Sunday, June 29, 2008
"You don't need to have a gun; the police will protect you."
"If people carry guns, there will be murders over parking spaces and neighborhood basketball games."
"I'm a pacifist. Enlightened, spiritually aware people shouldn't own guns."
"I'd rather be raped than have some redneck militia type try to rescue me."
How often have you heard these statements from misguided advocates of victim disarmament, or even woefully uninformed relatives and neighbors? Why do people cling so tightly to these beliefs, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that they are wrong? Why do they get so furiously angry when gun owners point out that their arguments are factually and logically incorrect?
How can you communicate with these people who seem to be out of touch with reality and rational thought?
She goes on to describe in detail what the best verbal strategies are for helping them “down off the ledge” and provides excellent examples:
Rational arguments alone are not likely to be successful, especially since many people "feel" rather than "think". You also need to deal with the emotional responses of the anti-gun person. Remember that most people have been conditioned to associate firearms with dead toddlers. So you need to change the person's emotional responses along with his thoughts.
One way to do this is to put the anti-gun person (or his family) at a hypothetical crime scene and ask what he would like to have happen. For example, "Imagine your wife is in the parking lot at the supermarket and two men grab her. One holds a knife to her throat while the other tears her clothes off. If I see this happening and have a gun, what should I do? What would happen next? What if after five minutes, the police still haven't arrived?"
Just let him answer the questions and mentally walk through the scenario. Don't argue with his answers. You are planting seeds in his mind than can help change his emotional responses.
And after explaining the best way to help people see reason, she makes it clear that we should have realistic expectations:
You should remember that you will not be successful with all anti-gun people. Some people are so terrified and have such strong defenses, that it's not possible for someone without professional training to get through. Some people have their minds made up and refuse to consider opening them. Others may concede that what you say "makes sense," but are unwilling to challenge the forces of political correctness. A few may have had traumatic experiences with firearms from which they have not recovered.
You will also not be successful with the anti-gun ideologues, people like Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein. These people have made a conscious choice to oppose firearms ownership and self-defense. They almost always gain power, prestige, and money from their anti-gun politics. They are not interested in the facts or in saving lives. They know the facts and understand the consequences of their actions, and will happily sacrifice innocent people if it furthers their selfish agenda. Do not use these techniques on such people. They only respond to fears of losing the power, prestige and money that they covet.
It’s a really phenomenal piece and I highly recommend that you repost it, email and distribute it in any way you can.
This was brought to you by : "Jews for the preservation of firearms ownership".
Friday, June 27, 2008
It’s the US constitution which protects my right to free speech; the first amendment specifically. And "freedom of speech" may seem like a unique ans special right. It isn't really, but since the members of the mainstream news media are protected by the same law, they constantly talk up it's importance. There is no doubt about it ... the right to freedom of speech is highly regarded by those who make their living speaking freely, but there are several other rights in the constitution as well. And as of yesterday, the only difference between those other rights and the right of free speech is the volume and frequency with which the major media reminds us of them.
The legal reasons for this are a little tricky because the US constitution only limits the acts of the US government and doesn't specifically restrict the governments of the various states. But when it comes to laws that may infringe upon our rights, then the states are limited by it as well. The reason for that is called the “incorporation of rights” under the 14th amendment. The 14th amendment was adopted after the civil war to prevent former confederate states from drafting laws which would restrict the rights of newly freed slaves. In effect it made the US Constitution the last word where all individual rights are concerned.
And although you’re unlikely to hear much about it from the media, this is about to become a very big issue in New Jersey. Because like those confederate states, New Jersey would very much prefer not to allow its citizens the freedom to exercise their rights either. In particular the State of New Jersey would forcibly deny its citizens their most precious right, more important even that the right to vote or to speak one’s mind. The State of New Jersey would very much like to deny its citizens the right to defend their own lives.
Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the DC Gun Ban is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. In the Majority opinion, Justice Scalia clearly stated that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. That means that the rights enumerated by the second amendment apply to individual citizens in the same way as those rights in the first amendment, like freedom of speech. Now that it's clear that they all apply to the individual, all those rights become the same under the law. And it would be unjust and illegal for the State government to infringe upon that right.
Until now, those who would deny Americans their rights have insisted that the second amendment was somehow different from the first and that the rights enumerated there only applied to the government or “the Militia”. Justice Scalia’s straightforward language has thoroughly dispelled that myth. But there still remain some questions as to what this really means for the citizenry. There are all manner or restrictions, licensing schemes, rationing mechanisms, and outright bans that apply to entire classes of “arms”, all of which Justice Scalia very specifically said that his ruling “did not address”. That doesn’t mean his ruling approved of any of those partial disarmamnt schemes, only that his ruling didn't specifically speak to them. It will take other cases for the court to address those points. So where does that leave the issue?
