A Little Winter Fell on My Patch of Wilderness

I don't own any wilderness to speak of, but wherever I am I find some to befriend. Here it was today.

A Former KGB Officer on Ideological Subversion

Note the date on this is fully thirty years ago, at which time he felt that the first stage -- demoralization -- was complete. Consider how far we've come since then in running down America, its Founders and its Constitution, as an aspirational ideal.

This was the official plan of the KGB, and one that they used effectively in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s. (Also in Asia.) Why didn't it work here? Possibly because the Soviet Union collapsed, and so the professionals behind the program weren't there to leverage and guide the moment of crisis when it finally came. The Marxist-influenced intellectuals actually became in charge, rather than being shot against the wall and replaced with professionals.

But also possibly because the crisis was never great enough to overcome the American capacity for force. You couldn't roll tanks into America like you did in Czechoslovakia, and the country was always too big, too spread out, and too well armed to rule with a secret police. We can't even manage to get people to stop selling each other drugs, let alone effect totalitarianism.

In any case, this was the plan, and it failed. We still have to deal with the effects of the demoralization, however. It remains a huge problem for our country that the young have -- for what is now four generations -- been half-educated to despise its ideals and their own history. Recovering a natural patriotism and a proper admiration for the ideals of human liberty remains a major part of the work to be done.

There's a much longer interview with the same man here, for those who want to learn more.

The Seventh Century Lives

A genetic study of Britain shows that Britons still live in the same places as their ancient kingdoms of 600 AD.
In fact, a map showing tribes of Britain in 600AD is almost identical to a new chart showing genetic variability throughout the UK, suggesting that local communities have stayed put for the past 1415 years.
Interesting. That does not hold for the United States.

The Texas Plan

Wow, Tex. Your governor really gets it.
Here, per the document, are the nine constitutional amendments Abbott is backing:
I. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.

II. Require Congress to balance its budget.

III. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.

IV. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.

V. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

VI. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.

VII. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.

VIII. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.

IX. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.

No Offensive Lingo Allowed!

The next logical step in purging New Orleans of offensive speech has arrived:
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu should explain why anti-abortion banners festoon the St. Charles Avenue neutral ground, since he has decided to be the arbiter of what symbols are so offensive that they must be removed from public property, City Councilwoman Stacy Head said at a recent meeting....

As a woman, Head said, she feels like the banners are a nuisance since they "negatively influence the perception of my civil liberties as a woman. I believe I'm being discriminated against." ...

"We are looking to the admin to decide which objects and symbols are appropriate for the city on city property. Which ones offend us. Which ones are negative," Head said. As a woman, it offends her to have to drive by them and be reminded of the oppression, she said. Does that give her standing to call for their removal?

Head called the banners "political signage for a particular position that I perceive as a nuisance. I perceive it as offensive. I do not see it is a promoting awareness."
I'm really not sure if she seriously thinks he should pick up this responsibility and run with it, or if she's chiding him for having 'decided to be the arbiter of what symbols are so offensive that they must be removed from public property.' The latter would be a clever argument: the mayor has definitely opened himself up to a nest of legal issues.

Hillary for Prison Update

This one's going to be hard to wave away.
In a thread from June 2011, Hillary exchanges e-mails with Jake Sullivan, then her deputy chief of staff and now her campaign foreign-policy adviser, in which she impatiently waits for a set of talking points. When Sullivan tells her that the source is having trouble with the secure fax, Hillary then orders Sullivan to have the data stripped of its markings and sent through a non-secure channel.

That should be game, set, and match, yes?
There's still time to get your signs.

Lone Wolf in Eric Blair's Backyard?

The officer did well:
Hartnett was shot in the arm multiple times after 13 shots were fired into the vehicle. He was able to return fire and hit the suspect, 30-year-old Edward Archer, who has survived. Police are now confirming the situation as a terrorism investigation and have revealed the suspect admitted to carrying out the shooting in the name of Islam after pledging loyalty to ISIS.

