds. I had brought some Dirty Bird color-burst targets, which are pretty cool for casual plinking at, since you get immediate feedback of where you’re hitting. We set the pistol targets at anywhere from 15 to 30 feet, and I was able to get all my rounds onto the 6” bullseyes, though my grouping was a little erratic at the farther targets.With the rifle, I shot one magazine unsupported at 30 feet, and 2 seated at 50 feet, once using a rest and once just bracing my left elbow. With the rest, I had screwed up something, since I shot a nice tight group (fits under a nickel) … 5 inches up and slightly to the right. I know I didn’t place the target at eye level properly, that may have contributed. My brother shot at the same target using the same rest and walked his shots towards the bull after he noted that point of impact was not point of aim, so it wasn’t just me. When I shot with my left elbow braced, point of impact was MUCH closer to point of aim (though my group wasn’t so tight), and I was holding the rifle much higher than the rest was.

Stopped by Dick’s Sporting Goods to pick up some ammo on sale on Black Friday, and the Lodge was a little madhouse (though nothing like as bad as, say, Walmart…) – I heard one of the clerks tell a customer that NICS was down and to check back later, and another person was having issues providing ID acceptable to the more senior guy behind the counter. I’m not sure what that was all about, since the two events weren’t separated by more than 5 minutes and there had been discussion between the two about the NICS screwup, actually. I can’t imagine DSG was going to sell on a NICS “maybe” result or a NICS “down” result, so there must have been something else going on. I snuck in, got my ammo from the guy behind the counter, and beat feet just in time to get to the register while the sale was still valid. Very deliberately avoided going to a real gun store in case I saw a rifle or accessory that I wanted; t’is NOT the season to be buying spendy stuff, and anything other than ammo that I want AND that I could legally buy out of state is over $200. For that matter, any handgun I want is over $200 as well! This is not a cheap hobby by any means. Though I don’t suppose any adult-level hobby really is. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more overall on 40K alone, not to mention my (now-kicked) CCG habit, and my sporadic RPG purchase sprees – though those have had longer to drain my wallet.

The legal hassles attendant on interstate transport will get a post of their own.

NRA range and class III weapons

The NRA allows Class III weapons at their HQ range. You have to show papers and let the RO know. While waiting for a lane I got to watch someone empty a couple of mags from something in 5.56mm (didn’t get a chance to see the weapon, only the brass). That looked like fun, albeit a tad expensive. There’s a place nearby that rents a couple of class III toys in pistol calibers; I may have to try that out one of these days

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A thanksgiving reminder from Sam da Man

A sluggy thanksgiving What he said.

Overall, we live in the most free nation in the world, and I wouldn't trade my citizenship in the USA for any other.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Random thought

If the possession of handguns is especially protected (see Helper language in re instruments of self defense); shouldn't it be as easy to acquire and possess a handgun as a longarm?
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

An idea for those opting out

I’m seriously considering buying a kilt and wearing it Regimental when I have to fly.

On the other hand, I also remember why Lazarus Long preferred the kilt as menswear…

Monday, November 15, 2010

The problem with hard money

This should be my last post on the topic for a while, BTW; as I’m out of the realm of facts and figures and into the realm of philosophy.

To put it bluntly, I believe any kind of attempt to base money on a “hard” commodity is a little bit immoral. First of all (as the argument I had with Elmo here shows), it’s price fixing. If a $100 coin is 1 oz of gold (for example); the government has essentially decreed that is the price of gold. If that’s not the market price of gold, you run into problems. If the “market” price of gold is, say $200/oz, no-one is going to spend those coins at face value, instead either hoarding them or melting them down (a problem seen today with coins whose intrinsic value exceeds their face value, incidentally). If, instead, the price of gold is $50/oz, we’re essentially in the same situation we are today, where the money isn’t “worth” it’s face value; and the government is making a profit of $50/coin… A basket of commodities has a worse problem, by the way – look up the history of bimetallism in the USA and other places; it’s not pretty and rarely ends well. In either case, the government is perpetuating a fantasy, that they can define the price of gold. This is a bigger problem than it used to be (pre-electronics age) since gold now has uses outside of decoration and money. There is a real market in gold to be used in industrial amounts (as there is for silver, platinum, etc). Gold was desirable for use as money because it’s impossible (effectively) to counterfeit, but there’s not much you need gold for prior to the electronics age other than money or money replacements (jewelry, decorations, and other forms of conspicuous consumption).