If tomorrow the NJ legislature enacted legislation which said that “only certain kinds of speech” were allowed, it would be judged to be unconstitutional under the 14th amendment. If they enacted another law which said that you may write only one political essay a month, or say that you couldn’t engage in speech that was potentially too “dangerous” or to ban discussions of entire topics all together, then it would clearly be unconstitutional. If they enacted laws that made it illegal for anyone but a professional politician to speak in public, or set a requirement for a license in order to speak on impassioned topics, all those laws would be in violation of the constitution. And yet the New Jersey government forces those very types of restrictions on its citizens today.
At present, the New Jersey government has an outright ban on a number of classes of semi-automatic weapons. Not machine guns which are covered by other laws, but firearms that operate the same as any hunting rifle. It has a bewildering array of licenses, permits, and permissions that must be obtained from the government and kept up to date before any citizen may purchase a firearm. Although it isn’t specifically illegal, procedurally, the State hasn’t issued a permit to carry a firearm to any private citizen in several decades, making anyone who feels the need to carry a weapon in self defense an instant criminal in spite of their constitutionally protected right to do so.
This is a right of the individual citizen that is being willfully and systematically infringed upon by a tyrannical government that insists that we remain disarmed. We are each of us entitled to “keep” a weapon in our homes, and “bear” it when we feel the necessity. It is our right to be able to defend our lives. And we must now find a way to compel the state of New Jersey to recognize that rights as well.
No tyrannical government has ever willingly granted the citizenry its rights, and I’m sure New Jersey will be no different. And because that’s so, we must compel the state legislature and courts to recognize that the law of the land also applies in New Jersey. We must all argue for “incorporation “of the second amendment under the 14th amendment. We must make it clear to those who would deny us that our rights under the second amendment are the same in every way as our rights under the first.
According to the Supreme Court of the United States, the right to keep and bear arms is a right which cannot be denied by the Federal government, just like the right to free speech, or freedom of assembly or freedom of religion. It is, like all the other rights, inalienable. And under the 14th amendment it’s a right that the state of New Jersey can no longer deny us.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
And not a moment too soon for those if us in NJ, for as I type two new laws designed to further restrict the right of law abiding citizens are working their way through the state legislature. In spite of the overwhelming evidence against it's effectiveness at reducing crime, the Assembly yesterday approved a “one gun a month” law, which will limit the number of handguns that can be legally purchased in any 30 day period. It still has to clear the Senate and be signed by the Governor, but with this Senate and that governor, both those events seem likely.
The idiot who proposed this utterly useless law, Joan M. Quigley, thinks that if you own a legally purchased firearm in New Jersey, then obviously you’re also selling guns to gang bangers. That’s why she believes that a law limiting legal purchases to one a month will be effective in fighting crime. She thinks all those pesky claims from citizens rights groups saying that "people who commit crimes with guns don't buy them legally" are all just red herrings that distract from the real issue. Instead she thinks the real problem is those people who go to the trouble of obeying the law. And quite an impressive set of laws they are too. To legally buy a handgun in New Jersey you must complete the following:
First you’ll submit to the 6 month long background check to get a “New Jersey Firearms ID”. That includes presenting several forms of certified ID with photographs, a several month long, painstakingly detailed check for any criminal convictions, a fingerprint scan, and a check for outstanding warrants or unpaid child support, and a reference check. After 6 months if your FID is approved, then you’ll have to submit to an additional check on your fingerprints, and any criminal history or outstanding warrants to get a handgun purchasers permit. Under present law the permit is only good for 90 days and if you don’t use it by then, you’ll have to apply for another permit from scratch. Typically that process takes a minimum of 30 days, leaving you 60 days at most to find a suitable firearm. Once you have both the FID and purchasers permit in hand, you can stroll into any authorized firearms dealer in the state of New Jersey that still sells handguns (I think there are still about 5 left in the entire state) and select a weapon.
Then before you can take the weapon home, the seller must verify your ID with certified identification including a photo; make a copy of your firearms ID, fill out the seller’s portion of the handgun purchaser’s permit with the make model and serial number of the firearm as well as the time, date, and location of the purchase. Then they must also contact the FBI by phone to get a clearance for you through the national instant criminal check system. This system checks nationally for any felony convictions, and outstanding warrants, or any court adjudicated mental health issues. And for the record, it isn’t always instant. I’ve never even been charged with anything worse than a traffic ticket and last time it took 8 days to do my NICS check. And by the way, don't let your shopping go to the last minute because if your handgun purchasers permit expires while you're waiting for your (not so instant) NICS check... guess what.
Then once you’ve done all of that….all you have to do is pay for your weapon and take it home. Now tell me, what nobel-laureate gang-banger could bluff his way through a legal and bureaucratic nightmare like that and then think it’s a good idea to turn around and sell that gun to his felon buddies? If you give her the benefit of the doubt then that’s what Joan Quigley thinks is happening.
But the truth is, I’m not giving her the benefit of the doubt. I believe in Occam’s razor: “that the most obvious cause is almost certainly the one that’s correct”. And after all this time watching the goings on of the New Jersey State government, I think Joan M. Quigley is just another one of those politicians who thinks that the people of New Jersey are too stupid to own firearms. I think she’s really just trying to get rid of all of them, one tiny bureaucratic rule change at a time. I think she’s one more elected official who has nothing but contempt for the people who elected her, and despises the idea of anyone doing things any way but hers.