"He [the suspect] said he did it for his religious beliefs," police officials said Friday in a press conference.
I see via Instapundit that the weapon used by the terrorist was a stolen police firearm.

Judgment and Prejudice

On the one hand, it's good that the Germans have accepted responsibility for the Nazi movement and are now reflexively opposed to prejudice.
Anti-Islam demonstrators were outnumbered by 10 to one in Cologne tonight as the city’s famous cathedral turned out its lights in a symbolic protest against the Pegida movement.

The so-called “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the West” (Pegida) had planned to hold a march there following weekly rallies in Dresden but only 250 supporters showed up, compared to more than 2,000 counter-demonstrators.

They lined the Cologne’s largest bridge as the cathedral stood in darkness, holding placards reading "refugees welcome", "I heart immigration" and "no Nazis here".
On the other hand, prejudice is "pre-judgment," and being opposed to pre-judging someone or something should not require you to suspend post-judgment in the face of evidence. In the wake of an attack by more than a thousand Muslim refugees on German women, and the confession by police to victims that they cannot guarantee women's safety and that women should thus avoid the city center, it's not prejudice to oppose taking new refugees. It's not prejudice, but appropriate and rational judgment, to assert that this culture is not compatible with your values and that you don't want it in your country.

The inability to make considered, rational judgments because of a fear of prejudice is a category error. That is a quite serious philosophical mistake. It is perfectly possible to avoid prejudice without suspending one's faculty of judgment permanently. For example, you could elect to accept people who are Muslims and refugees if and only if they as individuals embrace your values. Some do, and some don't, and yes that may mean breaking up families in terms of whom you accept.

Normally we wouldn't want to do that on principle -- which, by the way, is another way of saying that we have pre-judged these situations have have a pre-judgment, a principle, we reflexively apply. Having principles is also a kind of prejudice, a pre-judgment. Sometimes principles have to be set aside based on the facts that make the cases unusual. In this case rational judgment may suggest it:
The horrifying story of an “honor killing” in Germany spotlights the sheer madness of importing millions of unvetted, unassimilated migrants.

The victim, a 20-year-old woman known as “Rokstan M,” is one refugee who had a strong case for asylum. She was gang-raped in Syria, emigrated to Germany two years ago, and found employment with the German government as a translator.

However, she strongly suspected her family wanted her dead for being “unclean,” and her suspicions appear to have been confirmed, as the German police believe her father and brothers slaughtered her with knives and buried her body in a garden, allegedly at the instruction of her mother.
Normally we wouldn't want to break up families. Here's a case in which it would have been a good thing for her to be separated from her mother and father and brother. She would have fit into German society quite well. They will never.

That's not prejudice, it's the judgment of reason applied to the truth of the facts.

ISIS Kills Female Journalist

Not for being female, but for being a journalist. A good one -- the kind who perform a true service to civilization.

A Second Exchange

As a point of rhetoric, it's interesting that CNN set this up the way they did. They could have chosen another crime victim who would have been less sympathetic, which would give the President an easier out. Instead, they put him in the position of having to affirm her right to keep and bear arms, and to clarify that he does not intend to do anything that would make it harder for her to own a firearm.

That may or may not be true -- it may simply be that he has no capacity at the moment to do anything that would make it harder for her to own a firearm, but that he would be happy to create the "Australia style" rules he has referred to several times as his ideal if he only had the power. That seems likely to me. Still, it is an interesting moment. Imagine how it must sound to a gun-banning progressive: do they see it as merely useful rhetoric to get the camel's nose under the tent, or are they appalled to see him surrender the basic concept that firearms in the hands of citizens are a basic right that is justified by the need to defend against things like criminal violence?

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in California, a whole new list of handguns are now illegal... but that's not the President's proposal.

