Another Perspective on Violence and Guns

It's injudiciously phrased, so take that as a warning, but consider this article.
67% of firearm murders took place in the country’s 50 largest metro areas. The 62 cities in those metro areas have a firearm murder rate of 9.7, more than twice the national average. Among teenagers the firearm murder rate is 14.6 or almost three times the national average.

Those are the crowded cities... with the most restrictive gun control laws and the highest crime rates. And many of them have been run by Democrats and their political machines for almost as long as they have been broken.

Obama won every major city in the election, except for Jacksonville and Salt Lake City. And the higher the death rate, the bigger his victory.

He won New Orleans by 80 to 17 where the murder rate is ten times higher than the national average. He won Detroit, where the murder rate of 53 per 100,000 people is the second highest in the country and twice as high as any country in the world, including the Congo and South Africa. He won it 73 to 26. And then he celebrated his victory in Chicago where the murder rate is three times the statewide average....

In 2006, the 54% of the population living in those 50 metro areas was responsible for 67% of armed killings nationwide. Those are disproportionate numbers especially when you consider that for the people living in most of those cities walking into a store and legally buying a gun is all but impossible.

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

You've probably read about the latest report on the dangers of right-wing terrorism to come out of the US Federal Government, in this case the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. I'd like to begin by acknowledging the disclaimer on the report, which states that the opinions are the author's only, and not those of the government, the DOD, etc. Fair enough!

That said, The Atlantic would like you to know that the report shows that there is a rising scale of domestic right-wing terrorism. They highlight the report's findings that "in the 1990s the average number of attacks per year was 70.1, the average number of attacks per year in the first 11 years of the twenty-first century was 307.5, a rise of more than 400%."

OK, again, fair enough. Apparently there is a rising tide of violence from right wing groups. However, I have a question about the composition of the groups described as violent.

Two of the three divisions the author proposes aren't very controversial. He mentions racist groups such as the KKK, and "Christian Identity" groups such as the Aryan Nations. These two divisions seem to be responsible for the rising tide of violence.

But then there is a third division in the report, a so-called "anti-federalist" movement. Here's the description of them.
Violence derived from the modern anti-federalist movement appeared in full force only in the early to mid-1990s and is interested in undermining the influence, legitimacy and effective sovereignty of the federal government and its proxy organizations. The anti-federalist rationale is multifaceted, and includes the beliefs that the American political system and its proxies were hijacked by external forces interested in promoting a “New World Order” (NWO) in which the United States will be absorbed into the United Nations or another version of global government. They also espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights. Finally, they support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government. Extremists in the anti-federalist movement direct most their violence against the federal government and its proxies in law enforcement.
Now that sounds to me like he's talking about Timothy McVeigh and his co-conspirators, and indeed it turns out that he begins the main part of his report by talking about McVeigh.

However, it seems strange to bring this up as if it were a living movement. If we're talking about the 'violence derived from the anti-federalist movement only appearing in the early-to-mid 1990s,' then we are talking about the period when the violence from such groups was minimal and statistically insignificant. More than that, we're saying that this minimal, statistically insignificant period of violence represents the high point of violence from this group.

Now, on the other hand, since 2010 there has been a very loud, viable anti-federalist movement called the TEA Party. But it doesn't advocate the violent overthrow of anything. It doesn't direct violence toward law enforcement, or anyone else. It doesn't go on about any 'New World Order.' It does, however, "espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights [and] support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government."

In other words, insofar as you want to talk about the KKK and racist skinheads, there's no problem. If those groups are increasingly violent and dangerous, we can talk about how to address that problem.

If you want to use this report to paint the loudest and most effective political opposition to the President and Democratic Senate as terrorists, however, people are right to be disturbed. It is not at all clear to me that it is appropriate to suggest that there is anything like an "anti-federalist" movement that embraces both the TEA Party and the late and un-lamented Timothy McVeigh. I think, in fact, it is a dangerous sort of slander, at a time when the government is asserting "anti-terrorist" powers that are undefined and subject to no clear limits.

Two from Brandywine Books

Lars Walker tells the story of being robbed at gunpoint as a young man.

Phil provides a link to an interesting disquisition on the order of the intellectual life. It occurs to me that you can replace 'intellectual life' with 'military life' or almost any other sort of life and find that the same four points hold.
1. Recognize the Intellectual Life as a Calling.
2. Submit Your Intellectual Pursuits to Truth.
3. Understand the Intellectual Life Requires Considerable Discipline.
4. Remember the Goal of the Intellectual Life is Virtuous Character.
Something to consider!