And unfortunately she isn’t alone. Both of my reps in the assembly (the ever reliable Caroline Cassagrande and Declan O’Scanlon) voted no on this useless nonsense proving that they're both a cut above average in NJ government. The two of them probably double the average IQ in the assembly just by showing up to vote. But my State Senator Jennifer Beck is a gun hating liberal from way back and will probably vote to support the bill. Yes, she has an R next to her name but that hasn’t meant much in New Jersey in a very long time. And because she believes that she knows how to run people’s lives better than they can themselves, she’s going to probably be a part of the problem this time instead of being part of the solution. She’ll ignore the evidence on laws like this and the fact that this will place a preemptive burden on collectors without effecting criminals, and support it anyway.
However, if the supreme court vigorously defends the second amendment tomorrow and “the right to bear arms” can once again be treated the same as “the right of free speech”, then a law like this can be attacked legally as “prior restraint”. That will give constitutional rights organizations lots of ammo to fight it, and over time they certainly will. But in New Jersey it will be a while before those benefits start trickling down. And in the meantime, we’re all going to have to live with one more infringement of our rights.
And if you think this is bad, just wait until the NJ legislature gets caught up and has a chance to vote on a ban of your .50 caliber muzzleloader in order to save airplanes. Because as we know, the 50 caliber rifle is being used in crimes every where you go, and they need to stop that somehow. In the area around Newark Airport planes are falling from the sky like rain! I mean you can barely drive through Paterson NJ without some angry looking middle-eastern guy asking you where he can spend $12,000 bucks to get a 65 pound ultra long range target rifle. And impoverished gang-bangers have been lugging them into convenience stores for hold-ups all over the state.
Not that you can blame them. When ammo costs you nine dollars per bullet you have to find a way to make ends meet somehow. Maybe they should consider running for the state legislature instead. God knows that if they can scam their way through that one gun a month law they must be smarter than most of the legislature. Well, smarter than Joan M. Quigley anyway. Not that we’re setting the bar very high. In reality, the 50 caliber rifle hasn't been used in even a single shooting in the history of the state. Not that the legislature will let a little thing like that stand in the way of banning them. After all, as dumb as they all are, they still think they're a whole lot smarter about running your life than you are.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Right about now you’re probably thinking that this is going to be a boilerplate defense of George Bush, his administration and all things Republican in general but it isn’t. The truth is I think much of what George Bush has done has been reprehensible. I think he was a better choice than either Al Gore or John Kerry so I voted for him twice. But on the whole I think his presidency has been a big disappointment. Believe me when I say this, I’m no big fan of George Bush.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the liberal arguments surrounding the war in Iraq are childish and stupid. At their most charitable they could be described as short sighted, but they’ve been offered with so little civility or rationality that there’s no point in being charitable. Bush didn’t lie. The war wasn’t illegal and was actually sanctioned by the UN. We didn’t fight for oil, or for Exxon Mobile, or for Dick Cheney and Halliburton, or for George Bush’s father. In fact there have been so many idiotic statements from the leftists in the mainstream media that it would take another whole essay just to refute them all.
The fact is, the US military is the most thoroughly responsible and effective fighting force ever put in the field. They never raped and pillaged their way across the broader Middle East, and thank god for that because yes, sometimes war actually is the answer. Virtually nothing the major media has said about the war in Iraq, or the American forces fighting it, or the results they’re seeing has had even a passing relationship with the truth. George Bush didn’t lie, but Reuters, CNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC, and the AP all certainly did.
But go try and tell a dedicated liberal that. They won’t listen because they can’t afford to. Too much of their self esteem is wrapped up in the idea that they are a “good person” because they are against the war. They don’t care about the results of the conflict, or the actual motivations for it for that matter. All they can see is their religious dedication to the patently idiotic idea that war is always wrong.
They call themselves Anti-War, but I don’t really believe that’s true. In many respects the war has given them a reason for being. It’s been the source of a movement that has allowed some of them to relive their youth, and for others to show “how much better” they are than their “war-mongering” conservative peers. It’s given them one more chance to show how wrong any idea is that doesn’t come from them, and to promote the idea that those who “talk” should be the ones’ in charge, not those who “actually do things”, like those in business or in the military.
The actual reason for the fighting in Iraq has always been pretty straightforward, but the major media will self immolate before they actually tell it. So let me summarize it here.
After 9-11 it was a common belief that we will never be able to convince fundamentalist Muslims not to hate us. Theirs is a religious fervor that won’t be swayed by logic or reason. So instead of trying to fight a battle that we were certain over the long haul to lose, we tried to focus on those things we might win. We could never prevent them from hating us, but we might be able to prevent them from doing anything effective about it.
