Monday, December 31, 2012

Very Auspicious

The elusive white squirrel of Yonges Island, South Carolina, crossed my path this New Year's Eve, then stopped to let me capture his picture with the iPhone camera. I would say, a very auspicious sign for the future.

A New Year's Eve Toast

Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.
~William Shakespeare

Being armed means being responsible

Ta-Nehisi Coates, of The Atlantic, writes:
It is not enough to have a gun, anymore than it's enough to have a baby. It's a responsibility. I would have to orient myself to that fact. I'd have to be trained and I would have to, with some regularity, keep up my shooting skills. I would have to think about the weight I carried on my hip and think about how people might respond to me should they happen to notice. I would have to think about the cops and how I would interact with them, should we come into contact. I'd have to think about my own anger issues and remember that I can never be an position where I have a rage black-out. What I am saying is, if I were gun-owner, I would feel it to be really important that I be a responsible gun-owner, just like, when our kids were born, we both felt the need to be responsible parents. The difference is I like "living" as a parent. I accept the responsibility and rewards of parenting. I don't really want the responsibilities and rewards of gun-ownership.
I think it would be wise for Second Amendment defenders to remember this attitude. Not everyone wants to carry a weapon, and they should not be pressured to do so. Those who want to own firearms should also not be pressured not to have them. Ideally, every gun owner should take this responsibility as seriously as Mr. Coates. I think that it is the fear of people like Mr. Coates that gun owners do not take it as seriously as he does. Gun owners should remain the calm and balanced voice in the debate in order to help show the skeptics they have nothing to worry about. One way to do this is not to assume that everyone should want to carry a weapon.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

a response to comments on Taking Away the Element of Surprise

Recently the American Thinker published my essay Taking Away the Element of Surprise (also seen in a December 26 post below) which advocated encouraging unarmed volunteers to provide ad hoc patrols in their children’s schools. To say the suggestion was negatively received would be an understatement. I would like to respond to some of the comments.

The essay laid out two necessary elements to a successful school shooting. First, the attacker must have a weapon – in this case, a gun is the weapon on all of our minds. Second, in order to carry out an attack, the shooter must employ some element of surprise. Shooters therefore pick unsuspecting targets – in this case, a school is the location. You may not agree that an attack requires these two elements – that would be a fair response, but many commenters ignored the point of the essay, which was to specifically focus on reducing the element of surprise.

The essay began by advocating that communities consider arming school personnel as one response to the problem, but also acknowledged that implementing this will necessarily take time and money, and it will not come without major controversy. In response to Newtown, restrictive gun control legislation is already in the making, and some “Republican” leaders only provide ammunition to gun control advocates. For instance, Chris Christie said “armed guards are not conducive to a positive learning environment.” Incoming GOP Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah reiterated some of the same points, calling arming teachers a “bad idea.” Some schools already provide this protection – Sidwell Friends is attended by children of elite political and media figures, and some community leaders are taking action on their own – Sheriff Arpaio is set to send out his armed volunteer force to protect the schools of Maricopa County in Arizona. But for most communities, the obstacles that must be overcome in an effort to arm our school personnel are real and substantial. In the meantime, children remain less protected while we argue about only one possible response.

The volunteer patrol is a complement to all other security measures. It is not intended to be a substitute for any other safety plan a community wishes to put in place, which leads to the next point – it absolutely is a local solution. It is not intended to be a nationalized mandate, which should be rejected by any respectable states’ rights advocate. This is an action that encourages communities to work together without government intervention – this is the essence of conservatism, and according to Thomas Jefferson, would be a model for communities to embrace: “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.”

The volunteer patrol merely transplants the idea of a duty officer to the school setting. A duty officer is responsible for making rounds and keeping out a watchful eye – he is not expected to perform any other major tasks while on duty. Recently, a former Marine took this idea to heart when he stood watch at his children’s school in Nashville. The volunteer patrol captures the spirit of that Marine parent, and of every other parent who wants to do something constructive to help ensure the safety of their children. It’s true, parents already do an incredible amount to support their children’s schools, but this volunteer duty might be something even more willingly assumed than chairing the next fundraiser. Additionally, volunteering at school frequently involves duties that moms are more comfortable with, but the patrol provides more opportunities for dads to get involved.