My second (and much larger problem) is that a “hard” currency results in an economy that is a zero-sum game; by necessity. In the pre-industrial era where “value” was created by tangible things, this (more or less) works out, in that value = wealth = stuff. To produce value, you have to make, take, or fake stuff (land, minerals, trade goods, etc); this gets you wealth. But as the industrial era gets moving, and especially now in the Information Age, value isn’t (necessarily) rooted in physical stuff. People create large amounts of value without associated physical objects. Take any of the Silicon Valley success stories, for example. At the smaller scale, look at the entire frigging RPG or computer gaming industry. For a microcosmic level, take a look at every blogger who makes beer money from AdSense. Every one, creating real value without an increase in hard “stuff”. How do we measure becoming richer via intangible value with a limited amount of tangible resources?

So – my two problems with “hard” money boil down to hard money requiring the government to set the price of a commodity (by declaring that their money, consisting of an amount of stuff X has a value of Y), and that it unduly limits the economy of ideas.

The floor is open

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Golden restraint

I touched on the … logistical difficulty … of returning to a gold standard just a while ago. I opened the piece with a quote from Megan McArdle on the subject before veering off. Here’s the relevant part of Megan’s post:

"In short, you don't get anything out of a gold standard that you didn't bring with you. If your government is a credible steward of the money supply, you don't need it; and if it isn't, it won't be able to stay on it long anyway. (See Argentina's dollar peg).

Read the whole thing, as they say. Then read the Wikipedia entry on Gresham’s Law. And read a little history. “Hard” money, that is to say, money that is commodity-backed, has never prevented debasement of the currency when politically convenient. This has been true since governments first started coining money. Debasement of the currency isn’t a new phenomenon; it’s happened throughout history.

I put it this way in a tweet on election day ”On the subject of politicians, I'm Confucian - the upright man needs no law but his own, and the crooked man will follow no law but his own.” Financial shenanigans are a symptom of governmental shenanigans, not a cause. Fighting the symptoms is like fighting the tide. WE need more upright politicians, and less crooked ones.

Having a Gold Standard won’t stop the government from making free with the economy – it won’t even necessarily make it (much) harder – because the government sets the value of money by taxation ANYWAY. Especially in today’s economy – you could (conceivably) live by barter; but you have to pay the taxman in dollars.

And that brings us to another problem with a gold standard  (or any other commodity-backed currency, by the way) – it’s governmental price fixing. By governmental fiat, the weight of a $1 gold coin is $1 worth of gold. Less seignorage and the discount for official purity, anyway. You may have a black or grey market in gold where the cost of gold fluctuate, but again, you have to pay the taxman his cut by selling him gold at the price he sets. Therefore, he has an interest in stamping out those markets where gold sells above or below its fiat value.

With the un-backed currency we have now, there is no commodity where the price is fixed – the only thing that the government can fix the price of is … its own money. Which, granted, really sucks if your wealth is stored only in that currency. But it doesn’t have to be. It is within the means of even the most modest investor to purchase non-dollar-denominated assets and instruments. Such as, yes, gold. Or lead, brass, and powder. Land. Multinational stocks and bonds. &c.

What I don’t have is a solution for those people who have a fixed income denominated in dollars; particularly those who believed the promises of every government since FDR (arguably, since Bismarck). I wish I did – I don’t like to see people suffer. But I don’t see hard currency helping them out any more than any other zany scheme is likely to.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Congressional Voting Accountability Amendment

I'll propose another constitutional amendment:

No bill shall pass either House of Congress save via acclamation or by the vote of each member being placed in the public and permanent record.

A Message to Kashykk

Tuesday night's event sent several messages, but one of them the Wookies need to pay particular attention to: Wookies do better as Elephant Cavalry than as lone bowcasters or Libertarian skirmishers.

See Rand Paul, Joe Miller, Christine O'Donnell, and Sharron Angle for people who would have been footnotes if the letter after their name had been L instead of R (much less I). I don't know enough about Sharron Angle's primary, but Ms. O'Donnell and Mr. Miller both knocked off some fairly powerful entrenched politicians in their primaries, and both had uphill fights both within their states' Republican organizations and with the media going all-out to smear them (Ms. Angle had to deal with the smear machine as well). There is no chance in hell any of these 4 would have gotten out of the teens at best in election results without being major-party candidates.

So, to all the wookies out there: you say you want a revolution? Start small, overthrow the dinosaurs of the GOP. Then work your way up. Because that Lone Bowcaster thing, it ain't working out as well as the elephant cavalry.