So rather than trying to change their minds, we set about trying to deny them the things they need to do us harm, and the way we did that is by denying them “State Sponsorship”. We attacked Afghanistan of course because that’s where they already had sponsorship of a state (such as it was) but we also did an assessment of who else might be both willing and able to do the same. We looked at Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and all the other vehemently anti American states in the region. There were a lot of people there who don’t think much of our decadent western ways so we had to pick carefully… we weren’t in a position militarily to attack the entire middle east. So like a new kid in a playground surrounded by a gang of bullies, we decided to pick the biggest guy in the room, in the hope that flattening him would scare the others into leaving us alone.
And it worked.
We stomped on Iraq and thoroughly crushed their uniformed forces. This scared Syria and Libya into at least playing lip service to our demands of “civilized” behavior, which was better than we were getting from them before. They probably still hate us, but they aren’t going to be blowing up any New York City buildings any time soon. Iran decided to fight us in Iraq as well, but in order to avoid losing face if they lost theirs was a smaller scale partisan effort that didn’t involve uniformed troops. But now it’s become clear that after a change in tactics, the US and allied military has largely stomped them too.
It hasn’t been without missteps by the military (it is a part of the government after all) but on the whole it looks like Iraq is shaping up to be a victory. It will take years before it’s readily apparent (and maybe decades before liturgically short sighted liberals will see it too) but it’s looking very much like a newly free Iraq is shaping up to make a dramatic change in the political dynamic in the middle east. Just like it was hoped it would.
Do I speak too soon? Yeah maybe…I guess it’s possible. But I have a great deal more confidence in our military than I do in the doctrinaire liberals who continue to proclaim our every effort a failure regardless of the evidence. And even if Barak Obama is elected president we might already be too close to victory to allow him to still snatch a defeat from its jaws.
They can’t admit it of course, but the anti-war movement is desperate for another political defeat for America like the one in Vietnam because it will reinforce their self congratulatory worldview. They want another military failure so they can proclaim themselves prescient, and they don’t care how it might have emboldened our enemies or how many American lives that position may have cost. They say they care about the troops but they don’t. As usual, they only care about themselves, and they aren’t really fooling anyone.
Many liberals have famously called our troops in the field idiots, but we all know better. In reality the idiots are somewhere on the two coasts (probably reading a teleprompter in a news studio) trying to explain again how it was that they think president Bush lied. But the truth is that he didn’t, and one day they’ll all have to grow up and realize that.
In 2005 William Bennett, a committed pro-lifer, invoked the Levitt argument in order to denounce eugenic thinking:
"I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose — you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.”
But what's even more amazing about this nightmarish view is the number of Liberals who still agree with it.
Later that same year, the White House received a letter from the Roe v. Wade co-counsel Ron Weddington, urging the new president-elect to rush RU-486 — the morning-after pill — to the market as quickly as possible. Weddington’s argument was refreshingly honest:
[Y]ou can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy and poor segment of our country. No, I’m not advocating some sort of mass extinction of these unfortunate people. Crime, drugs and disease are already doing that. The problem is that their numbers are not only replaced but increased by the birth of millions of babies to people who can’t afford to have babies. There, I’ve said it. It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it, because as liberals who believe in individual rights, we view any program which might treat the disadvantaged as discriminatory, mean-spirited and... well... so Republican.
Conservatives call attention to the horror of the eugenic view, Liberals agree with it, and then try somehow to depict conservatives as bad people.
It's a good piece, and an excellent example of how phenomenal his book sheds light on those parts of liberalism and progressivism that it's current supporters are so unwilling to admit.
A Dark Past:
Contraception, abortion, and the eugenics movement.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Some of that skirmishing was done no more than 5 minutes from my house and every year at this time, a bunch of people get together at the original location to recreate The Battle of Monmouth. The fight itself was in and around the sandy pastureland and orchards of Freehold New Jersey, and the location of much of the fighting is now a NJ State park. It’s a perfect spot for this kind of demonstration with great visibility for an audience in a vast natural amphitheatre on the exact site of one of the more serious skirmishes.
Originally American General Charles Lee was assigned by Washington to harass the British troops in their retreat from Philadelphia, but in his incompetence proved either unwilling or unable to do so. When Washington arrived later with supporting troops he found Lee’s command in disarray and in a disorganized and rapid retreat from the advancing British. Famous for his temper, Washington chewed off a fair sized chunk of Lee’s ear there on the road in full sight of Lee’s retreating troops. He then rode to the rear of the column, exposing himself to enemy fire, and personally organized and rallied the troops, halting their retreat and putting a halt to the British advance.
The actual losses in the battle were about 350 per side, and but since it was Washington’s forces that held the field it at days end, it was considered a victory. It was certainly a political victory for Washington and the other hero of the day his Inspector General Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who had been so marvelously effective at retraining the army during it’s time in Valley Forge. A statue of Von Steuben stands near the State Park visitor center today.