UPDATE: Congress may be sending him a test for this. Why shouldn't DC recognize the concealed carry permits of the states, if as he says he's not opposed to law-abiding citizens like her using firearms for the purpose of protecting themselves and their families?

UPDATE: Commentary's Noah Rothman says that this exchange, taken together with the Clinton email, the terrorist attack in Philly, and another plotted by refugees just arrested, makes it a very bad day for the narrative.

Chris Kyle's Widow Takes on the President

It's a pretty amazing exchange, and one that speaks well of our country at this late date.

She says you 'can't outlaw murder,' which of course is misspoken somewhat: murder is outlawed in all fifty states. Still, when addressing someone as prominent as the President of the United States, it's not surprising if you get nervous and don't speak as clearly as you would at your dinner table. To his credit, the President did not pretend to misunderstand her for rhetorical advantage.

He does say something I think needs clarification:
"[W]hat you said about murder rates and violent crime generally is something we don’t celebrate enough,” he agreed. “The fact of the matter is that violent crime has been steadily declining across America for a pretty long time. And you wouldn’t always know it from watching television. Now, I challenge the notion that the reason for that is that there is more gun ownership. Because if you look at the where the areas are with the highest gun ownership, those are the places that the crime hasn’t dropped down that much."
I'm not sure if this statement is false, or if he's just thinking of 'the areas' at a specific level where it happens to hold true statistically. What I think is true is that gun ownership rates have declined somewhat in spite of a vast increase of real numbers of firearms, which is to say that somewhat fewer people own many more guns. These people are the sort of people who have wealth to invest in durable goods they don't require for survival. By that I mean that once you have about three guns, if you chose carefully, you've covered your bases: a rifle for distance shooting including hunting, a shotgun for small game or home defense, and a handgun to fight your way back to the longarms. If you buy more than that, it's because you like or collect the things, or participate in sports involving specialized arms, or something similar.

So, if 'the areas' means 'areas where middle to upper-middle class households with money to invest in guns,' I don't think it's true that the crime rate is especially high in those areas. If it hasn't declined much, it's only because those areas are small ball for violent crime in the first place.

Still, maybe he means something else. It'd be helpful if he would expand and clarify these remarks, because I'm not sure what he's getting at. The decline since 1993 or so is so sharp -- we're talking about a halving of violent crime -- that it would be really strange to find many places where crime 'hasn't dropped down that much.' The ones that come to mind are the poorer regions of cities like Chicago, which have robust gun control laws but also serious poverty, drugs, and gang problems. Those aren't the people who accounted for the vast increase in private firearms that these two are discussing.

Yay For White Privilege!

The Baltimore Sun publishes a piece by a woman whose judgment is... remarkable.
I'm less afraid of the criminals wielding guns in Baltimore, I declared as we discussed the issue, than I am by those permitted gun owners. I know how to stay out of the line of Baltimore's illegal gunfire; I have the luxury of being white and middle class in a largely segregated city that reserves most of its shootings for poor, black neighborhoods overtaken by "the game."
So... segregation is a good thing now, from the white liberal perspective? 'You know, I'm not endorsing it, but it does keep me safe...'

Also, by the way since her framing story happens in Florida: those permitted gun owners in Florida are extremely well-behaved.
“Since 1987, the state of Florida has issued 2.5 million concealed-carry permits,” Raso says in his latest opinion piece for the NRA News network. “Of those, only 168 people have committed firearms crimes. That’s .00672 percent of the total amount issued.”*
It's not a bad idea to discuss gun safety with the parents of your children's friends, of course. You can make an informed judgment about whether you want your kids playing with them based on the outcomes of those conversations. What she wants instead is universal gun registration worked into a "searchable database" that would identify gun owners for her convenience -- or that of criminals who want to steal guns, or government officials who want to round them up. That's a much less reasonable proposal.

Marjah Update

Former SEAL Congressman demands answers on how our forces got trapped in Marjah for hours without relief.