Teachers are in the business of education, and they do that best when they are fully engaged with their students. If they are doing their educator job well, they will not be able to watch for attackers stalking their halls. They may have their gun ready, but the effective use of it will be diminished if they also do not have some warning that they will need to use it. With adequate warning time, even those who do not have a gun will have more of a chance to avoid being a sitting duck.

To make abundantly clear that warning time is important, we need only look at the latest shooting in Newtown. Teachers were only alerted that an attacker was on the premises when he had already shot out the window and successfully entered the school. When teachers ran to see what the noise was, they only had time to yell, “Shooter! Stay put!” before they were fatally shot. Had they had as little as a few seconds notice that a person with an AR-15 was walking through the parking lot, they might have been able to do more to minimize the damage. The PA in the school office was somehow left on, so others in the school did hear the attack, but it still took them a few moments to realize an attack was in progress. Would an armed guard have been able to do more to stop this attacker? Probably yes, but only if he saw the shooter first – even an armed individual needs notice of the threat to have maximum effectiveness.

Parents who might be interested in volunteering for a patrol shouldn’t be characterized as hapless middle aged individuals who will pay more attention to their latte than to their job. The people who would volunteer are interested in their children’s safety and will take this job seriously. The idea that somehow a volunteer patrol has to have Rambo-like capabilities to do any good also isn’t true. Here, I am reminded of Sarah Palin’s joke – the only difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom? Lipstick. Mama bears are formidable forces. The volunteer patrol only requires a person to have the ability to see, and work a cell phone or walkie-talkie. These physical capabilities are widely found in the general population.

Other possible problems with volunteer patrols can be reduced by ensuring the patrol is composed of two members. The two person team will help to keep each member alert and in check (avoiding a situation where an overzealous volunteer creates problems), to enable efficient communication (one can call the front office, one can dial 911), and to provide more structural support to carry out safety plans (in case a shooter was able to take one person out, the other one can still function).  

Further, these volunteers would be very aware that they could become targets. That is a feature, not a bug. While physical interruption of the attack is ideal, simply being able to sound the alarm at the earliest possible moment can be essential in minimizing lives lost. I don’t doubt a shooter would have no reservations about shooting someone in the parking lot before entering the school, but isn’t that better than only being noticed once inside?

Finally, the slippery slope works both ways. I was surprised that no commenter was able to see the possibilities of taking incremental steps toward a goal – the exact same techniques liberals have used against us for years. Once unarmed patrols are in place and working, and become a trusted and expected part of school life, arming them is not far behind – which should ultimately be a community decision. Unarmed patrols could provide the right level of deterrence to future violence, or they could convince a community that more force is necessary.

There is value in finding mutually agreeable solutions to disturbing problems, and unfortunately crisis does indeed give us the opportunity to evaluate new ideas. Tocqueville said, “I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all.” I hope that this is not one of those times.

Milton Friedman - Socialism is Force

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Liberals acknowledge the existence of the low information voter

Hollywood director, Oliver Stone, and historian, Peter Kuznick, are promoting a group of historical films they have completed. Even liberals are disappointed in Obama, and acknowledge there is a problem with the low information voter:
Peter Kuznick: And the other side of what you are asking is about the constraints upon political discourse in this country. Why are people so uninformed? That is what we are to deal with in the series. If people don’t understand their history, then they don’t have any vision of the future and what is possible. If they think what exists now – the tyranny of now – is all that is possible, then they can’t dream about the future. They can’t imagine the future that is different from the present. That is what I am saying – people have to understand the past because if you study the past then you can envision a future that is very different....
Oliver Stone:  And they ask us what are you talking about? History? What does it have to do with today? What is your point? We sit there very patiently and it is very bizarre to me that they say the past is prologue, that is all happened before and if we are smart you will see it more calmly and won’t overreact. We also argue that this kind of media is driven by dollars, the greed. You have a show and it is really not a news show, it is about rating and how you can get that – with a lot of speed, a lot of zoom and a lot of fancy sets and people watch. Goal is to keep it moving, don’t think, just keep it moving.

