Conan Report

“What is best in life? Licking the carbon steel you cooked those tri-tips on is pretty good, although the steak bits were better.”

Mark Knopfler for the Friday Tunes

Here's Knopfler in concert in Italy, 2013. Mostly new (in 2013), some going back to Dire Straits days.

Sensible Gun Control

I have argued that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental to human dignity, and as such I reject and abhor any attempts to disarm free people as a basic violation of that dignity. I do, however, support this initiative called Knuckle-Up, which aims to establish a culture of voluntarily putting down guns in cases of physical disputes and solving them honorably with fists instead.
Knuckle Up’s mission is to promote a culture who’s first resort isn’t to use a weapon. As participants in the MC culture, we’re no strangers to conflict. Conflict resolution should follow an escalation of force. Most disagreements between grown men should be able to be resolved through discussion. If violence is necessary, we should be handling it in an honorable way.

Now this is by no means “anti-gun”. Personally, I am an avid supporter of the 2nd amendment. I hold multiple certifications in firearms instruction. I believe in the individual’s right to keep an bear arms, especially in defense of oneself. If someone seeks to do you harm, you should meet that threat with appropriate force. 

What we’re talking about here is extreme violence in response to being offended. Someone starts a fight in a bar, and then it’s another persons immediate reaction to pull a weapon. 

What happened to a culture where two men, who didn’t agree, could settle their differences with an honorable scrap and a beer afterwards? When did we start putting ourselves in situations, and then fearing for the physical repercussions of those situations, and as an out, pulling a gun or a knife. 

I don’t want to wonder who I’m going to burry tomorrow. It’s time we as men, took a stand against the weak, beta behavior of bringing a weapon to a fist fight. It’s time we made fighting cool again. It’s time we brought honor back to the MC. 

I hope you’ll stand with me. Shame the weak who would just as soon take a life before they took an ass whooping. Put the guns down, and knuckle up.

There are practical difficulties to be solved: for example, if you brought a gun (or a knife, which is what I generally carry because they're endlessly useful items as well as providing an aid to self defense), you would need to have a lot of trust to put it down in order to have a fistfight. It makes sense that they're coming out of a club culture in which you could have friends you'd trust to take control of the weapon while you fought, and also to serve as guarantors ("seconds," they were called in the dueling culture) that the other side would not exploit your relative weakness. The honorable resolution of the dispute needs to be upheld. 

Still, for those who aren't willing to go all the way to a resumption of dueling, it's a nice middle ground. Of course mature men almost never resort to physical violence to resolve disputes; that is mostly the province of headstrong youth. In that way we serve as respectable examples for them to emulate. In the meantime, it doesn't try to pretend that young men aren't what they are, or ask them to behave as if they were something else. 

Too, creating a space to do this without exposure to legal punishment could be genuinely helpful. A society in which even a shove on the shoulder is treated as a felony has no way within the laws for these young men to act out their natures. If they're outside the law one way or the other, why not take the steps most likely to ensure victory? Creating a space like this would grant the incentive of a way of resolving the dispute honorably, publicly, with a high probability of coming through it alive, and without the threat of legal ramifications. It could really cut down on the kinds of killings that really do drive our murder rate: usually illegal, usually with illegally-possessed handguns, often in the context of gangs and therefore such young men.

Wooden Swords

Used by children and those training in sword fighting, this one is thought to have belonged to a woman who was a weaver in Cork. 
Crafted entirely from yew, the hilt of the Viking sword is carved with faces associated with the Ringerike style of Viking art, a style that dates to the 11th century. 

Other finds included intact ground plans of 19 Viking houses, remnants of central hearths, and bedding material. These finds have convinced archeologists that the influence the Vikings had in Cork city has been underappreciated, and that it may be comparable to that in Dublin and Waterford.

 Cork is on the south coast of Ireland. The Viking influence was known, but was thought to have been less substantial. 

ATF Leader: Define a What Now?

Challenged to define "assault weapon," the thing his administration keeps asking Congress to ban, the ATF leader admitted that he doesn't really know anything about firearms
"I, unlike you, am not a firearms expert, to the same extent as you maybe, but we have people at ATF who can talk about velocity of firearms, what damage different kinds of firearms cause, so that whatever determination you chose to make would be an informed one," Dettelbach added, confirming that President Biden had put forward another entirely unqualified person to lead a powerful wing of federal bureaucracy. 
This is part of the problem of "government by experts" -- Biden, who picked him, knows even less about firearms than the man himself. How could he judge the expertise of the expert, lacking himself any such expertise? So instead:
3) Since the politicians have to choose, and can't distinguish between real experts and political allies who are claiming to be experts, they'll generally choose political allies -- there's something in it for them there, at least. Appoint some nobody just because he has a degree or something and that person might do anything once in power. At least the party functionary will do what you want.

4) Thus, the 'scientific and technological society' ends up not only destroying self-government in favor of government by experts, but actually fails to achieve government by experts in favor of government by factional loyalists regardless of their mental or technological capacities. 
Congress' previous effort here was no better; their definition was easily dodged by simply changing one or two features to avoid making the list. Besides -- one of Ms. Smith's actually correct facts -- the real problem isn't long guns of any sort.
Mass shootings, as horrible and as frequent as they are, still only account for a small fraction of all gun violence that occurs each year. Far more people die from handguns — exactly what Americans have been stockpiling for the last three years — and the victims are usually Black and brown, people who are increasingly getting lost in the partisan battle over firearms.

Handguns account for almost all gun homicide, and illegally possessed handguns for most of that. So most of the guns being used to cause the problem are already subject to 'gun control laws.' The problem is enforcement, not more laws. If you could address the issues of felons illegally packing heat, people illegally stealing guns, and so forth, you'd have solved most of America's gun homicides. 

