Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Sign of the Times

I was recently invited along on a family trip for three days of rafting in the Grand Canyon followed by a couple days in Las Vegas.  Among other things, while in Vegas my wife and I did some sight-seeing and visited the Hoover Dam and The Neon Museum.  The museum is “dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic and cultural enrichment.”  It’s an interesting place to visit as you are able to learn some of the history of Las Vegas as told through the signage.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.neonparadise.com/Pages/TheBoneyard.aspx

The Green Shack Sign (Photo courtesy of: http://www.neonparadise.com/Pages/TheBoneyard.aspx)

Although there were many intriguing pieces in “the boneyard”, the one I found most compelling was the oldest member of the collection – the sign for The Green Shack Restaurant which opened in the 1930s.  By the time it closed in 1999, it was the oldest restaurant in Las Vegas.  The sign itself is rather unremarkable, but what really caught my attention was the story behind it.

The Boneyard (Photo courtesy of Marjorie)

The Boneyard (Photo courtesy of Marjorie)

As we were told by our tour guide, the restaurant got its start when Mattie Jones, a recent widow, began selling lunches (and bootleg whiskey) out of her kitchen window to the men building the Hoover Dam.  Demonstrating that savings and investment is the true path to prosperity, Mattie was able to accumulate enough money to eventually open her own restaurant.  This simple entrepreneurial act, so common in years past, sounds like something out of fairy tale today.  I mean, kids can’t even sell lemonade to their neighbors anymore without getting shut down by cops.

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Because of the massive regulatory state that has been erected over the past several decades, it is nearly impossible for poor people to improve their condition through the type of initiative shown by Mrs. Jones.  As John Stossel puts it

Street vending has been a path out of poverty for Americans. And like other such paths (say, driving a taxi), this one is increasingly difficult to navigate. Why? Because entrenched interests don’t like competition. So they lobby their powerful friends to erect high hurdles to upstarts. It’s an old story.

Now, growing local governments are crushing street vendors.

The city of Atlanta, for example, has turned all street vending over to a monopoly contractor. In feudalist fashion, all existing vendors were told they must work for the monopoly or not vend at all.

“Vendors who used to paying $250 a year for their vending site must now hand over $500 to $1,600 every month for the privilege of working for the monopoly,” wrote Bob Ewing in The Freeman.

The arguments attempting to  justify these regulations usually rest on the tired canard that they are necessary in order for the government to ensure public safety.  These protectionist measures, often written by lobbyists solely for the benefit of their business interests, offer only a veneer of security but with no real substance.  As an example, my wife came down with a nasty case of  food poisoning during our rafting trip after partaking in a Vegas buffet.  This was not from some shady street vendor, but at a first class casino/hotel.  A number of our fellow rafters on the trip empathized with her situation because they had once gone through the same thing.  Why have so many people contracted food poisoning if the government is truly keeping us safe?

Fortunately, the internet is enabling an end-run around these stifling restrictions by providing people with a method by which to take part in the sharing economy.  From taxi services to teacher lesson plans to home restaurants, the sharing economy is transforming the ways in which people contract for services in the digital age.  ReasonTV has an excellent video series highlighting the pioneers who are inventing better methods for connecting customers to providers while the government and their cronies do their best to try and shut them down.  Governments hate progress.  They are forever trying to maintain and regulate the past while the market finds new ways to bring people together for mutual benefit.

I recommend watching all of the videos, but embedded below is the one that is most relevant to this discussion.  Maybe the next Mattie Jones will develop their skills and reputation though Eatwith and then use crowdfunding to raise the money for their own restaurant.  The potential of the this new technology is tremendously exciting.  Hopefully it isn’t crushed by the heavy hand of government.

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Contrasts

It is amazing to me that certain otherwise rational adults actually believe that the police are there to protect them and are willing to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the security of themselves or their loved ones.  They maintain this child-like delusion despite numerous court cases establishing that police have no duty to protect individuals.  Besides, when you call the police, you are basically just hoping that the violent thug that comes is less of a problem than the thug you called them to deal with – sometimes, this isn’t the case.   Even if all cops were angels and wanted nothing more than to protect you, what happens when they can’t get there in time or there are none of them to send?