Side note: anyone who can 'shop me an image of Wookies as Elephant Cavalry, they will win one (1) internet (S&H extra).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A underground parable

Meet Chris, a recent college graduate. He was a party animal in college, and graduated with both college loans to pay off and maxed-out credit cards. After he graduated, his father had a “talk” with him – and he’s cut up (most of) the cards and is (barely) getting by on his salary from his first job out of college, in Midtown Manhattan. He lives in half a duplex owned by his family in Edison, because it’s paid for. The other half is occupied by relatives who are they’re retired and on a fixed income. Chris is responsible for the utilities and property tax, because he’s got a job and they don’t, though they do pay a small amount of rent. His commute is terrible, because he’s got to take the train from Edison up to Penn Station New York.

Chris’s uncle Samuel has offered to help Chris buy a place in Hoboken. This will be GREAT; in Hoboken, Chris would just have to walk down to the PATH station and catch the train to 33rd Street. It’ll be cheaper, faster, and better for the environment since Chris won’t have to drive to the train station any more (Plus, his car is a rather battered Ford Focus, and has high mileage and a worrisome amount of body rust). Samuel will help him out with a fixed amount of money as down payment (Chris has some money saved, but not 20% for a brownstone in Hoboken!), but it’s up to Chris to negotiate the price of the place, and make the loan payments. Plus, it’s a bit of a fixer-upper, needs a little bit of work before Chris can move in; and the house inspectors can’t agree on how much work (or even how much it will cost). Chris thinks long and hard about the “deal”, and tells his uncle “thanks, but no thanks, how about helping me buy a new car with some of that money?

His uncle throws a fit, calls Chris ungrateful, and calls for his lawyer to write Chris out of his will. All in all, things could have gone better, Chris thinks; but at least he’s not going to go deeper in dept. He’ll just have to keep waking up at oh-dark-hundred to catch the train so he can make it in on time and keep his job.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gold bugs me

One thing that bugs me about Libertarians (and many libertarians) is their fetish for gold. Megan McArdle takes a shot at explaining some of the things that bug me (economically) about the gold standard here and here. In particular, the gold standard seems to be a solution for a symptom instead of the underlying disease. That disease, of course, being, an untrustworthy government. As Megan says:

"In short, you don't get anything out of a gold standard that you didn't bring with you. If your government is a credible steward of the money supply, you don't need it; and if it isn't, it won't be able to stay on it long anyway. (See Argentina's dollar peg). Meanwhile, the limitations on the government's ability to respond to fiscal crises, the necessity of defending against speculative attacks in times of crises, and the possibility of independent changes in the relative price of gold, make your economy more unstable."

But I have another problem with the gold standard. How are you going to implement it? First of all, there's no way today that the economy will work on actual coins of intrinsic worth. At what appears to be a value for gold of almost $900/oz troy, a dollar coin would have to be almost all base metal anyway. Figuratively, it would have "the density of gold in seawater". The last few attempts we've had at fiat dollar coins haven't taken off anyway, and at any rate, the amount of "money" in just the US economy is mostly virtual anyway. So we're still looking at an economy where the vast majority of transactions are book-keeping, with a small amount of tokenized money. But the book-keeping and tokenized money must match up to an amount of gold in someone's hands.

Per the US Mint, there is 147.3 million ounces of gold in Fort Knox, at a book value of $42.22 per ounce. So the government says they have (147.3 * 10^6) * $42.22 = $6,219,006,000 - in round numbers $6.2 billion. That's not a lot of money - per Forbes "The Worlds Billionaires" Bill Gates had an estimated net worth of US $40.0 billion (down from US$56 Billion in 2007), over six times this value. Per the CIA World Factbook, the population of the USA is 307,212,123 as of October 2010 - if we divide this out, we get a value of $ 20.25 or so per man, woman, and child in the US, more or less. (the CIA does not specify if this is citizens or inhabitants). Now, that book value is highly misleading, since the spot price for gold is $1,342 per ounce as of this writing. That changes the value to be $197,676,600,000 - $197.6 billion in round numbers. Bill Gates is worth one-third of the US Federal Gold Reserves, and the per capita value is a fraction over $643.45.

(Historical notes: In the original version of this post, 3 years ago, Bill Gates had almost 10x the “book value” of Ft Knox, the spot price of gold was $885, Mr. Gates was worth HALF the “market value” of the gold, and the per capita market value was $432.89)

In a gold-backed economy, you can't have more money outstanding than there is gold to redeem it with. Otherwise, how is it a gold-backed economy? But the US money supply is at least $1.99 trillion if you only include the physical currency plus exchangeable reserves (M0). If you measure M2 (essentially all the cash, exchangeable reserves, checking, saving, money market accounts, and CDs less than $100,000) it is about $8.36 trillion. (Source is Wikipedia - see for a somewhat more rigorous definition of M2. If you have better numbers, by all means comment, but Wikipedia's sources are the government). That's anywhere for ten times to forty times the value of the gold in Fort Knox at market rates. To go to a gold-based economy, you have to devalue the entire US money supply by a minimum of a factor of 10. 90% of the value of the money in the economy, gone. And you can't fix this by renominating the money supply - if you declare that the Newdollar is worth 10 old dollars, an ounce of gold is only worth $88.50 in Newdollars.