Why Southern Democrats Are So Few

"...and long before I was born, my grandfather used this little Smith & Wesson here..."

Used it to do what, you may wonder? The ad strangely omits that part.
Here’s the problem: The CSGV has done some selective editing in its video. In its version of the ad, Barrow displays a pistol and says:
“Long before I was born, my grandfather used this little Smith & Wesson here….”
It cuts the Augusta congressman off there. How did Barrow finish the sentence in the original, and what did the CSGV choose to omit? This:
”…to help stop a lynching.”
Around here, those five additional words make a big difference.
Not just around here, I hope. This is a major part of the reason why something like our Second Amendment is so important to a just society.

Congressman Barrow was targeted because, as a Democrat, he was thought to be vulnerable. "Shame on you," the ad ends, though it seems to me the shame belongs to someone else. Here is a man who comes from an honorable tradition, who values his ancestors and the arms they bore in the defense of the innocent. The shame belongs to those who do not understand the value of such things. I don't know what they are, but I know that whoever made this ad is not fit to speak the language of honor.

So, Just To Get This Straight...

...It's plainly wrong for local law enforcement to try to help enforce Federal immigration law...

...but it is obviously mandatory for local law enforcement to try to help enforce Federal gun control law.

That makes sense, right?

Slavery and Guns

The assertion that opposition to the President is racist has been repeated so often, in so many forms, that it has become something of a joke on the Right. The older and more dangerous claim is that traditional American culture is inherently racist, in need of elimination (or at least 'fundamental transformation') because of the evil at its root.

So it must be no surprise to see this story asserting that the whole point of the Second Amendment was slave control. The intent of the argument is to suggest that the Second Amendment has evil bred in its bones, the sort of thing a decent society would thrust out.

The problem is, of course, that militias were desired and used for many reasons other than slave control -- indeed, non-slave states used them too. They were used to guard and respond against insurgencies, to repel and deter raids by Native Americans (a purpose also currently thought illegitimate by many, but highly understandable if you remember the women and children the militiamen hoped to protect), and for police purposes in an era when formal police forces were rare or expensive. They were used here in Georgia to deter Spanish incursions (as well as to make incursions on Spanish Florida). They were used as organizing institutions for the community, helping it to cohere and build a common culture from immigrants on a frontier. They were used as the backbone of Colonial resistance to British authority, and their officers provided the Colonial army with much of its early leadership.

In other words, it is very far from true that the Second Amendment owes its existence to slavery. Of course there is also a problem with reducing the Second Amendment to the militia: there is an individual right protected, as well as the state's interest in having a militia. Even taking that as an assumption, though, the argument is weak.

This Should Be An Interesting 'Clarification'

Apparently an important component of today's gun control efforts is going to be getting doctors to quiz you about guns.
Doctors and other health care providers also need to be able to ask about firearms in their patients’ homes and safe storage of those firearms, especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses or if they have a young child or mentally ill family member at home. Some have incorrectly claimed that language in the Affordable Care Act prohibits doctors from asking their patients about guns and gun safety. Medical groups also continue to fight against state laws attempting to ban doctors from asking these questions. The Administration will issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit or otherwise regulate communication between doctors and patients, including about firearms.
Funny thing about that 'clarification' -- it appears to mean denying that the law says what it very plainly says. Here's the text.
and health promotion activity implemented under subsection
(a)(1)(D) may not require the disclosure or collection of any
information relating to—
‘‘(A) the presence or storage of a lawfully-possessed
firearm or ammunition in the residence or on the property
of an individual; or
‘‘(B) the lawful use, possession, or storage of a firearm
or ammunition by an individual.
authorities provided to the Secretary under the Patient Protection
and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made by that
Act shall be construed to authorize or may be used for the
collection of any information relating to—
‘‘(A) the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm
or ammunition;
‘‘(B) the lawful use of a firearm or ammunition; or
‘‘(C) the lawful storage of a firearm or ammunition.
the authorities provided to the Secretary under the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made
by that Act shall be construed to authorize or may be used
to maintain records of individual ownership or possession of
a firearm or ammunition.
be increased, health insurance coverage may not be denied,
and a discount, rebate, or reward offered for participation in
a wellness program may not be reduced or withheld under
any health benefit plan issued pursuant to or in accordance
with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an
amendment made by that Act on the basis of, or on reliance
‘‘(A) the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm
or ammunition; or
‘‘(B) the lawful use or storage of a firearm or ammunition.
INDIVIDUALS.—No individual shall be required to disclose any
information under any data collection activity authorized under
the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment
made by that Act relating to—
‘‘(A) the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm
or ammunition; or
‘‘(B) the lawful use, possession, or storage of a firearm
or ammunition.’’.
I suppose that leaves some room to ask if you have unlawfully possessed guns, or stored them in an unlawful manner.