Compare this story:

With this one…

…this one…

…. and this one (911 Audio):

You might be asking yourself, “Why are proponents of civilian disarmament so heartless?  Why do they believe a disarmed populace is the ideal when that invariably means that innocent people are left to the mercy of those stronger than them?”  I have some thoughts of my own, but let me know what yours are in the comments.

GMO – Government Mandated Obedience

A common criticism of free-market capitalism is the supposed tendency for large corporations to trend toward monopoly to the detriment of the consuming public.  To the contrary, Austrian school economists have shown that an enduring monopoly cannot possibly exist in a truly free market.  As long as there are no legislative barriers to entry, a privileged firm is always at risk of losing it’s position due to new entries into the field.  In reality, monopolies are formed through carefully crafted regulations or legislation that shields favored companies from competition and creates barriers to entry for newcomers.  As Murray Rothbard points out, the original definition of monopoly, as articulated by seventeenth-century jurist Lord Coke, is:

A monopoly is an institution or allowance by the king, by his grant, commission, or otherwise . . . to any person or persons, bodies politic or corporate, for the sole buying, selling, making, working, or using of anything, whereby any person or persons, bodies politic or corporate, are sought to be restrained of any freedom or liberty that they had before, or hindered in their lawful trade.”  – Man Economy and State, pg 668-669

Far from being the consumer’s advocate, government, itself a “monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area”*, is actually the great enabler of nefarious corporate interests.

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An example of this dynamic has recently been demonstrated when the president signed the Monsanto Protection Act in late March.  Monsanto, already the recipient of government-granted monopoly privileges (a.k.a. patents), has enhanced its favored position by successfully lobbying for protection from lawsuits related to its GMO seed products.   It’s a delicious irony that see those crunchy Obama supporters who have been sounding the alarm over GMOs, and are normally enthusiastic cheerleaders for government force, attempting to resolve the cognitive dissonance caused by this latest governmental overreach.

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Incidentally, there is a name for an economic system in which the “government administers a capitalist system with an immense bureaucracy” and “quasi-private companies enjoy vast privileges at our expense.”  See here.

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* Murray Rothbard, Anatomy of the State

Additional Reading:

Leaked cables reveal that US diplomats establish policy based on orders from Monsanto.

An Alarming Trend

Watch this short segment from the local Detroit TV news on concealed carry permit holders fighting back against crime.

Did you catch Stephen Clark’s opening comment?  “Alarming trend.”  Ha!  I suppose if you’re a criminal, you would find it alarming that people are refusing to be victims.  Hopefully it’s so alarming, would-be criminals will decide it’s in their best interest to find safer and more productive ways to make a living.

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But no, I know what’s really alarming.  It’s the observation that people have rightfully lost faith in the government to keep them safe.  They are not content to be defenseless sheep – they value their own lives, they value the lives of their family members, they value the lives of their friends and coworkers too highly for that.  What happens when people realize that they are honorable men and women worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – not cattle to be milked by street thugs or thugs wearing government costumes?  The illusion of government awesomeness is lifting and people are taking responsibility for their own destiny – that is what is truly “alarming” to a statist.

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Concealed Pistol License Holders in Michigan

Women and Guns

In my experience, a person’s thinking about firearms and their utility for self-defense can be radically altered in a couple of ways:

  1. Being inspired by the story of someone who refused to be a victim.  (Click the link for the story that did it for my mom).
  2. Being shaken from your idyllic worldview by either your own personal experience or that of someone else.

For me, it happened around 14-years-ago when a female friend of a family member was forced to stop on the side of the road and was subsequently attacked and killed by a man using his bare hands.  Upon hearing the story, I experienced a sudden moment of clarity and I realized that if she had a gun, she would have at least had a fighting chance and would likely have stopped the assault.

Having many women in my life that are extremely important to me, I felt compelled to do what I could to make sure they remained safe and able to defend themselves if the need ever arose.  I took it upon myself, with some help from a generous co-worker, to learn as much as I could about guns so that I would be able to introduce my friends and family to shooting sports.  My goal wasn’t to beat them over the head with it, but simply to provide an opportunity to try it out so that they could then make an informed decision on their own.  That said, a significant part of my strong support of gun rights comes from a desire to make sure my loved ones are well protected.