Milton Friedman on Slavery and Colonization

Friday, December 28, 2012

"The Second Amendment is not about Bambi and burglars . . . ."

One of the most straightforward and honest defenses of the Second Amendment I have seen:
The purpose of having citizens armed with paramilitary weapons is to allow them to engage in paramilitary actions. The Second Amendment is not about Bambi and burglars — whatever a well-regulated militia is, it is not a hunting party or a sport-clays club. It is remarkable to me that any educated person — let alone a Harvard Law graduate — believes that the second item on the Bill of Rights is a constitutional guarantee of enjoying a recreational activity.
There is no legitimate exception to the Second Amendment for military-style weapons, because military-style weapons are precisely what the Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear. The purpose of the Second Amendment is to secure our ability to oppose enemies foreign and domestic, a guarantee against disorder and tyranny.
We continue to allow the wrong questions to be asked - "why does anyone need a weapon like that?" Well, on second thought, maybe it is the right question - a weapon like that is needed in defense of the original intent of the Second Amendment - which is to say that firearms are "the peoples' liberty's teeth," according to George Washington. But, what does he know anyway?

Sheriff Arpaio to deploy armed volunteer posse

In Arizona, "Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Thursday that he plans to deploy his armed volunteer posse to protect Valley schools from the kind of violence that happened in the Connecticut shooting tragedy.  Arpaio believes having armed law officers around schools will deter would-be criminals from trying anything violent and, possibly, stop them if they do.

"'I have the authority to mobilize private citizens and fight crime in this county,' Arpaio said."

Milton Friedman - The Free Lunch Myth

Milton Friedman explains how only people can be taxed, and it is a myth to say that business tax does not affect the individual. Friedman quotes Bastiat as well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

7. Bastiat ~ Victims of Lawful Plunder

Frederic Bastiat was a French economist and statesman. During and after the Revolution in 1848, he warned of the inevitable degeneration of socialism into communism in The LawPrevious Bastiat posts can be found here.
From The Law

Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter — by peaceful or revolutionary means — into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it.

Woe to the nation when this latter purpose prevails among the mass victims of lawful plunder when they, in turn, seize the power to make laws! Until that happens, the few practice lawful plunder upon the many, a common practice where the right to participate in the making of law is limited to a few persons. But then, participation in the making of law becomes universal. And then, men seek to balance their conflicting interests by universal plunder. Instead of rooting out the injustices found in society, they make these injustices general. 

As soon as the plundered classes gain political power, they establish a system of reprisals against other classes. They do not abolish legal plunder. (This objective would demand more enlightenment than they possess.) Instead, they emulate their evil predecessors by participating in this legal plunder, even though it is against their own interests.

It is as if it were necessary, before a reign of justice appears, for everyone to suffer a cruel retribution — some for their evilness, and some for their lack of understanding.

Take away the element of surprise

The much maligned Wayne LaPierre, president of the NRA, said, "The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun." Unfortunately, this is mostly true, as these sprees tend to end only when police arrive -- the shooter takes his own life, or the police do. Still, the idea of armed security at schools is one that should be considered. In fact, there are some schools that already have this in place. However, having armed security at schools is controversial, and even if approved, implementing this will take time and money. Further, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said these measures are "not conducive to a positive learning environment." 

But what about watch dogs? Schools already employ lots of security measures: locked doors requiring visitors to buzz in, scanning of drivers' licenses, wearing name tags, checking into the front office upon arrival and departure. It appears that Sandy Hook Elementary had many of these procedures in place. Instead of complying with protocol, the shooter gained entry after shooting out a window. It was only that commotion that alerted the front office to jump into action, which they bravely did. If they had had just a few seconds more notice of the shooter, even unarmed, they likely would have been better able to deal with the situation.

This awareness, which will provide a jump on the bad guys, is arguably even more important than being armed with a similar weapon. These shooters rely on two things: possessing a weapon that cannot be met with like force, and something which seems to have been overlooked -- the element of surprise.

While we can debate how to meet force with force, or banning the force altogether, it should be not be controversial to agree that eliminating the element of surprise can be easily implemented and requires little to no money. It calls for parents or community volunteers to organize roaming unarmed patrols during school hours. Parents clamor for opportunities to help out at school -- you will see them in the front office, in the classrooms, putting together fundraisers and teacher appreciation days. It's not far-fetched to believe that they would also be strongly supportive of a parent patrol.