The mental health provisions are the ones that concern me, though. The fact is that there is no lab test for any mental illness -- you can't do a biopsy and prove that someone has a personality disorder the way you can prove they have cancer. By the same token, you can't prove that you don't have a mental disorder.

Subjecting any civil right to a limitation based on an untestable condition is a very dangerous idea. It's not for no reason that psychology was so often misused by Communist governments as a means of marginalizing (or imprisoning, or lobotomizing) regime opponents -- once you are painted as mentally ill, you can never prove your innocence.

Our normal standard is that you shouldn't have to prove your innocence, of course, but rather that the state should have to prove your guilt. Well, it cannot do that here. If restrictions are to be based on mental health, then, they must not depend on proof of guilt. They can only depend on allegations of guilt. Having to prove your innocence is too high a standard even in criminal matters, when it may sometimes be possible. It is far worse here, where such proof of innocence is actually impossible.

Speaking of the South & Politics...

...the Georgia General Assembly is back in session. This looks like an interesting term, because the legislature can only meet for forty days a year, but they may not know what they need to know about the Federal budget within those forty days. Thus, there's a chance they may take a recess of as much as three weeks while waiting on Congress to decide what it is going to do about Sequestration.

In the meanwhile, here's a brief on what the session is likely to include:
State Representative Ed Rynders (R-Albany) says some of the biggest issues that are up for discussion are ethics reform and a right to bear arms.

“I believe in a right to bear arms,” said Ed Rynders, State Representative.

Although gun control is expected to come up during the legislative session, Rynders says the biggest topic is the state's budget.

“Everyone here is committed to not raising the taxes, which of course means that we have to live within our means. The governor has asked for a three percent across the board cut in programs and departments everywhere except for education. Public education will not be cut,” said Ed Rynders.
That's the kind of prioritization that the Federal government is refusing to consider. You can keep taxes low and still have one priority that you won't cut, or a few priorities that get cut less. It is possible to do this through the democratic process. States do it, but then again, states can't print their own money. Maybe the most important priority for the Federal government is a balanced budget amendment, to keep them from doing what states aren't permitted to do.

The South in the Last Days of the Republic

There's been a lot of ink spilled just lately on the South in the Obama era. I'm disinclined to respond to it, mostly, because I think the frame is wrong.

For one thing it's wrongheaded to call the South "Neo-Confederate," and would be even if it were actually attempting secession over limited-governmenet principles. Nobody in the South intends to restore the Old Confederacy, especially on racial or slavery matters. The South retains most of its complaints as defiantly today as in 1875, but not those. On those points its heart has changed.

For another, conservatism has done very well at the state level -- and not just in the South. Conservatives are doing great things at the state level even in frozen Northern regions like Michigan and Wisconsin. It's only the Federal government that has turned solidly against conservatives, and really that makes a kind of sense. Conservatism is opposed to what the Federal government has come to represent: an ever-growing, all-encompassing force with the power to regulate all aspects of life via the state. Conservatives believe in institutions that shape and guide life, including the state but only in a limited form. A state that is too strong ends up interfering with other institutions that are at least as important: the family, the church, the bonds of individual friendship, and freely-chosen organizations such as professional organizations and private clubs.

The Federal game is still a game of patronage: elect me, and I'll vote to send power and wealth your way! Naturally conservatives are doing badly given that they want nothing to do with the game; naturally what remains of the allegedly-conservative party are trying to limit the influence of their actual voters. That's an old sport, and it's a blood sport, but the power and wealth are running out. When the Federal government falls, a fate rapidly being brought about by what have become its ordinary modes of operation, it will be conservative states that remain strong enough economically and politically to survive. Whatever the new order looks like, it will be built on that strength.

So I'm not inclined to respond to the frame. However, I did want to draw attention to two things from the debate that I particularly liked. The first is that the New Yorker piece did something I rarely see done: it took a moment to appreciate what benefits the nation has gotten out of having Southerners within it.
[T]he Southern way of life began to be embraced around the country until, in a sense, it came to stand for the “real America”: country music and Lynyrd Skynyrd, barbecue and nascar, political conservatism, God and guns, the code of masculinity, militarization, hostility to unions, and suspicion of government authority, especially in Washington, D.C. (despite its largesse). In 1978, the Dallas Cowboys laid claim to the title of “America’s team”—something the San Francisco 49ers never would have attempted.... That same year, the tax revolt began, in California....