It is extremely frustrating to me that 70% of women support a ban on semi-automatic weapons and 56% support a ban on “high-capacity” magazines (CBS News, “Missing in Gun Debate: Female Gun Owners”).  I’ve already provided several reasons for these tools, one of which includes defense against multiple-assailants.  After reading Rebecca Solnit’s disturbing article, “A Rape a Minute, A Thousand Corpses a Year” I was reminded of a specific form of multiple-assailant attack that should be of particular concern to women.  The first paragraph alone should convince most skeptics that the fairer sex should be quite interested in carrying ample ammunition and having the means to deliver it as efficiently as possible.

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I suspect that most criminals know that the vast majority of women are anti-gun and are unlikely to provide armed resistance.  If this tendency were to shift, and would-be criminals suddenly began succumbing to acute lead poisoning, might that not provide a possible deterrent effect?  Clearly violence against women is a complex issue and I don’t want to imply that what I am proposing is a perfect solution.  The charming, witty, and armed blogger, Rebecca Hauptman, has an excellent article that probably does a better job of making my point than I have:

I’ve never been under the illusion that a gun is some kind of magical talisman that can be carried to ward off menacing attackers.  No amount of training, nor tools, nor mindset can deter all violence, all of the time.  The best we can hope for is a chance—an opportunity to run, a chance to call out for help, a moment to draw our weapon and fire a shot.  Why not employ all the tools at our disposal, and acquire as many skills, and as much knowledge as is available in order to improve that chance?

Get educated.  Investigate all of the resources you have access to.  And PLEASE don’t believe anyone who tells you that you don’t have a chance of defending yourself.

I’ve heard it said that a liberal is a conservative that hasn’t been mugged yet.  I would like to encourage my readers to be proactive and not wait until something terrible happens to start taking steps to protect yourselves.  If you aren’t yet at this stage in your thinking, that’s fine, but don’t deny those of us who are, the right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.

There are some tactical issues with the above video, and it’s a bit corny, but I still think it makes a good point – it’s good to have an Emergency Life Saving device available when you need it.

The Sorry State of Critical Thinking Skills

I’ve read plenty of poorly argued, sloppy, and misleading commentary related to gun control in the past few weeks, but this particular post managed to get me especially upset.  It’s not that it’s uniquely worse than anything else I’ve read, but after clicking the link, I was appalled to see that it had received over 90,000 likes as of this writing.  This is clearly a testament to the poor critical thinking skills displayed by the average American and reveals a desperate need for improved quality of thought among the general population.

First Point

Our author begins by doing some crack journalistic research in an attempt to refute the claim that Hitler sought to disarm the German people.  He states that, contrary to popular belief, Hitler “made it his position to enable guns to be obtained more easily.”  Let’s explore this claim by reviewing the Snopes.com article our author uses to support his position.  In the Snopes piece, we find the following quote attributed to Hitler:

The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms.  History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty.  So let’s not have any native militia or native police.

Seems pretty clear cut to me.  He clearly didn’t want “subject races” to be armed.  But wait, Snopes then goes on to say:

…Hitler was speaking of the need to disarm non-Aryans in the parts of Russia that had been occupied by German forces in the midst of a war, not of stripping all Germans of their guns.  (And it’s unlikely that Hitler would have expressed such a concept in this context, as the 1938 German weapons Act passed during Hitler’s rule actually loosened gun ownership rules for non-Jewish Germans.)

Hold on.  Did you catch that – he loosened gun ownership rules for NON-JEWISH Germans.  Remind me again, which category of ethnic people were murdered en masse by the Nazi government?  Could it be that our author’s own source refutes the point he is trying to make?