The battle is also famous for the participation of one “Molly Pitcher”, a camp follower and gunner’s wife, who took her husband’s place on the line when he was injured. Mary Hays McCauly had been running water to the troops in the 100+ degree heat of the battle. (It was so hot that day that both sides had as many casualties from the heat as the gunfire.) When her husband was injured she took his place on his artillery piece to keep it from being withdrawn for lack of manpower. Afterward she was issued a warrant as a non commissioned officer by Washington, and was thereafter widely hailed as Sergeant Molly.
As for the 2008 version of the battle, personally I was astounded both at the size and effort put into their presentation. Between the Regular Continental Army, the NJ Militia, and the British forces, all in historically correct period gear, there were several hundred combatants set up in two massive camps around the park. There were so many in fact, and they were so widespread, that it was hard to get a picture of them that would accurately reflect their numbers.
This image of the US forces marching into their position for the start of the battle is a good example of that. The columns were so long and spread out that at best you could hope to take a picture of 20% of them at any one time.
With just a bit of time to kill between the artillery demonstration and the actual battle, we wandered around a bit and stumbled upon the British commanding General and his staff who was apparently giving his horse a break from the heat.
As much as you may think this is kind of a geeky way to spend an afternoon, you really have to admire the dedication of these guys. Here they were wearing heavy wool uniforms in the NJ summer heat and 100% humidity, just so they can pretend to take a beating from a bunch of other guys also running around in too much clothing for the weather.
The level of detail and precision in their outfits was astounding, but the weak spot I look for is almost always the shoes. All but the most expensive footwear of the day was something less than comfortable, so most actors will usually cheat a little where their feet are concerned. Besides for most commoners in 1778 shoes were all cut symmetrically. There was no right shoe and left shoe, only “shoe”… the only difference was the foot you put it on. I looked carefully figuring they would all be taking short cuts, but sure enough many of these guys were wearing the real deal. You could tell because instead of the buckles starting in the instep and going out, both buckles would either go left or right. In my mind it was a tiny and impressive detail to get right.
And since it’s the firearms of the day that I know the most about, I fully expected to be rolling my eyes in that area as well, but again I was largely proven wrong. The British foot soldiers carried their standard firearm of the day the second model, short land pattern “Brown Bess” musket.
Several members of the Continentals carried these weapons as well, as was typical of their forces, but many also carried a combination of British and French fowling guns and a mishmash of other smoothbore guns from the period which had their stocks cut down to allow for the fitting of a bayonet lug. This was a common practice at the time, and even the mish-mashiness of it was period correct for the thrown together American Army of the day.
In one other breathtaking bit of accuracy, I even noticed one member of the militia who had rolled his ramrod tip from a bit of flat wire instead of a “store bought” solid welded tip. This was a common practice in the colonies where people had to sometimes make do with material shortages, but nothing I ever expected to see in a 2008 reenactment. There were other armament shortcuts taken here and there as well but far fewer than I counted on. For instance I saw one teen-age member of the NJ militia carrying a left handed, finely engraved Pennsylvania rifle with a swamped barrel and stocked in very high grade maple not too dissimilar from this one:
It was a certainly a beautiful gun, but would have been well beyond the means of a young militiaman in 1778. The Continentals did field their riflemen of course and rifles like that one might have been used. But for the most part they would have been crafted in a simpler fashion, more suited to the Spartan frontier life of the people who carried them. The gentry who might have been able to afford a gun like that would all be fighting as officers in that war.
And what was probably the most expensive detail of all, was that the British commanding officer even rode what looked to me like the correct breed of horse. He spent the battle on a slender black “Standard Bred” jumper, and even got a hearty cheer from the crowd when he vaulted a fence during the battle. The officers on both sides were on horseback as well, but they looked to my novice’s eye more like sturdy American quarter horses which while common today, were an unheard of breed in 1778.
It was lots of fun watching the fellas run back and forth in the heat and lining up to shoot with muskets and cannons, but there was no moment more stirring than when “his Excellency General George Washington” (as he was typically announced by the moderator) took to the field. The real Washington was supposed to be the tallest man in his army and the best horseman in North America. The actor who played that role may not have been quite as striking, but I think he did the general justice. The crowd just loved him.
It was hot, humid, crowded and noisy, but a lot easier on the spectators than the participants, and we found it very entertaining.
I spoke to people in the audience who came from as far as Massachusetts to see this battle. In fact, about half of the crowd seemed to be sporting accents that put their point of origin somewhere out of state. They seemed to be a dedicated bunch, and I felt just a little guilty that all we did to see it was to turn right at the first light before the mall.
And now having seen what an impressive display it is, I’d certainly do it again. I don’t know about a 10 hour drive up to Massachusetts, but I’d certainly have driven 2 hours or so and still feel like it was worth the trouble. And since they aren’t moving the State Park anytime soon, I’ll put it in my calendar and plan around it. Next year I think I’ll take a bit more time wandering the camps and talking to the people. They sell a bunch of 1770 handicrafts and toys for the kids. It’s a little slice of history…a sort of mobile Colonial Williamsburg with a mock battle in the middle. And even if you’re not a geeky history buff, it’s a nice way to spend an afternoon.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
In 21st century America, much of what used to end up in people’s garbage is actually ending up for sale on Ebay. Ergo I think there are conclusions you can draw about the future of America from looking at the junk that they have for sale there. I’m not talking the new name brand items mind you, in that respect all the Ebay stores are probably just trying to compete with odd-lot and overstock.com. No, I mean the stuff that people pull up out of their basement when they’re cleaning up and think to themselves, “It would be a shame to just throw this away, maybe someone will buy it on Ebay”.
