Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A link to a great posting from the LawDog

I like this one. Though I doubt it will have any real impact on the debate, it expressed my opinions well enough to make me chuckle. Anyway, check it out...

The LawDog Files: I am happy to report ...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What I've Learned in Business

Years ago I began work on an MBA. It wasn't really a bad degree, but I pursued it because I thought it would help me advance in my career. When I first start in business for myself I thought it would help there, too. I was correct about the first and grossly incorrect about the second. I came to realize that what many of my business friends said. In most cases the primary value of an MBA is that it qualifies you to look after another person's money. The problem is, I know of no one who goes into business with the goal of looking after others' money. That is just one of the many things I've learned so far as a small business owner.

Is greed good?
It all depends on what you mean by greed. If by greed you mean a drive to get ahead at any cost, a willingness to lie, cheat, back stab, deceive and steal, then the answer is most emphatically "no". On the other hand, if you mean a desire to work really hard to achieve a dream, to be willing to pour all of your energy, creativity, drive and passion into creating something that provides for you and yours, then the answer is an equally emphatic "yes". Other than greed, we can call this "enlightened self-interest" if you wish. It is enlightened in the sense that success in a free market economy requires service to others.

Free market capitalism
We hear a lot about the evils of capitalism from some folks. It is blamed for everything from global climate change to the existence of poverty. While I won't discuss climate change in this article I will discuss poverty. The truth is, poverty and struggle to eke out a meager existence has been the norm for the vast majority of people throughout the history of the world. The amazing thing about capitalism, especially in the West, is that it has produced a standard of living and a degree of luxury for the vast majority of people that was unheard of in the past. This is not to declare that poverty does not exist, even in a capitalistic society. It does. On the other hand, in most cases, it is not the poverty of the past or of those regimes that repress free markets. In the US for instance, the vast majority of the poor have more than the poor of the past and more than those in third world countries.

Why does capitalism work? Because of the above mentioned "enlightened self-interest". In a truly free market, the only way to succeed in business is by serving others. It is this service to others, this provision of goods and or services that others want, that leads to success. Find a way to produce and deliver it faster, better and for less money and you are well on your long as the "it" you're delivering is something people actually need and want. There's a tendency for some to suggest people should just do this for the common good, for the good of society as a whole if you will. That's been tried. It doesn't work. People will do more, put forth more effort for an extended period of time for themselves than they will for society as a whole. Adam Smith may have put it best when he noted that "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest". The butcher, brewer and baker may well be concerned about the well being of their fellow man, but that concern will not motivate them to succeed as much as the desire to build and possess something of their own...which of course, puts them in a much better position to see to the needs of the poor.

Free market capitalism isn't...
Many of the complaints about free market capitalism arise, I think, from a failure to understand just what that is. Government handouts, special treatment, preferred contracts, artificial manipulation of markets and the like are not free market capitalism. They can be called "corporatism", "crony capitalism" or any number of things, but they are most certainly not an example of a free market. Some business people engage in this sort of business because they have, at some point, run into a hard fact about a free market. It is ruthless. I didn't say the people were ruthless. Most of the truly successful business people I know are very concerned about their fellow man. The free market, though, is cold and uncaring. You will either produce and deliver what people want and need quickly, efficiently and at a price they are willing to pay or you will fail. You will pay your bills and your employees or you will fail. You will do what you say you will do or you will fail. The free market has no compassion. The free market has no good will (of course, it has no ill will, either). And so, we have some people in business who find they cannot or will not do what a free market requires...find out what others want and deliver it quicker, more efficiently and for a lower cost. Instead, they opt for the modern equivalent of the way people accumulated wealth in the lying, cheating, plundering, stealing and enslaving. They are vile, vicious scummy examples of humanity, but they are not free market capitalists.

There are also those who have never been in business, who have never truly striven in the free market, who dislike it. They seek, often for what they perceive as the best of reasons, to restrict the ability of individuals to compete in a truly free market. Some are in politics, some in academia, some in media and some spent weeks sleeping on the ground while occupying Wall Street. Whether they think of themselves as smarter than the rest of us, wiser than we are or just entitled to what another person produces they share a common belief. In each case, there seems to be a tendency to believe that if someone were to control the market, if there were only more central planning, then everyone would be happily sharing the wealth that can only be produced by the free market they seek to destroy. The fact that this has never worked is irrelevant. This time, we're told, it'll be different. No, it won't. If it continues then we can anticipate looking back fondly at the lives we used to live back when the market was free.