(Historical notes: 3 years ago, M0 was $1.37 Trillion, M2 $7.02 Trillion, and the max value was 70 times, not 40 times).

Even if you somehow managed to back the money with all the refined and available gold in the world (some 120,000 to 140,000 tonnes per this website, Wikipedia has a slightly higher figure, sourcing the World Gold Council) it would still only be worth around $2.72 trillion (probably a bit more, the number I used for the price of gold is about 30% higher; based on our relative valuing of the Fort Knox gold). And then you would have no gold left over for non-cash uses; essentially, the vast majority of gold would have to be stored in Fort Knox to account for just the amount of US paper money in circulation; with little left over for other countries. It still doesn't cover all the money on deposit in the US banking system, much less the world.

(Historical Notes: the value of gold the US needs to cover our money is larger than in 2007, but because of the increase in the price of gold, less physical gold is needed and less of the value of the gold supply is needed, leaving more gold and value outside of Ft. Knox)

Finally, a question for all of you out there in favor of the Gold Standard. How many of the gold bugs actually believe the government when they say there's 147.3 million ounces of gold in Fort Knox? As I went to research the numbers for this post, I stumbled onto the persistent belief that the US Government has (usually for nefarious reasons) moved all the gold out of Fort Knox and either sold it or used it as collateral for some scheme or other. The very first hit for the search string "how much gold in fort knox" entertains this possibility, as does the Wikipedia entry on United States Bullion Depository. If you believe this tale, how can you trust the government to keep up a gold standard?

Plus, remember why the US rather suddenly needed a gold repository in 1933 - FDR and the US Congress declared private ownership of gold to be illegal. That would be one way for the government to make up the shortfall of gold to run the economy on - to confiscate the gold again. Except, there isn't enough.

In short, we cannot afford a gold standard, it would be too confining of the economy. There is not enough gold in the world to implement a gold standard for the US, much less in the government's reserves. There is no reasonable way in the short term to change this. And if there ever is a way to have to have the gigatonnes of gold minimum that the US would need, it would be worth that much less because of the expansion of the gold supply. Now if someone would only tell Ron Paul this...

(This post is a rerun, though I have updated the numbers. Originally posted January 17, 2008)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why is history important - And why you should always keep learning about it

It is important to be aware of history, not only in the sense of "those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it", but also in the 1984 sense of "Those who control the past control the present". The meaning of the present is shaped by what happened in the past. World War II has a huge effect on the present, and perceptions of the present. People tell us that we should heed the lessons of Munich, 1938 and be wary of negotiating with megalomaniacs. People tell us how the occupations of Germany and Japan contain lessons on how we should handle the occupation of Iraq. We are told that the Ba'athist parties of Syria and Iraq are offshoots of the Nazi party, fascist seeds that fell close to the tree. We are told that the roots of the present conflicts are anchored in the stripping of empires at the end of WWII. We are told all this and more by people who want to influence our thinking today.

But sound bites are not history. History is immensely complicated. I am reading Robert K Massey's Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the coming of the Great War. The book explores why the Great War (known as World War I generally) started. The preface opens with the Battle of Trafalgar. This battle took place in 1805, more than a century before the Great War, between two powers that were allied in the later conflict. But Trafalgar sits under the surface of the rest of the book, which is a detailed treatment of the major prime driver of the Great War. The "World History" view of WWI is of a war started because a Serbian anarchist/patriot shot the heir to the throne of Austria. But without knowing the past half-century (at least) history of interaction between Germany, Austria, France, England and Russia, you don't know how an assassination in Serbia that was a major diplomatic incident between Austria and Serbia in June leads to the declarations of war in August between Germany and England. And without knowing the importance of Trafalgar, you can't understand why the very existence of the Kaiserliche Marine leads England to an alliance with France, her historic enemy. Nor why that alliance leads England into a land war on the Continent against a country whose leader is the cousin of the King of England.

Terry Pratchett typically opens his Discworld books with a warning to the effect that "we can't say where the story begins", and then proceeds to begin the story. But he often points out that it could easily have started at a different place, depending on your point of view. Terry Pratchett has the luxury of working in fiction, however. So he really can determine where the best place to start is. History is a lot more complicated; large events rarely happen for a single reason. If you want to understand current events, you have to understand what has gone before.