We did a little of that at my house recently too. I listed a left handed Bob Allen shooting vest that I never wear, and a very nice pair of lizard skin cowboy boots that I got as a gift but never fit me quite right. And since we were there, my wife and I tried a little experiment in liberal thinking and listed a “Carbon Credit” for sale as well.
You know what a “Carbon Credit” is don’t you? It’s the thing that Al Gore uses to justify his massive personal consumption of fossil fuels and the subsequent trail of pollution that he leaves behinds him everywhere his lear jet goes. The idea is that although Al consumes as much energy as your average third world city, he can still preach to the rest of us because he “offsets” his pollution production by paying someone to take that CO2 out of the atmosphere for him.
The way it basically works is that there are companies out there that will sell you a CC which works by them planting trees on your behalf. The trees will grow every year and remove Carbon from the atmosphere as they do. If you are an average person in America you can reduce your cumulative pollution by buying a few carbon credits, and if you’re a guy like Al, you just plant a bunch more. You haven’t bought the actual tree mind you. You might get a certificate or something, but no one is going to show up at your house with lumber. You’ve only bought the service of having the tree remove the carbon from the atmosphere for you. And if you buy enough of them, then you too can claim the moral high ground in the pollution debate.
Well I don’t know much about that, but I do know something about markets. And it seemed to me that if a big company can make a bunch of money selling whole forests to a guy like Al, then I should be able to get in on the act too. And as a coincidence, my wife and I had a tree in our yard which was casting a shadow on the solar heater for our pool and we were considering cutting it down anyway. So I said, “Hey wait a minute hon… why should we be so greedy… let’s leave that tree there and let someone buy it as a carbon credit. It won’t be worth much, but at least we’ll be doing our part to assuage the guilt of some jet setting liberal somewhere, and if our pool is ½ a degree colder come September, I think I can live with that.”
So that’s what we did. We took a picture of the tree in question, did a little online research about the amount of carbon it would pull from the atmosphere, and listed it as a service on ebay. You can see it here.
Anyway, Ebay was having none of that. They left it up there for sale for about three days and eventually pulled it because they claimed it violated some policy of theirs. It didn’t of course, and they refused to provide any details of what they claim it violated. But the fact is, we were trying to sell precisely the same service that’s offered by any of the other companies selling carbon credits. The only difference is the amount of carbon it will process. In fairness, it might just be some fascist tendency of Ebay… you know where the product is OK if it’s from a big company but not OK if it’s from some little guy in New Jersey, but I don’t really think that’s what it’s about.
I think in the end the reason the pulled the ad was because they know in their hearts that the entire idea of a “carbon credit” is based on the thinnest kind of science at best. A product that doesn’t do anything except smooth over the self congratulatory guilt of some liberal isn’t actually a product at all as far as they’re concerned. And in reality, they are probably not worth anything at all no matter who is selling them. They don’t pull the ads from the big companies because the political backlash would be too great but they see no reason to allow the little guy to make a buck off it as well. The truth is, they probably think all Carbon Credits are a scam, but they just can’t prove it.
As for me and my wife, we’ll never call anything a scam if someone is willing to pay us for it, even if it actually is. For the right price, we’ll believe almost anything you want us to when it comes to global warming. It’s all part of our experiment in liberal thinking. Where making a buck is concerned, we’re no longer worried about the truth, only its value on the market place. We’ll sell you our share of sunshine as well as soon as some Bay Area genius comes up with a way to commoditize it. That is, we will so long as Ebay allows us to. And so far it doesn’t look like Ebay is really buying into the global warming hype, no matter what they’re press relations people might say.
So what does all this say about America? Well here’s my take on it. The fact is, the global warming movement is counting on the idea that people will be willing to endure some level of suffering in order to be viewed as (and be able to describe themselves as) “moral” with regard to environment. But the fact is, the economic realities of that equation haven’t really been worked out. So long as it’s a small inconvenience, it might be true, but when we’re all cold and in the dark, many of us will be willing to burn radioactive baby seal oil to stay warm and to hell with the environment. Ebay may think its fine to make a statement to the press about being environmentally sensitive, but when they run the risk of a tarnished corporate image when people try to sell what is obviously a valueless commodity, they decide it’s just not worth the price.