Business is hard
That sums up what I've learned since I've been running my own small business. It's hard. It's all consuming at times. I think about it all day. I dream about it at night. It causes headaches, stomach upset and incredible tension. When I'm not actively working with clients I'm planning how to get more clients or taking classes to improve my skills so I can better serve my clients. I remember how much more I earned working for someone else. And every time I have a client thank me, I tend to grin. Every time I earn a single dollar, I value it more than I ever valued what I earned as an employee. It is both the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done. It is the free market that has allowed me to work on my dream and it is the free market that will provide freedom for me, my family and anyone else who wants it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Why the gun is civilization

You can pick at it, but I think this one is pretty good, too.  If you read some of the comments you may conclude it's way too easy for some people to become absorbed in their own words and supposed mastery of logic and rhetoric to actually think about what they read. Anyway, check it out.

The LawDog Files: Larry Correia on the Huckabee Show

The interview is really good and the blog by Larry Correia is even better. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, with any interest in the ongoing gun control debate should watch the interview and read the blog.

The LawDog Files: Larry Correia on the Huckabee Show

Cars and guns and drivers and shooters...oh, my

So, there's this blogger whose view of guns and gun control is about 180 degrees off from mine. That's okay. He's free to hold whatever view he wishes. I read and comment on his blog, not because I have any idea that I might one day help him see things differently, but simply because I have this affinity for arguing with ridiculous points of view. I like to think it keeps me in intellectual fighting form, though it probably doesn't do more than necessitate I continue to take my good ol' lisinopril (aka “blood pressure medicine”...sound of annoyance at my body's betrayal of me).

Anyway, I was reading yesterday and came across this jewel of a piece from that bastion of journalistic excellence known as The Huffington Post. I don't really care to increase the readership of this fine institution, but it is necessary to link to it to prove I'm not making up the referenced article. I must warn you, though, the article is long on talk and woefully short on logic. I wanted to address it because the primary argument the author puts forth is one I've heard for years from many gun control folks. The idea is that guns and those who shoot guns should be dealt with in a way similar to how we deal with cars and drivers. To many gun control folks, and honestly to some gun owners, it sounds, perhaps, not too unreasonable. There are, of course, some problems with it in terms of requiring registration and licensing to exercise a basic civil liberty, but I don't want to deal with those. Nope, I want to address each of the points the article makes and hopefully make it plain why, in my experience, those who propose such a thing are either
  • arguing without thinking through the implications, OR
  • arguing dishonestly


Yes, we are required to have insurance to drive. The insurance requirements vary from state to state as to the kinds and minimal amounts required. Still, if I'm insured in one state and drive through another with different requirements, I'm not required to buy additional insurance. It's also worth noting that at least as early as 2011 there was one state, Virginia, that did not require automobile insurance as long as the driver was willing to annually post a $500.00 bond with the state. The cost of insurance is based on a number of factors, determined by the insurance company rather than by the state. While I may occasionally accuse insurance companies of less than ethical practices I do recognize that they have the right to charge as much or as little as they want from their policy holders.

It's important to notice that drivers are not required to have insurance to cover some legal liability if a vehicle is stolen and then used in the commission of a crime. Nor are drivers expected to go to extraordinary lengths to prevent the theft of their vehicles, though they are widely stolen and kill thousands of people every year.

Registration and licensing

Again, each state has its own requirements as to how this is done. Briefly, though, if I meet the minimum requirements for the state in which I live, the registration and license fall into the “shall issue” category rather than the “may issue” category. I am not required to demonstrate a need for the vehicle or license. Beyond the paperwork shuffle, all that is required is that I pay the required fees. And, while the costs can vary significantly from state to state, at least some states have made an effort to ensure the fees are no more onerous than necessary. They are in fact reduced or even waived for some drivers. Additionally, in some states there are groups of people, active duty military for instance, who benefit from less restrictive licensing requirements. What's really interesting is that if I leave Texas and drive to visit California, my license and registration are viewed as completely valid for the duration of my visit. I am only required to change my license and registration if I move to another state. In that case, since I've already met the requirements of the other state, obtaining a new license is a matter of simply paying the fee in my new state of residence. Again, it's a “shall issue” process.