At the end of “The Mind of the South,” Cash has this description of “the South at its best”: “proud, brave, honorable by its lights, courteous, personally generous, loyal.” These remain qualities that the rest of the country needs and often calls on.
One of the Southern voices cited by that piece responded to it, and that is the second piece I wanted to cite.
I encourage you to remember these words: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

With that in mind, I have reached out to Mr. Packer. Many of my friends hoped I would excoriate him – not only for his misrepresentation of my work, but also for the overall tone and content of his column. Others suggested that an insult from The New Yorker constitutes a compliment. And still others pointed out that any attention is good attention. (I’ve raised toddlers; I find it hard to agree with that one.)

Instead, I chose to apologize for any failings of my own that may have led him to his incorrect assumptions. I also offered to buy him some good ol’ fashioned Southern cuisine should he ever venture down this way. I sincerely hope he does.
In The Three Musketeers, Athos responds to a generous proposition by saying, "Thus spoke and acted the gallant knights of the time of Charlemagne, in whom every cavalier ought to seek his model." Likewise do I appreciate a noble and gentlemanly gesture, given that the author of the original piece made that rare effort to understand and not only to criticize.

Athos goes on to say, "Unfortunately, we do not live in the times of the great emperor, we live in the times of the cardinal." In a similar way we are unfortunate. Still it is good to hear noble words spoken, and to see a man carry himself like a gentleman.

No Government Believes in Democracy

An open letter from the UK protests the American invocation of how interested we think we are in having the UK remain in the EU. There's a tremendous irony in the United States lecturing the UK on the need to maintain a political union its people no longer find acceptable, of course, but the author lets that pass. He's after a more serious point about democracy:
The President of the United States is considered by many to be the leader of the free world, and the United States itself considered to be a beacon of democracy. So it is profoundly disappointing to see the United States administration endorsing and encouraging something that is fundamentally undemocratic. I would like to ask you the following questions.
* Would it be acceptable to you and your fellow United States citizens that over 70% of the laws and regulations they were forced to comply with across all 50 states were created by a supranational government comprising layers of complex political and judicial structures, mostly unelected and unaccountable, and made up of delegates from not only the US, but Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru?
* Would it be acceptable to you, your fellow United States citizens and members of the Senate and House of Representatives that they were routinely handed diktats from the various bodies that make up the supranational government and were bound by law to implement the directives or be fined or dragged into a supranational court operating an alien form of judicial code and process? Further, that Congress was denied the ability to draft, and the President sign into law, other legislation of national interest whenever the supranational decided it was not appropriate?
* Would it be acceptable to you, your fellow United States citizens and the Justices of the Supreme Court that decisions made by the bench, the highest court in your land, could be appealed to a supranational court overseas with the hearing presided over by foreign judges and if overruled the Supreme Court would have to accept that as a binding ruling?
If these scenarios do not sound very democratic or judicious to you and your fellow Americans it is because they are not.... No one who believes in democracy – people power – would endorse and encourage a continuation of this anti-democratic situation for the United Kingdom.
The problem is that the author has just made a criticism of the EU that is just as valid a critique against the UK itself, viewed from the perspective of Scotland's independence movement. Indeed, it is just as valid a critique against the United States government. There is simply no possibility that such a criticism, however valid, can be entertained by the political class of either nation.

The only difference between the EU and the US in the first point is the question of whether the super-sized government is 'alien' or not. Measured in the most obvious way for a democracy, that is by the values that the people hold dear and want to see protected and furthered, the complaint may be no better. Probably the people of Belize, a former British colony, have at least as many common values with the people of the UK than the people of Alabama do with the delegates from California (whose people include some conservatives, but whose government no longer does). The Federal government here also generates a massive percentage of regulation via bureaucracy rather than democratic processes. These bureaucracies are staffed by people never elected to make law, who lack any actual Constitutional authority to make law, and who are only in a small percentage of cases vetted by elected representatives.

The same is true for judicial fiat. Is it acceptable to have laws settled upon by the state legislature, approved by state courts, overturned by the Supreme Court in direct defiance of the ordinary values of the people? It has become usual. When the Supreme Court set aside the laws of thirteen states in Lawrence v. Texas, the Bush administration said that they considered the issue a state matter. Linda Greenhouse replied that the SCOTUS had said otherwise: what had been a state matter was now a matter of "binding national constitutional principle." Yet this was only the latest occasion when the SCOTUS had taken a matter where states had legislated according to the traditional morality of their people, and pronounced the issue was one on which the democratic process could not be trusted. It has likewise removed the power from Congress to legislate on issues very traditionally ordered by law, and is considering whether to do so again in the Defense of Marriage Act. We find that more and more issues are matters of "binding national constitutional principle" from which no dissent from democratic organs is tolerated.