They would rather lose me as a customer by pulling my item without explanation than run a risk like that. And that’s the same kind of decision everyone in America will eventually be forced to make as well. The fact is, Americans would rather have low unemployment, electric lights, and a fully modern economy that leaves a little CO2 in the air than deal with all the pain, cold and other realities of a carbon free 13th century world that the environmental activists would have us endure. At the end of the day the social good they want isn’t worth the cost. And when Americans realize that this is the choice they're making, that will be that with environmentalism.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Maybe Curtis and all the other people who want to blame the speculators can explain to me how this works? When a speculator goes and buys an oil future, what exactly does he do with it? You see oil futures don’t deliver a cash equivalent like some futures, they deliver actual oil. So any speculator who’s holding that oil future when it expires is going to get a 1,000 barrels worth of oil. He’s either going to need a place to store it or 1,000 barrels to put it in. And as you can imagine there is a finite amount of oil storage available in this country, and it hasn’t been filling up any more quickly than normal so where does he put it?
Maybe he “sells it back to the oil companies at the last minute”, but if that were true, then the oil companies would figure out that game quickly and pay substantially less for a future just prior to delivery. The price would dip suddenly, right before contract expiration. (In fact we’ve seen that circumstance happen before in the energy markets for other supply chain reasons) But we aren’t seeing that today, so if it really is speculators driving up the price, then someone somewhere has a bunch of oil just sitting around waiting for someone to buy it, and again, that simply isn’t so.
So Curtis, because you’re a well intentioned and basically right headed guy on most issues, I’m going to explain this again. The only effect the speculators have on the market is an increase in volatility, not price. While oil used to move $1 dollar a day it now moves $3, but sometimes that move is up and sometimes it’s down. Over the long term they can’t have any effect on price of a commodity future that delivers physical goods. They just can’t.
What speculators are really doing, is attempting to predict the future, and with an energy policy like ours the future of oil prices is easy to predict. The environmental movement uses lawsuits to prevent new drilling and new refining capacity. They block any attempt to switch to clean coal or nuclear technology (both of which are clean, viable and available right now) and use all their influence with Congress to make sure most viable solutions are never brought to the table. The only thing they want to discuss is some form of massive tax on pollution, and then a plan to use that tax money to federally fund research into wind and solar power.
I could go on and on about how federally funding that research is unlikely to produce the desired result. (In fact I wrote something similar here.) I could write a book about how you’ll never be able to run an auto factory on windmills or a cruise ship on solar cells. I could go on and on about how there are no seriously considered technology solutions in wind and solar that holds any promise of meeting our energy needs at any forseeable time in the future. And they still cling to that dream, and will do all they can to keep the rest of us cold and in the dark in the meantime. They want us all to believe that if they are just empowered to tax us a gazillion dollars and then to spend it the way they see fit, the whole world will run as it does today only with wind and solar power.
And you Curtis, are just facilitating them through obfuscation. You’re helping them by adding to the distraction, and blaming people who simply cannot be responsible for the things you claim. By making the claims you are, you’re adding to the problem. I’ve been a quantitative market analyst for nearly 20 years. I’m an expert in behavioral finance and the effect of information on markets, and I’m telling you, you are dead wrong on this. You don’t have to make it better, but please stop making it worse.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I came up with the name to pay homage to Radio Free Europe, which broadcast actual events and news to the people of eastern Europe while they were being given nothing but a steady diet of propaganda and disinformation from their “in country” socialist news sources. The parallels to New Jersey and the New York media that dominate it seemed obvious to me. Countless people have talked about how listening to that tiny trickle of truth gave them hope during a dark time when the government intruded in nearly every aspect of their lives. Certainly seems the same as present day New Jersey to me.
But it’s no accident that no one ever talks about what it was like for the folks broadcasting from RFE instead of listening to it.
I’ve always been a man of some strong opinions, and this blog started as a way for me to give voice to some of those. In several ways that are difficult to explain without a complete personality profile, the role of “voice in the wilderness” is something that I think I’m particularly well suited to. Some of the things I wrote were funny, some made a point, some provided useful information and others still did all three. But if I have to point to a single frustration in the way things have gone over the last year, it’s been my disappointment in finding out exactly how far out in the wilderness I actually am.
Over the last year, I’m honored to say, I’ve developed something of a regular readership. There are about 3,000 people per month who visit this blog for whatever reason, and frankly that’s more than I ever thought would. Some of them are one time queries but many of them are repeat visitors. And I’m still a little blown away whenever I think about the fact that in places like Round Rock Texas, and Atlanta Georgia and the Congressional offices in DC are people who go out of their way to read what I’m saying about the topic of the day. I’ve never heard from them, and don’t know the first thing about them except that they probably agree with me about where the country is going. And I find all that very flattering and encouraging.
But I would be even more encouraged if a few more of my regular readers were from this side of the Delaware River instead of the other side. The biggest disappointment I’ve had over the last year was to learn just how defeated the people of New Jersey really feel. In my estimation, they are a people who have utterly lost hope in the idea that they have some control over their government. They are so thoroughly demoralized that they don’t even want to engage in the discussion. Like the thoroughly programmed drones from Brave New World, they seem to have accepted their fate and are unwilling or unable to fight it. For generations they have been spoon fed socialist dogma, and now they no longer know what it means to be free. And if you try to remind them, many of them look at you like you’re some kind of lunatic.