So how did the 1938 German Weapons law affect the Jewish people’s right to armed self-defense – you know, the people relevant to this discussion?  How about we take a look at the language of the law itself (translated from German, of course):

Regulations Against Jews’ Possession of Weapons

11 November 1938

With a basis in §31 of the Weapons Law of 18 March 1938 (Reichsgesetzblatt I, p.265), Article III of the Law on the Reunification of Austria with Germany of 13 March 1938 (Reichsgesetzblatt I, p. 237), and §9 of the Führer and Chancellor’s decree on the administration of the Sudeten-German districts of 1 October 1938 (Reichsgesetzblatt I, p 1331) are the following ordered:

§1
Jews (§5 of the First Regulations of the German Citizenship Law of 14 November 1935, Reichsgesetzblatt I, p. 1333) are prohibited from acquiring, possessing, and carrying firearms and ammunition, as well as truncheons or stabbing weapons.Those now possessing weapons and ammunition are at once to turn them over to the local police authority.

§2
Firearms and ammunition found in a Jew’s possession will be forfeited to the government without compensation.

§3
The Minister of the Interior may make exceptions to the Prohibition in §1 for Jews who are foreign nationals.  He can entrust other authorities with this power.

§4
Whoever willfully or negligently violates the provisions of §1 will be punished with imprisonment and a fine.  In especially severe cases of deliberate violations, the punishment is imprisonment in a penitentiary for up to five years.

§5
For the implementation of this regulation, the Minister of the Interior waives the necessary legal and administrative provisions.

§6
This regulation is valid in the state of Austria and in the Sudeten-German districts.

Berlin, 11 November 1938
Minister of the Interior
Frick

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Seems pretty clear to me – disarmament of the Jewish people preceded genocide.  And this is hardly an isolated case.  The Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership have a great chart highlighting eight other genocides that followed disarmament.  This huge oversight should probably be enough to thoroughly discredit Mr. Fielder, but I will hold my nose and continue wading through this rhetorical mess.

Second Point

Our author’s second point is obviously a critique of the NRA’s recent ad highlighting the Commander in Chief’s hypocrisy in accepting armed guards to protect his children while dismissing proposals to allow qualified people to carry in schools.  Our author states:

Secondly, the presidents, and I mean ALL of them, and their families, receive death threats on a daily basis. President Obama did not enact the regulations that REQUIRE Secret Service protection for him and his family. If you believe your children are as much of a target as the president’s children, then you have a self inflated idea of your position in this world.

I’ve seen plenty of unprincipled and fallacious arguments directed against this ad and this one one pretty representative.  Every time I see one of these arguments, it seems to be nothing more than a poorly-reasoned, knee-jerk reaction to very polarizing organization.  Obama’s children may indeed receive daily threats and be a greater target, however, this is completely irrelevant.  While the average child may be less of a target, it is quite obvious that their risk of being attacked while at a “gun-free” school is something greater than zero.  There have been far too many incidents at schools to honestly claim otherwise.  The purpose of the ad was not to deny the president’s children the privilege of armed protection, it was to point out that Obama himself has accepted the principle that the best way to protect his children is to have armed guards at the ready.  He accepts this tax-payer funded benefit while supporting gun-free-zone policies that prevent qualified parents, teachers, and administrators the ability to provide armed protection to their own children.  If he doesn’t like that he is required to accept this benefit, let him write an executive order exempting his family from it.  In the words of NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, “Whoever thinks the ad is about President Obama’s daughters are missing the point completely or they’re trying to change the subject.”

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I don’t have kids, but if I did, you better believe their safety would be every bit as important to me as the president’s are to him.  Every parent should feel that their child is the most precious thing on the planet.  This is not a “self inflated idea of your position in this world” – it’s called having your priorities in order.  My kids would not be less important than the progeny of whoever happens to inhabit Versailles the White House.  This is what it means to be a free man and not place yourself subordinate to pharaoh.  Clearly, people are angry that they are  legally prohibited from providing protection for their own children while at the same time being forced to pay for the Obama family’s security.  After all, it wasn’t Obama’s family that was attacked at Sandy Hook, it was the sons and daughters of mere proles that were the target that day.