The "World History" of World War II is that it happened because Germany wanted revenge for World War I. This is closer to the truth than the "World History" view of WWI, to be sure. But it has difficulty explaining why Italy (a member of the victorious Alliance in WWI) fought on the side of the Axis in WWII. It holds no explanation for the Japanese membership in the Axis, or even the pacific war in general. It can't explain why an attack on the US Navy's primary fleet base in the pacific in December 1941 leads the US Army Air Force to bomb Germany in 1942.

I'm pulling examples from World War I and World War II because those are the periods I am most familiar with right now - but the same kind of history lessons need to be applied to the current mess in the Middle East.If you don't know the background of events, the events themselves can be spun to mean whatever the spinner wants.

It all boils down to being able to think for yourself. Without knowing the history behind an event, and preferably knowing the history of that history, you can't understand the current event. The why matters, and the why causes the what. And history should be more than the study of the what, it should be the study of the why. Otherwise, we have always been at war with Eurasia...

(originally posted December 7, 2006)

How wrong I was

So, I’m re-reading some of my old posts looking for material to bring over here, and I found this post where I expressed my desire for Senator Obama to win the nomination. I got what I asked for there, good and hard.


I used to blog at There’s some interesting stuff in the archives there, some of which is not particularly tied to a specific time or place.

In the next few days, I’m going to report some of that here, and y’all can tell me if I’m right about that…

Sunday, October 17, 2010

An unfortunate incident

Back in June, in the town of Bridgewater, NJ, an elderly woman fired what her lawyer described as a “warning shot” at a neighbor near her driveway operating a front-load loader. She faced charges of possession  of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a firearm, and aggravated assault, to which she recently pled “not guilty”. There appears to have been some history between the two neighbors. This article has a little more on the incident, and ends with Valachovic’s claiming that she shot at the tires of the front-end loader

I wish I had more information, but the account as reported by the investigator (first article) suggest poor judgment on Ms Valachovic’s part, starting with leaving the house with a gun, without calling the police first. Without having been there, I can’t say how appropriate it was to leave the house at all; but it’s usually not a wise idea either.

The warning shot was likely a mistake (and admitting to it certainly was – her lawyer is an idiot for doing so), but again, I wasn’t there. Legally, of course, discharge of the firearm, no matter the direction, is use of deadly force, and needs to be justified as such. If it wasn’t a warning shot, but rather an attempt to disable the front-end loader, that puts a slightly different light on things, but makes her lawyer even more of an idiot for claiming it was a warning shot.

Also, NJ distinguishes between unlawful possession and possession for an unlawful purpose? That’s a pretty fine distinction. The unlawful possession happened if she stepped off her property (there’s only a half-dozen or so ways to legally possess a handgun in NJ), and the possession for an unlawful purpose would likely be due to the assault charge. It appears that the unlawful possession charge was dropped, though; probably since they couldn’t determine that she left her property.

Messy case all around. One other thing I’ll be interested to see is if she ends up convicted, and what the sentence will be. Also, note that the possession charge is much more serious (second-degree crime) than the assault charge (fourth degree); and can be punished much more harshly (5-10 years vs. 18 months).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tea Party Karma

Jonathan Hait on “What the Tea Partiers really want” in the Wall Street Journal brings us an interesting hypothesis – that the divide in politics today is over whether the government should interfere in the workings of Karma. He claims that the desire to see karma catch up to the deserving is a conservative view more than a libertarian view and that this may end up tearing apart the Tea Party, and illustrates with what amounts to online polling.

He concludes with something I will agree with:

The rank-and-file tea partiers think that liberals turned America upside down in the 1960s and 1970s, and they want to reverse many of those changes. They are patriotic and religious, and they want to see those values woven into their children's education. Above all, they want to live in a country in which hard work and personal responsibility pay off and laziness, cheating and irresponsibility bring people to ruin. Give them liberty, sure, but more than that: Give them karma.

Which is all very well and good, but the devil is in the details – what is irresponsibility? And whose religious values are being woven into which child’s educations?