Happy Birthday

NYT Writers on Property and the West

First of all, you don't really own anything, so get that out of your heads.
An idea common among conservatives — and surely an assumption of the protesters in Oregon — is that the past fully explains private property. For example, perhaps you paid for your phone or were given it as a gift. That’s why you are entitled to it. So in general we might say that if you paid for something or were given something, then you are entitled to it.

But is that true? Suppose I steal your car and sell it to my friend Dugald. Is Dugald entitled to the car because he paid for it? You probably want to say “no.” Buying something doesn’t give you entitlement unless the seller was entitled to the thing first. So a transfer of property from one person to another is rendered illegitimate if the seller got the property through unjust means.

But now think back to your smartphone. What are the chances that the money you used to buy your phone can be traced backward through your employer, your employer’s customers, and so on back through history without passing through the hands of a serious injustice? Slim to none. The same can be said for the seller’s side of the transaction. Chances are excellent that your phone arrived in your hand only after the exploitation of workers, abuse of the environment, theft, fraud, human trafficking, or any number of deal-breaking injustices....

So despite its appeal to conservatives, the idea that history alone explains private property is hard to make good on. On this theory, the mere fact that we were given things or paid for things won’t determine whether we are entitled to those things. At worst the historical theory implies that no one is entitled to any private property. And if our property isn’t legitimately private, it’s hard to see how it’s unjust for the government or anyone else to take it from us.
Got that? It's hard to see how it's unjust for "the government or anyone else" to take your property.

So, should the government own all the land out West? Absolutely -- unless we give it back to the Native Americans.


AVI notices a change in the language.

I wonder what the shift portends. At one point it was helpful to degrade the very idea of righteousness as a means of advancing behaviors that were considered anti-social by society. Yet now they find that they need it, as a means of shaming a public that strongly disagrees with them on the issue they're currently devoted to advancing.

Being Stalked By A Predator

Want to rob a 65 year old woman?
The 65-year-old woman who was Bontaites’ alleged intended victim, told police she had stopped at Mobil on the Run, 1050 South Willow St., around 11:30 p.m. after leaving work. She got back on South Willow Street and stopped at a traffic light when she noticed a dark-colored sedan behind her. She told police she had “heightened concern” as the vehicle followed her into her apartment complex parking lot at 640 South Porter St.

The woman entered her apartment complex and noticed multiple vacant parking spots, so she parked as close to her building as possible hoping the other vehicle would vacate the area. Instead, the sedan parked close to her. She exited her vehicle and walked toward her apartment building. She immediately heard a vehicle door close and the sound of a person quickly walking up behind her.
How do you think this story turns out?

Illegal Guns in Chicago

From the city where there were nearly 470 murders last year, a story about the (already completely illegal) guns favored by the city's gangsters.
From that hierarchy, a few patterns emerge. The city’s criminals, for instance, prefer semiautomatic pistols to revolvers and generally seek out cheap junk guns. What’s also notable is the type of gun that doesn’t appear among the top models seized. In 2014, Chicago police recovered only three assault weapons associated with criminal incidents. “Often there’s a misimpression about the importance of assault guns and assault weapons, and it’s important to point out how rare that is,” says Phillip Cook, an economist at Duke University who studies underground gun markets. “The guns being used in Chicago for crime and murder are by and large very ordinary pistols.”
Indeed, they're not even especially powerful pistols, if you take a look at the chart. Aside from the one .357 Magnum, none of these firearms are capable of defeating even lightweight IIA body armor. The .357 can be stopped by full scale Type II armor. Glancing at a popular police body armor online store, it appears that they chiefly sell the even stronger IIIA and III armors.

So we have the tools we need to deal with this particular threat. Neither new laws nor new tools are necessary. As the NRA recently pointed out, the Federal government even has the laws it needs to send these drug gangsters away for as much as a decade each if they are caught with a gun.