But enforcement is just what they don't want; and therein lies the real problem. 

UPDATE: The road goes on forever.  

CONAN, What is Best in Life?

Brynn Tannehill: "The Grim Truth: The War on Guns is Lost"
That’s something that people who support gun control measures need to understand: The war is lost. There is no conceivable way for things to change for the better within the next 20 to 30 years, short of a national divorce. 
Erika D. Smith: "Trump and the NRA might be right about guns — and we mostly have ourselves to blame"
I began to realize that [Trump] just might be right in his political calculation. Because, far from losing, the NRA seems to be winning. In fact, it might already have won, polls be damned.
It's not the NRA, which was never (as Erika puts it) "a lobbying organization for gun manufacturers." It used to represent gun owners and enthusiasts, before it collapsed over internal corruption issues some years ago. The people moving the ball now are the Firearms Policy Coalition, Gun Owners of America, National Association for Gun Rights, and state-level organizations like the Virginia Citizen Defense League and Grass Roots North Carolina. But that's neither here nor there; she plainly doesn't know much about the issue.

She is convinced that her side has all the data, and the other side is motivated by mere emotion. Her facts aren't right, though; she claims that more guns equal more deaths, but in fact guns increased every year during America's 20+ year decline in violent crime. What caused the spike in homicides that we are currently experiencing (a factor she doesn't mention at all) was the George Floyd protests, which taught police that they were imperiled if they used deadly force in the line of duty, and subsequently taught America that the police couldn't be counted upon because they pulled back from such enforcement. 

People who never considered buying guns began buying them in great numbers, such that ammunition became scarce for several years running because so many more people needed it. Now it's not so bad, but that's not because demand has fallen: it's because new lines of production came online in response to the demand.

So you're right, Ms. Smith, in a way you don't know: you did do this. Black lives do matter, and police training and culture around guns has long needed to be re-examined. But this is on you. The NRA didn't do anything; they've been immersed in infighting for several years now. 

Her facts are regularly wrong, but that's expected; it's not 'about 25' states that have Constitutional Carry, it's a clean majority. There's a 3/4ths majority -- enough to propose and ratify a new Constitutional Amendment if necessary -- of states that recognize each others gun permits.

But I do want to quote another woman she encountered, because she's a woman after my own heart.
Patrice Johnson, one of the few Black people I spotted checking out the rifles and bins of bullets in the exhibit hall of the NRA convention, told me she carries a gun for self-defense. As founder of a motorcycle club, she has seen an uptick in men in cars and on motorcycles trying to assault women riders, sometimes attempting to run them off the road.

“I carry it on my person,” she told me, tapping her hip.

Havamal 38; Lk. 22:36. She's welcome at my table any time.

Conan Report

Learning to tie rescue knots has many benefits. For example, I put a figure 8 on a bite at the end of this rope. It’s usually used to create a secure point to attach a carabiner; but it also creates a large, flat knot for someone to bite down on. 

Woke Walmart

I was just talking about this here the other day, but the Washington Free Beacon goes into more detail

According to documents obtained initially by families who requested public records, Walmart has been facilitating public school teacher training from the Racial Equity Institute, which also does Walmart's own internal DEI training. Walmart, or foundations funded by Walmart or the Walton family, has also facilitated similar training for other organizations in Arkansas, like arts non-profits, business leader organizations, the University of Arkansas, etc.

One aspect of Walmart's influence that the article discusses is the impact of being the biggest philanthropic organization in an area. Everyone who wants to curry favor in the hopes of getting grants will take Walmart's positions into account.

Walmart also donates to both major political parties, giving about equally to Democrats and Republicans.

However, a couple of things I didn't know is that, despite Walmart's opposition, Arkansas legislators in 2021 banned transgender surgery for minors over Gov. Hutchinson's veto, and newly-elected Gov. Sanders signed an executive order banning critical race theory in Arkansas schools. So, their influence has limits.

Nice shootin', Tex

Four youths who need to turn their lives around charged into a convenience store in Houston recently and started robbing customers at gunpoint. One customer pulled his own gun and managed to shoot three of the robbers without being shot himself. Another customer was hit, but apparently not too seriously, and it's not clear whether he was shot by the robbers or whether the armed taxpayer missed. Considering that the good guy managed to hit three out of four armed bad guys, though, I'm guessing the stray shot will not turn out to have been his.

All four robbers ran out and were driven to a hospital by their getaway driver. Two are stable while one is critical.

I never heard what happened to the citizen who killed the robber in the Houston taqueria earlier this year. As of mid-January, the grand jury was supposed to meet, but I can't find any updates to the story.

Star in the East

It's not quite the right season, but they don't make Christmas carols like this any more:

Heart of Oak

Mark Knopfler has always been one of my favorite songwriters and performers, both as the leading force behind "Dire Straits" and on his own.

Anheuser-Busch CEO Kind of Cool

What they’re calling a “spy handler” is actually a spy. Specifically it’s a CIA Operations Officer, formerly known as a Case Officer. The term “CIA Agent,” regularly used by Hollywood, actually refers only to those people recruited as informants by CIA Officers. This is the classic spy, the sort that gives rise to James Bond novels and suchlike. 

He worked for the Counterterrorism Center, the branch founded by my late friend Dewey Clarridge. At a time when the CIA wanted to spy on the Soviets, Big Navy was all about surface warfare, and Big Army considered the Green Berets a dead-end job, Dewey and a few visionary military officers established CIA-CTC and JSOC to address the emerging threat. After 9/11, that vision became a centerpiece of both intelligence and military operations. 

The CEO was also an officer of Marines. 

Hopefully that might mean that now that his attention has been drawn to all this, he might take positive steps to make things better.