These patrols could be comprised of volunteers who have had some type of security awareness training -- police departments put these on all over the country. Perhaps there is one already that can serve as a model specific to school security. Parents could spend a few hours and certify on a Saturday morning. A background check should be incorporated, which cost might be borne by the volunteer. Once cleared and certified to become a patrol member, these parents organize into patrols, perhaps through the PTA, and commit to however much time they have to be present at the school for a few hours during the school day. 
Some parents may be able to come frequently, others maybe only once a month. Others may not be able to come at all, but those parents are still frequently involved in other school supportive activities.

The purpose of the patrols is strictly for awareness. They would be serving as a lookout for the school, allowing teachers and students to enjoy the day of learning, instead of having to be hypervigilant about each shadow that passes in front of their classroom door. Removing the element of surprise from these shooters is an essential factor in defeating their ability to harm unsuspecting innocents.

Here's how the patrol might work: A two parent team walks the grounds during school hours. They pay particular attention to entry points on the grounds. They survey the parking lot. (Perhaps a lookout could be stationed permanently in the parking lot to prevent an intruder from simply driving in.) They have the ability to observe those who approach the school. They can alert emergency services and begin safety plans before an intruder gains entry to the school. If an intruder does gain entry to the school, they are already in the mindset to put a safety plan into action -- directing students to safe areas, perhaps even providing distractions or obstacles to the shooter in certain circumstances, although they should never be expected to personally confront the shooter, only to sound the alarm. Some may be comfortable in direct confrontation, but that would not be the purpose of the patrol.

The patrol can be more extensive and refined. There can be more than one patrol, particularly depending on the size of the school, and a patrol could consist of only one person, though two is probably better for communication and safety purposes. The patrols would carry their own cell phones, or an inexpensive walkie-talkie system would help keep them in touch with the front office. Schools would review safety plans with the patrols in mind, perhaps in conjunction with law enforcement, and run through scenarios that incorporate the capabilities of the patrols.

These measures would be valuable in both dealing with an actual attack, but also in providing a deterrent effect. By making a place, such as a school, much less of a soft target, potential attackers will have more factors to consider in carrying out their plans. Law enforcement often reminds us to make ourselves less of a target to prevent crime. This same concept applies to protecting our schools, and it can be done without having to settle the gun control debate -- which seems to be more about scoring political points than protecting our children. The patrols would provide added protection against any type of attack -- not just one where someone approaches with a gun.

Volunteer patrols are one thing, aside from a teacher with a gun, that may have stopped the atrocity at Sandy Hook. Had someone seen the shooter approaching the school, a safety plan could have been launched a few seconds earlier. Announcements could have been sent out over the PA to lockdown the classrooms, or get to a safe place -- the simple knowledge that an intruder was on the premises would have given teachers a precious few seconds to secure their students. The teachers in the front office would have known to secure their area (and maybe given them time to grab their guns if allowing teachers concealed carry was something the community decided to do). Most importantly, stripping the shooter of the essential element of surprise would have severely crippled his ability to be successful.

This plan calls for minimal cost, but maximum community support. These days, everything seems to be reduced to the level of cost benefit analysis. This plan presents an excellent ratio in favor of implementation. The costs are minimal and it is less prone to having a downside than having armed security at schools. There is little harm that can come from having an unarmed attentive parent on school grounds whose sole purpose is to watch for dangerous people trying to enter the school. Certainly it is not a foolproof plan to protect the children, but it goes a long way toward removing the essential element of surprise in these attacks, and it does so in such a way that avoids additional violence.