This should be a solvable problem with existing laws. If anything, Chicago should move to make it easier for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves rather than looking for new restrictions on guns. They have the tools and the laws they need. We just need the President to do his actual job, rather than scheming for new restrictions on the rights of honest Americans.

Viking Stuff

Lars Walker is surrounded.


Headline: "Pentagon may upgrade hundreds of troops to possible Medals of Honor."

Lower standards across the board.

'A Depressing Election We Need'

The Washington Examiner hosts a comment on the current election:
For instance, the candidates leading the polls in either party — Hillary Clinton for the Democrats, Donald Trump for the Republicans — are not just viewed unfavorably by voters overall; they are the most unfavorably viewed by Americans out of all of the candidates running.

To put this in context, during the entire slog of the 2012 election, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney sustained a brand as unfavorable as Clinton or Trump. John McCain, John Kerry and George W. Bush all enjoyed "favorables" of over 50 percent during their presidential campaigns, even though two out of the three were ultimately never elected president. Today, only one out of four Americans think the country is on the right track. Americans continue to express deep economic anxiety, and the president's job approval remains low, with particular disapproval for handling of foreign policy....

The depression of voters seems like nothing to celebrate, and a Clinton vs. Trump election is not one I'd savor. Disgust and disdain at Washington may manifest itself in a whole host of ways, for good or for ill. But like many illnesses, those unpleasant symptoms are often part and parcel of the process of being cured.

What a depressing campaign this has been. But it also just may lead to the election we need.
What's the cure, then? An election between Clinton and Trump would suggest what therapy? I think I know, but it isn't one any candidate is proposing.

Heavy Metal

A fellow I know is behind this campaign. He's not the one named in the article, but the one who suggested it to him.
A Liverpool professor has backed a campaign to rename a “super-heavy” periodic element in memory of Motorhead frontman Lemmy.

A petition is calling for one of four newly-discovered elements to be named “Lemmium” in tribute to the rock superstar, who died earlier this month.

More than 28,000 people have backed the campaign since it started two days ago.
You can sign the petition here.

When good sons go . . . military

Bookworm Room, who lives in Marin County surrounded by progressives, reports an odd development:  some of her hyper-progressive neighbors have sons who are choosing to join the military.  The parents are starting to change their attitudes.

The End of Christmas

The Last Day of Christmas is upon us. January 6th ordinarily is taken to mark the day that the Wise Men located Jesus, which is thus the point in the Christmas story that the world abroad first celebrated the lordship of the king of kings. This year today is officially 'the Wednesday after Epiphany Sunday,' but the date of 6 January remains an important anchor for that feast.

There are of course some differences among the several Christian traditions. It is not my wish to dwell upon those, but to wish everyone a Merry Christmas one last time. Until next year, I hope you have had a joyous feast and a moment for faith.

"What’s the Difference Between a Socialist and a Democrat"?

Chris Matthews asks Hillary Clinton, who can't answer. Apparently Matthews had already asked her puppet, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and received the same non-answer.

The question isn't hard to answer, so it's interesting that these figures are dancing around the answer.

A Socialist believes that, to the greatest possible degree, the means of economic production should be owned by the Public and not by individuals or corporations. Practically this means that the government should own the means of production as much as is practicable.

A Democrat believes that, to the greatest possible degree, power should be invested in the citizenry broadly considered, rather than in some elite. It is opposed to monarchy, aristocracy, but also technocratic systems in which judicial or lawyerly or scientific elites rule over us as our betters.

There is thus no necessary connection between the ideologies. One can be a non-democratic Socialist, as the Communists often were. One can be a Democratic Socialist, as European parties sometimes claim to be. And one can be a non-socialist Democrat, as in fact most American Democrats have historically been.

The connection between the two is nevertheless not accidental, even if it is not necessary. Aristotle explains in the Politics that democracy is government by the many (rather than the few or the one), and that the poor are always more numerous than the rich. One of the thing the poor tend to want from government, even in ancient Greece, is for it to redistribute wealth to them from those who have it currently.