Penalties for dropping Absentee Ballots

Glenn Reynolds notes that both New York and Illinois may miss deadlines for sending out absentee ballots to military voters in time for them to be counted in the upcoming election, and suggests that
The great way to address this would be to dock states a percentage of their total federal funding to match the percentage of military ballots that are not counted.
However, there’s already a mechanism in place to punish the states for not upholding their obligations: Amendment XIV, Clause 2. With 2010 being a redistricting year, that could mean one more congressional seat that IL and NY will be losing…

The Death Penalty Heresy

I’m against allowing the government to execute any person judicially (short form: I’m against the death penalty). (Quick note on shorthand – I’m going to use the term Killer here; but don’t take that to mean that I mean only those persons who can/have killed, or even that this term includes those who can/have killed. I mean it in the sense of someone who is both a (potential) killer and uses that capacity against the ends of society. If it makes it easier, replace Killer below with violently sociopathic individual, mutant, goblin, or whatever. A solider may be a killer, but he’s channeled his capability into a socially useful form, the deaths he causes are not crimes. Alternately, a kidnapper for ransom or a rapist or a child molester may never kill, but inasmuch as they have taken freedom or other intangibles from their victims they commit as heinous a crime as anyone who kills unjustifiably, and thus he is a Killer.)

I believe that there are people out there who deserve to die. Killers may be rare, but they are out there. If a Killer can’t channel his or her aggressive nature into a socially-useful form, he or she should be weeded out when discovered. Unfortunately, there’s only one time and place where the Killer’s intentions can be known – at the moment and vicinity of his crime. After that, “proof” lies in memory, Memorex, forensic science, and a plausible story. Juries deal in “reasonable doubt” because jurors are human, witnesses are human, scientists are human, lawyers are human, &c. Even cameras and other recording devices can lie by omission, and scientific “fact” be overturned with later knowledge. To be human is to be fallible. But death is irreversible. Commit an act justifying use of deadly force while someone is watching over a gunsight, and the person with the gun is entirely justified in pulling the trigger. But there’s a difference between seeing someone shot dead in front of you and hearing a gunshot and coming around the corner to see a man standing over a dead body with a smoking gun in his hand. In one case, you may know the guy with the gun to be a Killer (though depending on when you came in, you may still be wrong). In the second, you cannot know, because you didn’t see the act.

No-one in the courtroom is seeing the criminal act – at best they’re watching a replay or listening to a memory, and trying to sort the truth from two competing fictions being guided by the plaintiff’s lawyer and the defense lawyer. The plaintiff in a criminal case is the government, standing in the place of society. In the US, the government is my agent, standing in my place, working for me to protect me from a Killer. In a sense, the lethal injection (or whatever form of execution) after a guilty verdict and exhaustion of appeal is a really complicated way of allowing me to shoot the man with the gun dead after I rounded the corner. And I’m not OK with that. Death is an absolute. In the heat of events, it may appear to be necessary to kill someone, based on limited information, in defense of my life or liberty – truly exigent circumstances may demand excessive measures, and being human means being wrong*. Afterwards, “reasonable doubt” means “not absolute”. I’m OK with sending someone to prison based on “reasonable doubt”; it’s not perfectly reversible to release a wrongly imprisoned person, but it’s the best we can do. We can’t revive the dead, though. Executing someone after a trial means thinking long and hard about killing someone, and then doing so based on the best guess; gambling that “reasonable doubt” equals “absolute proof”, and gambling that the government had no axe to grind, no dirty tricks because the prosecution “knew” the defendant was guilty, etc. It might be a long-odds gamble, but it’s still a gamble, and one where I cannot know the odds. I won’t gamble with a life if I don’t have to.

(* – Boy howdy does that creep me out, incidentally. No matter how I parsed the thought, it ended up as a justification for the ends justifying the means. It’s still true, exigent circumstances may demand measures that turn out to be excessive. In the heat of the moment, there may not be a choice, or they may not allow for proper reflection.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

States taking back the power

In my 17th Amendment Heresy post, Elmo Iscariot says:

Any solution involving states' rights also has to assume that the states will be _willing_ to stand up to the feds once they're able to. At the moment, that doesn't seem like a given

I wouldn’t be so sure of that. The states are making small, but important, moves to challenge federal supremacy in different areas. The various Firearms Freedom acts, while ultimately futile in the short term, are one warning message to the Feds, as are the Arizona anti-illegal-immigrants laws and the various state challenges to the Health Care Reform bill.

One of the most interesting, though, is the California ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. Despite a loss at the Supreme Court over the ability to decriminalize medical marijuana, the citizens of California have decided to continue on their course with Proposition 19. Eric Holder (appointed by President Obama, who, I seem to recall, campaigned on rolling back the War on (some) Drugs) threatens to continue to prosecute federal drug laws.

One state, even one as large and populous as California, can’t challenge the federal government. But California is not the only state liberalizing their marijuana laws. 20-odd years ago, Florida was seen as “just one state” in liberalizing their carry laws.