Finally, my understanding and experience is that the insurance, registration and licensing requirements typically only apply for operation of a vehicle on public property.

So, as I have this discussion with gun control folks, I find that their support for “let's register guns and license shooters like we do cars and drivers” suddenly begins to wane. Now, they begin to play an engaging game of “yes, but” (thank you Eric Berne) as they consider the implications. This is what leads me to one of my two conclusions. Either they made the “let's do it like we do for cars” argument without understanding it and now that they've come face to face with what it means they don't like the implications or they thought it through but were never serious about it. I'll leave alone, for now, those who made the argument without thinking it through. I want to deal with those who clearly have thought it through, but didn't really mean it.

I have never had a gun control person agree with truly dealing with firearms and shooters like we deal with cars and drivers. Instead, the argument is an introduction into justifying why the situation with firearms is “different”...different from the very analogous argument he or she put forward! Essentially, what is being said is this:
  • We should treat firearms like cars and shooters like drivers (an analogy)
  • Firearms are not like cars and shooters are not like drivers (the analogy I'm using is false)
  • I don't really want to treat firearms like cars nor shooters like drivers
Or, you could put the argument in its simplest form, like this:
  • I lied
The point is, those people who've been involved in this debate long enough have had plenty of time to consider the implications of this argument. It's not exactly new. I've been hearing it for decades and literally more times than I can remember. The idea that a gun control advocate who has been having these discussions for more than a few years has never encountered this argument and never considered the ramifications of regulating guns and shooters this way I find more than a little hard to believe. I know there are uninformed gun control folks out there. Some of them honestly so. I don't mind those folks (unless they choose to remain uninformed). The ones who truly get under my skin are the people who are lying and by all appearances know they are lying. These are the people who will look at you and tell you the latest and greatest plan to combat violence and all those evil guns in the hands of bad people (who maybe wouldn't be quite so bad without all those guns, ya know?) is going to deliver on its promise this time...all while knowing it will not and can not do what is promised, so that after the next atrocity committed by some deranged person they can call for just one more piece of reasonable gun legislation. Accompanied, of course, by the assurance that this time it will deliver the promised results. And when it fails and there's another horrific act of violence...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Experience counts

There are times I just can't quite understand the position some people take on some things. After all, the position I take makes perfect sense to me. Still, I'm sure they feel the same way, that their position makes sense to them while mine remains inexplicable. What I've come to accept as true is that two (or more) people can look at the same data and come to widely differing conclusions, even mutually exclusive ones. I accept that. Really, I do.

What I have a hard time understanding is people who lack experience with something speaking with authority as though they do.  For instance, I ride motorcycles. I've ridden for years and I ride reasonably well (I say "reasonably well" because motorcycling is incredibly intolerant of hubris). It annoys me to no end to hear someone who doesn't ride at all discuss the habits and failings of motorcycles and riders while presenting any number of "facts" to support his or her position. Likewise, I grow annoyed with those who state there exists no "need" for a 30 round magazine for hunting or self-defense in the absence of personal experience. Instead, they sometimes present would be facts as though there is no alternative to their particular point of view. Ignoring the fundamental problems with law abiding members of a free society having to demonstrate need to exercise a basic civil liberty, it astounds me that someone who doesn't hunt, or who has been spared the necessity of protecting self and/or family from harm, would presume to decide how many rounds are needed. Depending on what is being hunted, 30 rounds might be perfectly appropriate (prairie dogs in Wyoming come to mind). And in the case of personal defense, I should like to point out that there is no such thing as a reasonable limit on magazine capacity! If someone (or 3 someones) enters my house at 3am how many rounds to I need? The answer is simple. As many as it takes to stop him (or them). I've seen people miss repeatedly at the range while shooting at a stationary target that isn't returning fire. They've had time to control their breathing, assume a good stance, assure good hand positioning and line up a perfect sight picture...and still miss! I've seen trained military people miss in a firefight. Not to mention, a wounded person can still kill you if not sufficiently incapacitated. Now, think of your nightmarish encounter this way. It's 3 am and you've been startled awake by the sound of something (someone?) coming through your front door/living room window. Your spouse is in bed beside you and your kids are down the hall in their rooms. How fast can you get to your home defense weapon while your spouse dials 911? Are your hands shaking? What about your heart rate and breathing? Are they both so hard and fast as to make your aim less accurate than normal? How's your vision in your darkened house? Where are they? Can you hear them? Could there be more than you've already counted? Are any of them headed your way...or toward your kids?