Aristotle warns against this tendency strongly. It will destabilize the state, he says, for the rich to be deprived of both power and their property. They will respond by hiring mercenaries to overthrow the democracy, which will lead to the harms of political instability or war. On the other hand, in a system that is governed by an elite (an aristocracy, for example), redistribution of wealth is an important point of public policy. The poor must be made physically secure from starvation and the harms of poverty in order to support a state that denies them political power. They can cause an insurrection too if their interests are completely ignored by the powerful.

Thus, Socialism should be regarded as the sickness of Democrats. It is an illness to which they are particularly prone. That does not mean that Democrats are wrong to favor government by the many. It just means that the position entails certain risks which have to be guarded against faithfully. Other positions entail other risks, so it is not a unique failing of Democrats that such a risk exists. This one just happens to be the one to which they are especially likely to fall prey.

As, apparently, they are currently doing.

Stand Down Orders in Benghazi

Was there an order to 'stand down' in Benghazi? As we all know, it has been repeatedly denied by the government, which claims that no forces were available to respond and there were no stand down orders given.

The guys who were actually on the ground say it absolutely happened. (Advance to 7:10.)

Their opinion is that 13 Hours is unusually accurate for a war film. It certainly has the potential to be explosive. American Sniper proved to me that there's an appetite for this kind of movie. Let's hope it does well.

As Seen on Facebook


More than a dozen U.S. Army special operations soldiers are trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan, taking cover in a compound surrounded by enemy fire and hostile Taliban fighters after a U.S. special operations solider was killed earlier in the day, senior U.S. defense officials told the media late Tuesday....

The joint U.S. and Afghan special operations team was sent to Marjah to clear the area of Taliban fighters, who have retaken most of the town since November.

There were nine airstrikes on Tuesday in support of a clearing operation.
I trust you know what to do.

"Scores of Women" Attacked in Germany

Just one of those things you have to accept in order to ensure the benefits of increasing diversity, I suppose.
“The government’s loss of control is not only taking place on the borders,” wrote Alexander Marguier, deputy editor in chief of the monthly political magazine Cicero, in its digital edition. “For whoever gives up control of who enters the country no longer has control over the consequences of this action.”

UPDATE: In Missouri, a woman has a different experience.

UPDATE: Germany will have much to reflect on this week.

UPDATE: So far, reflection is going predictably wrong.

On The Underlying Tensions in Oregon

A good piece on how Federal environmental policies are destroying traditional Western ways of life, such as ranching and mining. That's true in West Virginia, too, but out West the Federal government actually owns most of the land -- and it would like to own more.
The federal government owns more than half the land in the state, as it does across much of the West. It used to be routine for ranchers to get permits to graze cattle or cut timber or work mines — a way to make a living from the land.

Then came increasing environmental regulations, and the federal land became more for owls and sage grouse than for local people trying to feed their families, said Soper, 39, who lives 100 miles up the road in Bend.
We all agree that natural beauty is important, and the environment represents a kind of national treasure. But the culture of the West is also a kind of national treasure. The people might be self-sufficient, as once they were when they could own the land they worked.

To me this is a story much like the Yazoo land scandal, except that instead of selling the land to a corporation the government is refusing to sell to anyone. That policy ends up making citizens less free than they would be if they could own their own means of production, including the land on which they graze. While some national parks and refuges are a great idea, the West is vast -- vast enough that the government could do everything we'd want them to do without owning half or more of the land in these states.

The effect of government ownership of most of the land in your state is to reduce a large part of the citizenry from free landholders to tenet farmers subject to the whim of their landlords. It is to reduce the scope of human liberty substantially. Property ownership is one of the rights the Revolution was fought to protect -- indeed, for the many Founders who were politically aligned with John Locke, it was first among those rights. These policies put the liberty that comes with ownership out of reach, and along the way are crushing out of existence a traditional American culture of great nobility.