This is not democracy. The invention of "binding constitutional principles" by the court is the repudiation of the method by which such principles were meant to arise: that is, following rather than preceding the development of constitutional consensus. A new Constitutional principle was supposed to follow the process described in Article V of the US Constitution, whereby a supermajority of support from the states would be required. That was the democratic ideal: that we would alter the fundamental bargain governing American life only when the vast majority of Americans agreed it was wise and proper. Instead the Federal government has learned to pretend that the bargain always was whatever it now wants the bargain to be. We are told that we simply misunderstood the bargain when we ratified it, and perhaps for two hundred years after.

There's nothing magical about a "national" as opposed to a "super-national" government that gives the national government a better claim to legitimacy. Legitimacy was supposed to arise from adherence to the Constitution, whose limits and forms were meant to ensure that the government remained within the bounds of the powers actually delegated to it. The EU and the US are no longer different forms of government at all. The citizen of the United Kingdom who works to move her nation out of the EU is acting wisely, and in the defense of what remains of her democracy. But she can expect no support from the 'leader of the free world.' Our political class has learned to hate the ideal she advocates.


Some months ago I posted skeptically about the idea of requiring schoolkids to spend 50% of their time reading bureaucratic white papers of the "Chicken production and transportation issues in Willamette County" variety.  Maggie's Farm linked to an American Thinker article today that does the idea more justice.  Although I have real doubts how the program would be carried out in actual schools, the notion started by David Coleman is to introduce students to evidence-based argument using texts like de Toqueville's Democracy in America.  As he puts it:
It is rare in a working environment that someone says, "Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood."
Not that I'm crazy about the idea of all students aiming for jobs in which they have to churn out market analyses, but the same principle applies to a request for an analysis of any proposal or policy.  Why do you believe this is true?  And come up with something more powerful than the more-or-less grownup equivalent of "all the cool kids think it."  It's the rare corporation or government bureau -- or any other human endeavor -- that couldn't use more of that skill.

The author of the American Thinker article does have a funny approach to categorizing writing as fiction or non-fiction, though.  This is a list of what he describes as the proposed "fiction standards":
Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby; William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying; Thomas Paine's Common Sense; The Declaration of Independence; Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?"; Allen Paulo's Innumeracy:  Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences; Mark Fischetti's Working Knowledge:  Electronic Stability Control; and George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."
I'm listening to a series of lectures about Winston Churchill.  He was an indifferent student who hated Greek and classics.  In some dismay and contempt, his father sent him off to a kind of military or administrative professional school, where he was given practical works to study; he loved them and excelled.  Without being at all in the "special snowflake" school of thought, I do believe that the task of education is to develop the different strengths of different students.  Especially as they get older, students should be offered a wide variety of higher-level materials that will challenge whatever their talents happen to be.  There will be some who can be nourished by Working Knowledge:  Electronic Stability Control in a way they never could have been by War and Peace.


President Barack Obama was “totally furious” he spent a week of his time posing for a trillion-dollar platinum coin that would never be minted, a White House source confirmed today....

Mr. Obama devoted much of last week to posing for the trillion-dollar coin on the assurances of outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who told Mr. Obama that the coin had “a way better than fifty percent chance” of being minted.

Based on Mr. Geithner’s advice, Mr. Obama carved hours out of his schedule to pose for the ill-fated coin, even cutting short meetings with world leaders such as Afghan President Hamid Karzai....

When Mr. Geithner delivered the news to the President that the coin idea had been scrapped, according to the source, “to say that things got ugly would be a massive understatement.”
That's one of the most perfect satires I've ever read.


From Maggie's Farm, a link to an interview with Fred deLuca, who started the first Subway sandwich shop in 1965 with a $1,000 loan from a college professor who was also a family friend.  Almost half a century later, they still share the profits 50/50 -- no quarrels, no lawsuits.

DeLuca says he was lucky when he started to be so young that he didn't really understand the danger of failure.  His first intended franchisee had a more typically grown-up attitude:
"When we first began franchising, I knew we needed a first franchisee, and the only person I could think of was [our good friend] Brian.  So I went to him and said, 'I’ve got this opportunity for you.'  He gave a practical response, which was, 'Even though I’m not crazy about [my job], I get paid every week.'  He didn’t feel comfortable taking the risk of quitting. 
"Then one day he showed up for work and his employer had gone bankrupt.  So he called me and said, 'Hey, is that offer still available?'  That’s how we got started.