Third Point

For his third point, our author boldly states, “there is NO law or bill being considered that would allow anyone to come marching into your home to take your legally obtained and legally owned firearms.”  Really?  Take a look at what the Democrats in New York were proposing :

Outright confiscation of “assault weapons.”
Outright confiscation of “ten round clips” (magazines).
–Establish a statewide database of all guns.
–Continue to allow gun permit holders’ names and addresses to be published by newspapers.
–Label semiautomatic shotguns with more than five rounds or pistol grips as “assault weapons.”
–Limit the number of rounds in a magazine to five and confiscate banned magazines that carry a larger number of rounds.
–Prevent citizens from owning more than two magazines.
–Prevent citizens from buying more than one gun per month.
–Re-license all current pistol permit holders.
–Require renewal of all pistol permits every five years.
–Pistol permits would have to be issued by the state and not local law enforcement.
–All guns in New York would be required to be micro-stamped.
–Ammunition dealers would have to be licensed.
–All gun owners would be required to keep their guns locked in their homes.
–A fee would be assessed for licensing and registering guns.

Granted, these measures did not make it into the bill the legislators voted on, however, it does clearly reveal the ultimate goal of the gun grabbers.  For example, a bill in Connecticut was proposed to make illegal the possession of any gun capable of firing more than one shot – de facto confiscation.  Several members of the ruling elite have made it very clear that their goal is complete civilian disarmamentThey have already succeeded in Chicago where disarming law-abiding people has proven to be such a spectacular failure that it is now safer to reside in a war zone than the Windy City.

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With his third point, our author also questions the logic of requiring registration of cars, but not guns.  Simply put, you do not have a Constitutionally guaranteed right to own a car – the analogy is invalid.  Also, besides the obvious problem of registration enabling future confiscation, you also have the issue of  journalists publishing names of gun owners and making them targets for burglaries.

Fourth Point

I’m not sure if our author is trying to deliberately mislead or if he really is as obtuse as he comes across.  In this paragraph, he attempts to do some myth-busting by revealing that more people are in fact killed by guns, rather than baseball bats, contrary to some unspecified internet meme he claims to have seen.  Not being privy to the picture he is citing, I can’t be sure what the problem is, however I strongly suspect it is a failure of reading comprehension – something Mr. Fielder clearly has an issue with.

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The point being made by some of the pictures I’ve seen going around is that the number of homicides in which a RIFLE of any type was used is much less than even hands and feet, let alone blunt objects.  Of course HANDGUNS are used in homicides far more often than anything else, however, as the current national discourse centers around instituting a ban on “assault” rifles, the purpose of the pictures is to highlight the fact that these types of weapons are extremely under-represented in crime statistics.  Going after rifles of any kind will hardly make even the smallest dent in violent crime, yet that is what is being targeted in various legislative proposals.

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The Rest…

The media is not hiding other gun related stories because they want to sensationalize the problem, they are simply unable to cover every gun death story because there would be an average of 80 of them each day. So they concentrate (unfortunately) on the massacres which I think we can all agree, happen all too often.

Would it be too much to ask that they highlight just a few of the 1 – 2 million instances when law-abiding citizens use guns to save themselves from violent assault?  The reality is, there is a very real bias against the reporting of defensive gun uses by ordinary citizens.  Shouldn’t people be informed about the positive uses and then be allowed to draw their own conclusion?  I find it amazing and appalling that there are actually people out there who don’t realize how many lives are saved every day because of guns.

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I find the fact that more children are killed in the US by guns than in the entire Middle East region, very disturbing.

Where to even start with this?  First of all, be very careful when talking about “child” deaths due to guns in the US.  These numbers are often highly skewed because “child” includes anyone under 18 and frequently includes teenagers engaging in gang-related violence.  Something tells me this is not the image Mr. Fielder had in mind when discussing “child” deaths.  Also, does our author lament those children in the Middle East who are blown up by high-explosives or disease/malnutrition due to infrastructure damage or is it just gun deaths he has a problem with?  What are the numbers if we include all causes?

I find it disturbing that the NRA blames the rise in violent shootings on video games and then comes out with its own shooting video game (categorized for children as young as 4 years of age) less than a month after Newtown.