Should Conservatives Support "Industrial Scale" Clemency?

The American Conservative suggests that it would be both moral and practical to release many, many more prisoners than we do.

Why is it moral? For one reason, because we put too much faith in the law qua law.
In the United States, our civic religion is the Rule of Law—we have no monarchy, and we are less tribalist than more ethnically and religiously homogeneous nation-states. Instead the highest symbol of our nation is a legal document, with its own legalistic cult and rituals. To be sure, the rule of law is in many ways an ideal of rational order and equality without favoritism. But a spillover effect is the tendency to treat all legal codes as if they were handed down from Mount Sinai, no matter how unreasonable or cruel they may be.

Devotion to the Rule of Law has an ugly side in resentment of executive acts of mercy, at the level of practice and high theory. Immanuel Kant, often thought of as a Birkenstock-wearing human-rights guy, was one of the most vicious retributivists in the history of moral philosophy, an implacable opponent of royal clemency. In 1764, Milanese philosophe Cesare Beccaria argued that the same crimes must carry the same punishment regardless of the perpetrator’s rank or station, no exceptions—a radical proposition for its time. This sounds unobjectionable, but this Enlightenment universalism has had harsh ramifications in the American context where, combined with Puritan moral panics and the authoritarian heritage of slavery and Jim Crow, it has frequently made for a justice system with a tendency to degrade and “level down” to an egalitarian level of misery....

At the founding of the country, executive power was seen not as a violation of our self-image as a “nation of laws not men” but as a necessary and healthily legitimate part of any popular government. As Hamilton wrote in Federalist 74: “the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered.” Without pardon power, “justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel.” Justice John Marshall also upheld clemency as “an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws.”
Why is it practical? I'll cite just one argument here, though you can read the rest if you like:
Our incarcerated population is also aging rapidly, and though older prisoners have far lower recidivism rates, few states are availing themselves of geriatric release. For instance, Virginia in 2012 granted geriatric release to less than 1 percent of about 800 prisoners eligible, according to the state parole board. Meanwhile, as the Virginian Pilot reported, “during the same period, 84 inmates died in state prisons.” Running high-security nursing homes is neither compassionate nor fiscally sound—another reason to restore and expand clemency.
That seems like a reasonable case to me. Some prisoners ought to die in prison simply because of the magnitude of their crimes -- Charles Manson, perhaps. Others really shouldn't be in prison, even if they were pretty hard-core thugs as young men, because they pose no threat that would justify paying for both guarding them and caring for them in their age.

What's being asked for here is not pardons by and large, but clemency. They would remain under the disabilities associated with being a convicted felon. We just wouldn't be responsible for them.

Good idea?

Joining the NRA

A couple of essays broke today on joining the NRA in spite of reservations, one featured at InstaPundit and the other at Hot Air. The upshot of both are that the NRA is not really the premiere gun rights organization in America today. It has in the past endorsed gun control laws in order to appear reasonable, and it has in the past accepted compromise positions that furthered some of our interests at the expense of others. That may be a virtue or a vice depending on how you see American politics, both in general and at this specific moment.

What actually annoys me more than the compromises is the propaganda they run in their magazines. Even on years when it is clear that there are no dangers to gun rights, the NRA's magazines always read like the next Great War is on the horizon. This is for fundraising purposes. I generally maintain membership with them only in years when there really is a danger because it is difficult for me to respect an organization that is not completely honest with its membership.

In terms of better organizations, the Second Amendment Foundation is mentioned prominently for its role in Heller and other court cases that have advanced the ball on forcing the government to recognize the Second Amendment. I wish fervently we could do as much for the Tenth Amendment -- it would be a great start if the government at least admitted it was really in the Constitution and really ought to be binding in some way or other.

Another organization I like is the Gun Owners of America, which insists on a no-compromise position.