Rollback of federal supremacy won’t happen because the state governments want it; there’s too much federal money backing the states these days. It has to happen because the state voters want it; and are willing to vote for it. (Though Governor Christie’s rejection of the new rail tunnel despite federal funding shows promise as well – I have a post brewing on that topic).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Time keeps on slipping...

Today's QOTD comes from mrmandias, a commenter at Megan McArdle's: "30 years ago was 1980, not the dark ages."
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.2

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Equality to starve

Confederate Yankee takes down an “attack” on Rush Limbaugh.

Disclosure time – I haven’t listened to Rush in at least 20 years. Don’t plan to start up any time soon. But if you assume that a statement such as the one Rush makes is “racist”, well, that says a lot about your own attitudes. In particular, to assume that statement is racist is to assume that the individual is in all ways a representative of his “race” (an artificial construct).

I suppose that “industriousness” can be a cultural trait, in that the surrounding culture will reward or punish perceived industriousness; but to conflate “culture” and “race” is itself racism – an assumption that outward looks correlate with inward culture.

The most a government should do is set the ground rules – equality of opportunity. Otherwise, you’re headed for the Office of the Handicapper-General.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The 17th amendment heresy

A sure way to get all the wookie-suiters to shake their heads, bowcasters, and Gasden Flags in solemn agreement is to suggest the repeal of the 17th amendment, and returning the appointment of Senators to the state legislatures. After all, direct election short-circuits the intent of the Founders to make Senators advocates of their states, and insulate them from the whim of the Mob and the pressures of campaigning. If we return to the days of legislative appointment, the states will reclaim the powers they have allowed the Federal government to usurp, the states will find allies in the Senate in stopping further encroachment, &c.

Sounds like a plan, right – return the Senate to a more deliberative body, insulated from the Mob, and able to concentrate on the mechanics of governance; with the best interests of their States in the foreground, lest they be turfed out by their own legislature. As Zell Miller put it before retiring, “ But can you imagine those dreadful unfunded mandates being put on the States or a homeland security bill being torpedoed by the unions if Senators were still chosen by and responsible to the State legislatures?”

For the sake of argument, I’m going to ignore the difficulty of passing an amendment. It’s at least theoretically possible for such an amendment to be a extra-partisan issue, I suppose, and garner the necessary national support. It won’t matter in the end. Repealing the 17th amendment will not stop direct elections of senators, and it won’t help the problem of senators being beholden to special interests.

Here’s the two dirty little secrets of the 17th Amendment. First secret: the first Senator chosen by popular vote was elected in 1906, 7 years before the ratification of the 17th amendment and 5 years before the submission of the amendment to the states for ratification. Oregon pioneered the method (essentially a referendum binding on the legislature), but other states followed. This method could be used again if the 17th amendment was repealed, leaving the states to continue directly electing senators if they so choose. And you couldn’t stop it without an unacceptable level of meddling in state sovereignty.

Second dirty little secret: the 17th amendment was, at least in part, a reaction to the corruption and scandals of the time; not to mention inaction on the part of legislatures that were still appointing senators without consultation. Surprisingly enough, state legislatures are just another special interest, and it’s cheaper to bribe a legislature than an electorate…

Repeal of the 17th amendment is no panacea. It took most of a century of slow Progressing to get here, it’ll take time to get back. It’s going to be hard and dirty work, full of compromise, half-measures, and politicians. Put together enough half-measures, though, and you can go places…

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mountain Dew Throwback

Didn't care for it. Tasted noticeably different and left a funny aftertaste.

I recall liking the Kosher for Passover Coke & Pepsi, though - so if I run across some Pepsi throwback I'll try it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Belated Into

In case you missed her debut post, my wife will be blogging here as Allura.

The Question

Writers block. Well, not really, but I don’t seem to be able to do short, and everything long I want to do it jammed up in one messy pile.

So – the question is: Ronin or Heat? Answer in comments

Friday, October 1, 2010

Action Needed on CCW in NJ

Oh, yeah, also, hi, I'm Allura, Ian Argent's wife. We share a lot of interests, but I'm more of a moderate libertarian while he's more of a conservative. I'll get a proper intro in at some point, but Ian asked me to post this. I'm usually on Asemblyman Carroll's mailing list, too, so I'm not sure why I haven't gotten this yet myself. Anyway, from Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, regarding his proposed Concealed Carry bill, A-1384:

Recently, I sent the following letter to the Chairman of the New Jersey Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee:

Hon. Gordon Johnson
545 Cedar Lane
Teaneck, New Jersey

Re: A-1384

Dear Chairman Johnson:

Shortly after my election to the Legislature in 1995, I introduced the predecessor of the above-cited Bill. Same was referred to this Committee, as has been every subsequent incarnation thereof, where it languished.