Look, I don’t want to come off as an apologist for the NRA, but this is just ridiculously misleading.  Was the timing a bit off?  Perhaps.  However, we are not talking about a violent first-person shooter game a la “Call of Duty”.  The NRA game is nothing more than target shooting at a range.  Yes, the NRA has spoken out about VIOLENT video games, NOT video games in general.  I see nothing hypocritical in producing a NON-violent video game that teaches gun safety.  How exactly does target shooting, an Olympic sport, promote violence?  (For the record, I don’t even agree with the NRA that violent video games are to blame, but this apparent effort by Mr. Fielder to fabricate some sort of outrage is absurd.)

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iTunes Description of the NRA Game:
~★ SAFETY, TRAINING & EDUCATION ★~
NRA: Practice Range puts the National Rifle Association’s broad scope of resources in the palm of your hand – with 2nd Amendment newsfeeds, gun law information centers & educational materials you can access anywhere, anytime.
~★ TARGET PRACTICE ★~
NRA: Practice Range also offers a 3D shooting game that instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations. It strikes the right balance of gaming and safety education, allowing you to enjoy the most authentic experience possible.

If armed guards are the only answer to ending school shootings, then explain the VT shooting. Virginia Tech had an entire police department complete with a SWAT unit.  Explain Columbine, which had an armed officer on staff. When discussing an end to gun violence in schools, there should be NOTHING left off of the table.

This guy has a real knack for completely missing the point.  Police, with or without SWAT units, that are minutes away, are not as effective as armed resistance immediately provided at the scene.  Also, the Columbine officer was, in fact, able to return fire against Klebold and Harris allowing untold numbers of students time to escape.  Denying this man the credit he deserves for bravely saving lives just because it doesn’t fit your preferred narrative is disgraceful.  The only thing proven by the Columbine massacre is that having only one person with a gun may not be enough.

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No, armed guards are not the only answer.  However, having qualified people on hand with guns has proven to be very effective:

To quote our author, “Will it be a perfect solution?  No.  Will it help?  We’ll see.  Is it better than doing nothing? Definitely.”

There’s more, but this has already gone on long enough and I think I’ve made my point.  Besides, I refuse to dignify some of the remaining arguments with a response.  I would, however, like to add a final thought.  Any discussion of violence and its causes that begins with talk of gun-control as the primary solution displays nothing less than complete intellectual laziness.  The first step in problem solving is to ask, “What has changed?”  Semi-automatic rifles have been around for 128-years.  The AR-15 has been in production for 50-years.  This technology is clearly not the new variable.  An examination of gun violence that does not include any of the following should probably be immediately dismissed as a juvenile analysis not worthy of a grade-school writing assignment:

  1. The life-saving uses of guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens.
  2. Psychiatric drugs.
  3. The drug war.
  4. The breakdown of the family due to the perverse incentives institutionalized by the proliferation of the welfare state.
  5. Our militaristic society.

Guns are not a cause of violence.  No one picks up a gun and suddenly becomes a homicidal maniac.  Something caused them to want to initiate violence against others, for which they may or may not have chosen a gun as their preferred tool.  We need to address the “somethings” and stop chasing red herrings.

What’s in a Name?

I find it interesting that some in the anti-gun crowd are attempting to change the label assigned to AR-15 pattern rifles from “assault weapons” to “weapons of war*.”  As AmidsTheNoise eloquently explains in the video below, this is no accident.

But this shift in terminology, perhaps inadvertently, highlights an important point.  Our country has been at war continuously for over 11 years.  We now have an entire generation of kids who are coming of age barely having known anything else.  These kids have grown up being indoctrinated in the morality of “preventive war” – what people in previous generations would have called “aggressive war”.  We have taught an entire generation of kids that turning to violence is a legitimate first step in resolving disputes.  We glorify the state.  We glorify the troops.  We glorify war.  Why would we be surprised that people of this generation would use “weapons of war” to glorify themselves?

This is the society that those who believe in the unquestionable righteousness of the state have built.  As has been the virtually uninterrupted pattern throughout our history, proposals to fix problems caused by entrusting too much power to the state all center around further expansion of state power!  Of course, expansion of state power always comes at the expense of personal liberty.

A great misconception exists that tyranny always comes fully formed and ready to enslave a population.  In fact, this is almost never the case.  Rather, it arrives in step-wise fashion and is often only recognized when it is too late.

*Personally, I propose we start calling them “Emergency Life-Saving Devices.”