All the same, the NRA is about to take it on the chin in the next election cycle. The Obama administration has pledged to make gun control a top issue in his final(!) year in office. Hillary Clinton -- and other Democrats on stage at the first debate -- named the NRA as an "enemy." Whether or not they're the best, it's going to make a huge difference whether or not they can show increasing support as a consequence of this push.

So, today, I signed back up with the National Rifle Association. I want them to be able to point to big increases in membership as the main consequence of the Democratic Party's return to gun control as an issue. We need to keep teaching this lesson until they give up on it. Gun rights are not going anywhere. We will not surrender our liberty for the false promises of government-granted security. The government couldn't keep those promises even if it were wholly serious about them. To be able to do much more than it does it would have to override our rights to privacy and independence.

Even then, it simply can't keep you safe. Just because criminals and terrorists choose their victims carefully, the police will not be there when you need them. Not because they don't want to be -- I think mostly they fervently wish they could be. It's probably why they joined the force. But they can't be. They can only come when they're called, and then it will take as long as it takes.

Finally, a government that truly obtains a monopoly on arms has subjugated its population. No free nation can accept that status. We must never put ourselves in the position in which the government can do whatever it wants to us, and only refrains if it wants to refrain. One person or a small group cannot defend themselves against the government, which is good because it enables the government to keep the peace. Nevertheless, it is in the interest of justice that any government should have to fear mistreating a plurality or majority of its citizens. It is the best thing for everyone if those elected to office know that they will be held responsible for their actions by a people that is ultimately stronger than they are.

It is time to teach that lesson again. They think they want to pick this argument up again. Let's remind them why they'd rather not.

Pilgrimage Update: Success!

I thought it was a dodgy choice to do this in December instead of April as Chaucer recommended, but he claims to have had a Medieval antecedent who left 'on the same day' in 1365. Of course, that was in the Medieval Warm Period! But perhaps God favored his endeavor. Certainly here it's been the mildest winter in a long time.
A former physics teacher has completed a 700-year-old pilgrim's journey using only medieval clothing and equipment. Steven Payne began walking from Southampton's Mayflower Park to Canterbury on 16 December, carrying a goodwill message from the Pope. The 52-year-old slept in his cloak, sometimes in fields and hedgerows or in structures built in medieval times. He was greeted by the mayor of Canterbury and canon of the cathedral when he arrived on Tuesday afternoon.

Armed Protests & Attorneys General

It seems there is widespread agreement even among III Percenters that this Oregon situation is neither the time nor the place for an armed protest. An interesting tidbit uncovered in the readings, though...
As college student, Eric Holder participated in ‘armed’ takeover of former Columbia University ROTC office

As a freshman at Columbia University in 1970, future Attorney General Eric Holder participated in a five-day occupation of an abandoned Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) headquarters with a group of black students later described by the university’s Black Students’ Organization as “armed,” The Daily Caller has learned.

Department of Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler has not responded to questions from The Daily Caller about whether Holder himself was armed — and if so, with what sort of weapon.

Holder was then among the leaders of the Student Afro-American Society (SAAS), which demanded that the former ROTC office be renamed the “Malcolm X Lounge.” The change, the group insisted, was to be made “in honor of a man who recognized the importance of territory as a basis for nationhood.”
That protest was different in a key respect: people needed access to the Columbia ROTC office. This thing was shut down for the winter anyway. Nobody was going to need to use it until sometime in the Spring. It's the sort of place you could stage a protest like this without actually inconveniencing anyone else for at least a few months.

What's Going On In Oregon?

Wretchard of the Belmont Club passed this link recently, which I take for an endorsement of it. If, like me, you hadn't heard of this conflict until last night -- well, there turns out to be a lot behind it that you haven't heard yet.

UPDATE: D29 suggests some further reading inside the comments. Here also is Reason on the absurdly harsh sentences, which the 9th Circuit Court upheld on the grounds that they've seen worse. The Constitutional protection withers because the government has gotten by with worse abuses in the past?

Why I love Texas

That's our guv.