Today's horoscope for Capricorn

December 26, 2012
There can be nice opportunities now and in the coming week to make long-lasting connections, dear Capricorn, or to make changes to your friendships and group associations that benefit you for some time to come. It's a time for making solid plans for your future. Opportunities to express yourself, promote an idea, or to push a project can arise. The ability to take charge is noticed by others, so some of you could assume a leadership role in a group or business project.
 Creativity: Good ~ Love: Excellent ~ Business: Excellent

Comparison with its symbol, the Goat: Goats are "agile animals" and "surefooted"(1). They are "gregarious, except for old bucks, which tend to live by themselves" (2) . Goats are considered to be rather hardy animals. Capricorn is most often compared to the mountain goat. Capricorns are thought to be loners at heart, with introverted characters. Mountain goats find security in cliffs and heights--the highest Capricorn Glyph Symbol places that can be climbed. Slowly but surely, a goat climbs the mountain. And, Capricorns are thought to move through life, achieving success slowly but surely. A large measure of strength of character is also associated with Capricorn.
The glyph for Capricorn is a little more intricate than most. The V is thought to depict the goat's beard; and the tail is that of a fish (Capricorn, in ancient times, was associated with the sea-goat).

Muhammed Ali
Ricky Henderson
Gabby Douglas
Drew Brees
Tiger Woods
Sir Alex Ferguson
Howard Hughes
Napoleon Bonaparte
Martin Luther King Jr.
Alexander Hamilton
Humphrey Bogart 
Eartha Kitt
Elvis Presley
Kidd Rock
Bradley Cooper
Denzel Washington
Robert E. Lee
Paul Revere
Barry Goldwater
Rand Paul
Ava Garner
Marlene Dietrich
Khalil Gibran
Rudyard Kipling
Jack London
Edgar Allen Poe
J.R.R. Tolkien
Stephen Hawking
Isaac Newton

Sunday, December 23, 2012

6. Bastiat ~ Property and Plunder

Frederic Bastiat was a French economist and statesman. During and after the Revolution in 1848, he warned of the inevitable degeneration of socialism into communism in The LawPrevious Bastiat posts can be found here.

From The Law
Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.

But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.

Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain — and since labor is pain in itself — it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.

When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.

It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.
But, generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who make the laws.

This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.

Fascinating pictures of the now demolished Kowloon City

Once thought to be the most densely populated place on Earth, with 50,000 people crammed into only a few blocks, these fascinating pictures give a rare insight into the lives of those who lived Kowloon Walled City.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The end of our world

From the Diplomad 2.0:
Let's give this to the Mayans. They might not have nailed the exact date for the end of the world, but weren't too far off on the date for the end of our world, you know, that quaint old world in which individual freedom, responsibility, and initiative were prized and exalted. I'd say that date was, more or less, November 6. A Tuesday, I believe. That was the date that the greatest country that has ever existed made it official: it no longer wanted to be great. It preferred to live in a world of illusion, governed by crooks, liars, mountebanks, and hustlers. In other words, the spirit of Chicago City Hall defeated that of Faneuil Hall.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Marine To Be Released From Mexican Jail Friday

Former active duty Marine, John Hammer, has been in Mexican jail since August, on a trumped up customs violation. Looks like he'll be getting out today.

The Lie about Assault Weapons

Here is an excellent video explaining automatic and semi-automatic technology, and discussing the difficulties of defining "assault" weapons. The video shows the technology remains the same, even if the appearance of the weapon changes from "sport" to "assault." So you have to ask, what will a ban on assault weapons do? It will simply ban the appearance of the weapon, and if that isn't the ultimate deception sold to the American people, then I don't know what is. They will use semantics to pass a law and the actual "killing" technology will never change.

The New Post Racial Era

What this really seems to mean is "reverse racism" if we take racism to be something only whites have the power to do. Who's The Man now?

Victor Davis Hansen: Unchecked racial tribalism

Obama, during the campaign, brilliantly -- and cynically -- targeted particular hyphenated voting groups on the basis of their race and ethnicity -- on the assumption that such voters could be loosely united by opposition to a purported uncaring and shrinking conservative establishment. After the election, the Obama campaign asked its supporters to complete a survey that included a checklist with racial identifications -- with white omitted.
There is a growing danger in this latest round of racial tribalism. Stirring up the pot for short-term political gain in a multiracial society is abjectly insane.
If the new racialism grows unchecked, it will eventually lead to cycles of backlash and counter-backlash -- and some day to something like the Balkans or Rwanda.
People are just people. But they can turn into veritable monsters when -- as a great American once warned -- they look to the color of our skin rather than the content of our character.