Fortunately for me, I’ve never minded being thought of as a lunatic. That’s that “voice in the wilderness” part of my personality that’s talking. I know what the truth is, and I don’t see any reason why I should subordinate that simply because it’s contrary to the popular opinion. Frankly the popular opinion seems like mass psychosis to me much of the time. I’m perfectly happy to be the only guy in the room who thinks the sky is blue instead of red, that we don’t actually control the weather, and that government causes problems instead of solving them. Even when I’m the last guy in the world who sees it that way, I’m OK with sitting at the end of the bar and ranting into my beer… alone.
And that’s the thing you folks in Round Rock and Atlanta should remember. Here in New Jersey, people who feel the way that we do are exceedingly rare. Here the thought that “government should do something” comes after virtually every complaint of any kind. Traffic a problem? Government should do something. Gas prices too high? Government should do something. Roof leaks… paint starting to peel… weather looks bad? Call the government. It’s a nonstop litany, and with it comes all the unintended consequences that people like us would expect. And there are times when I believe that I really am the last civil-libertarian in the entire state.
So that’s the reason you hears tons of people talking about listening to RFE but never hear anyone talking about what it’s like to broadcast on it. Because when you’re broadcasting it’s basically just you and a microphone. (Or in my case with RFNJ, a computer keyboard.) It’s a solitary thing with only limited feedback. You sit in a dark room typing away and all you really have is the hope that somewhere there is someone getting the message. And you never really know one way or the other until it’s all over.
And so far it doesn’t look like New Jersey is ready to change in any big way. On the contrary, it looks like the rest of the country is going to become more like New Jersey rather than the other way around. No matter which politician wins the next set of elections, their similarities are big enough and their differences small enough that things are certainly going to get worse for everyone.
So I guess sometimes the voice in the wilderness isn’t able to change the world. Sometimes it takes more than just telling people what the truth is because very often they are no longer able to understand it when you do. But that doesn’t mean you should stop saying it. So maybe rather than a voice in the wilderness, I’m really more like a canary in the coal mine. Over time it becomes a dangerous thing to be the only guy contradicting the socialist dogma, but such is life for a canary. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
This one about what totally unworkable BS the Ballistic Fingerprinting system is, tells the compelling story of how 60 minutes completely skewed it's report and how the BF system itself would never work. We in the firearms community always knew that of course.... but it's fun to see their account so completely and effectively refuted.
I put in a call to Caroline Cassagrande (732) 866-1695) who is on the committee, and is also one of my reps in the assembly to voice my opinion that this bill is more idiotic feel good legislation that punishes the innocent and does nothing to the guilty. It won't protect a thing but will impose undue restrictions on the law abiding. Such is the state of Debate in the people's republic of New Jersey.
In the meantime, in the free parts of America, this is the debate they're having and it's going the right way. Maybe one day it's a discussion we can have here as well.
That's what all government's do after all... they use force to make people do things they wouldn't otherwise want to do. And in America it's our first "check and balance" to have the arms to resist that force.
We believe that's a "natural right" ensured to us by the US constitution, but many other countries do not recognize it the way we do. England is one, and as a result they are now on the every slippery slope of increasing leftists tyranny and fascism. This video documents some of that long painful slide:
Monday, June 9, 2008
Well they are right... Japan has very few gun crimes. Here is what they have instead:
7 dead in stabbing spree in downtown Tokyo
Friday, June 6, 2008
Jon Corzine says that he wants to combine small towns into big ones to save money but the numbers just don't work out. In the real world it turns out that small towns in New Jersey are just about as efficient as the larger towns. So why does Corzine still want to see it happen?
By doing what amounts to a few minutes of analysis on the subject, ex Spring Lake resident and NRO contributor Jim Manzi has discovered a far more likely reason. It's entirely possible that the whole thing is really just an excuse for Corzine to channel state money to the people who supported his election, and away from those who didn't. It's as simple as that.
New Jersey has a long tradition of corruption, malfeasance and graft, and at this point apparently even the legal uses of state money have indictable motives attached. But if it's still hard for you to believe that a State official in New Jersey could do something like that, have a look at Jim's eloquent analysis which can be found here. "Judge for yourself.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Myth #1: LW wouldn’t be expensive.
Yes it will... maybe even catastrophically so....
Myth #2: The costs fall on industry, not consumers.
No ...corporations either pass their costs through to consumers or go out of business creating higher unemployment...
Myth #3: Global warming is a crisis that must be addressed at all costs.
Liberal Fascistic nonsense. Cost is always an issue...
Myth #4: LW effectively addresses the threat of climate change
Actually, even if you believe all the hype it will barely scratch the surface...
Myth #5: LW’s cap-and-trade approach is a proven success.
It's a lot of things but no rational person could use the word "success" to describe cap and trade.
Read all of Ben Lieberman's critique of the Lieberman-Warner "Tax and Trade" Bill here:
Hot Air on NRO