In light of the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court in McDonald, there exists essentially no doubt that many of New Jersey’s draconian restrictions on the fundamental right to keep and bear arms will not survive a legal challenge. As a result, New Jersey has essentially two choices: legislatively respect the constitutional rights of its citizens, or face the inevitability of being compelled to do so by the judiciary.

The consequences of legislative inaction – leaving aside the denial of fundamental constitutional rights – could be hugely expensive for the taxpayers. Litigation is, as you know, very costly and, since the plaintiffs are almost certain to prevail in a challenge, they would likely be entitled to an award of counsel fees in addition to invalidating NJ’s unconstitutional laws.

I respectfully request, then, that the Chairman schedule the above proposal for Committee consideration with all deliberate speed.

Michael Patrick Carroll

...let me ask you a simple favor:

Write to the committee chairman, as well as each member of the Committee, respectfully requesting that this measure be posted. In order to maximize the impact, I ask you to do it via snail mail (we old folks tend to respect paper more than electrons). Use your own language so that it cannot be dismissed as a form letter. Ask each of them to respond to you, in writing, respecting their position.

Already, some Members of the Majority see the handwriting on the wall. Senator Van Drew recently introduced a concealed carry law. Although it needs work – the fees are unconscionably high and the training requirements disconcertingly vague – it represents a welcome step in the right direction. Now is the time to press for true reform.

The addresses of the other committee members are here:

Assemblyman Nelson T. Albano
21 North Main St.
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210

Assemblyman Jon M. Bramnick
251 North Ave. West 2nd Floor
Westfield, NJ 07090

Assemblywoman Elease Evans
100 Hamilton Plaza Suite 1400
Paterson, NJ 07505

Assemblywoman Amy H. Handlin
890 Main St.
Belford, NJ 07718

Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty
129 Johnson Road Suite 1
Turnersville, NJ 08012

Assemblyman David P. Rible
1955 Highway 34 Bldg. 2A
Wall Township, NJ 07719

Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer
223 Hawthorne Ave.
Newark, NJ 07112

Assemblyman Gilbert L. "Whip" Wilson
Audubon Commons Shopping Center
130 Blackhorse Pike 1st Floor Suite D-3
Audubon, NJ 08106

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why we shouldn’t settle for a “compromise”

One Gary McBain posts why he stopped carrying after the state he lived in went from “may-issue” to “shall-issue” and the consequent hassles from cops and the government.

He had been a cop, retired and became a PI. He was able to get a “may issue” permit with almost no restrictions. But when his permit became “shall-issue”, it was hedged about with restrictions, and the cops started harassing lawful carriers.

It isn’t enough for permits to be shall-issue – if the state must have a permit process to ensure that carriers of weapons are law-abiding, the law should assume that the permitted person is law-abiding. Certainly now that we have had 20 years (more or less) of that experiment running.

Why I want a carry permit

It’s not, particularly, because I expect to need a gun to foil a crime. Unless several significant changes to NJ laws on use of force are made, using a firearm beyond the level of display in defense of my person in public would result in an expensive and uncertain criminal trial, followed by an expensive and uncertain civil action. And if the use resulted in death or injury? I’d rather nothave that on my hands, thanks. Not to say I wouldn’t use a firearm in defense of my person – jut that it is a situation devoutly to be avoided, when and where possible.

Instead, I would get a permit to protect myself from the insane restrictions on possession of firearms in NJ. As the law stands, without a carry permit, the law permits me to carry at my home, fixed place or residence, or range; or while travelling between “with only such diversions as are reasonably necessary under the circumstances”. Sounds pretty straightforward, yes? A “reasonable, narrowly-targeted” law? Well, yeah, you’d like to think that. Except that I have friends who live near one of the ranges I frequent; which is itself a drive of some distance. I tend to spend around an hour at a range when I go; and the range itself is an hour’s drive away. I’d like to be able to stop by my friends house afterwards and hang out. Odds that going to a friend’s house with a packaged, unloaded, handgun is a “reasonably necessary diversion”? When guessing wrong is good for 5+ years. Yeah, it’s like that. Or my other friends, who are members of a really nice range an hour in the other direction. They’ve invited myself and my wife up to be guests there and shoot some of their toys. Can I have dinner with them afterwards, without committing a felony?

In both hypotheticals, the firearms are being stored safely and securely at all times – but I commit a felony for wanting to spend time with friends. Is the ability to legally spend some time around a range far from home worth $500? Probably not. But it’s legally safer for me to go shooting at the NRA range in Fairfax City, VA than it is to go to a range in NJ.