So, how many rounds do you want? 7? Really? I'm a trained, experienced shooter and while I'm not as accurate as I once was (eyes aren't what they once were and I drink way too much coffee these days), I'm more accurate than most people I see at the range. I've been shot at and I've returned fire and I want more than 7 rounds. In a pistol 15 is nice. In a rifle that will hold them, I'll take 20-30, thank you. In a shotgun...a long tube magazine with 8 will have to do. This is not to denigrate the utility of the shotgun in self defense. The sound of a round being chambered in a 12 gauge pump shotgun has been know to induce PIES (Profound Intestinal Emptying Syndrome). What I do not want, what I will not accept, is the idea that I should be limited to almost enough to protect myself and those who look to me for protection. No. Not gonna happen.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Don't do that any more...

Once upon a time, shortly after the discovery of fire, I was an EMT. Some time later I became an RN. Courtesy of the US Government I was stationed at a small hospital on a tropical island. Palm trees, beaches, warm water, sugar cane used for its most noble purpose...and some days just plain boring.

I was running the Operating Room and this day I was also the OOD. Steve, aka the "Guru of Gas" (the CDR who ran the anesthesia department) and I were leaving the hospital via the ER exit to bring back dinner and solving all the world's problems as we went, waxing eloquent about politics, guns, trucks, rum (see sugar cane, above), motorcycles...all important stuff. Anyway, that's when we both saw him. "Him" being the lone occupant of the ER waiting room. I was going to speak to him anyway, truly I was, but he flagged me down before I could open my mouth.

"Can you help me?" he asked.

"Sure" I replied, sticking out my hand. He shook it, though without much of a grip. We exchanged ranks and names and he seemed properly impressed at my immense rank. I was happy.

"I've been  here for over an hour and I haven't been seen yet."

Very patiently, I explained the triage process, emphasizing that the sickest or most severely injured were seen first while Steve stood back and chuckled because he wasn't having to do this.

"I understand that" said the lone patient." It's just that there was no one here when I arrived and I've been sitting here waiting all this time." Now, I was embarrassed and more than a little annoyed with the ER folks. But, hey, there was probably a reason he was still waiting. Right? I decided to triage right then. Make him feel better. Buy my colleagues some time right now and chew someone's butt later. With that plan in mind I went into "clinical mode" while the Guru continued to chuckle happily to himself.

Since he was sitting, I knelt on the floor to look square in his eyes (doesn't make the patient feel like you're trying to overpower them, ya know?). "So, what's going on?"

"Well, LT, a couple hours ago I was riding my ATV and it flipped over on me."

This was going quickly from inconvenient to Not Good, I could tell. "Uh huh. You look pretty good. How are you feeling? Headache? Nausea?" (all this while checking his pupils...he didn't look or present like a head injury, but ATV accidents can be bad)

"No. It's just that when I turn my head like this (here he demonstrated 'this' by turning his head fully to the right) the left side of my body goes numb". I should point out that it was at this point, out of the corner of my eye, that I saw Steve the Guru vault the ER desk and run into the clinical area.  Drawing upon my vast clinical knowledge I spoke clearly and calmly to the patient as he turned his head back to mid line.

"Well, I recommend you not do that. Don't worry, the other guy has gone to get someone from the ER. They'll be here in a moment to get you fixed up" (Where is the nurse/doc/corpsman with the c-collar!?) I moved smoothly into my keep-the-patient-calm routine. 
"You been here on the island long?" (Where's the damn c-collar, already?)

"No, sir. Just about 3 months. Is it always this warm and humid?"

"Yeah, pretty much. It is the Caribbean after all. It cools off a little in the winter, but the water is still warm." (Crap! I'm gonna have to do something...let's see, I can lay him down on that bench and secure his head and neck with our belts and his shoes...Where is that c-collar?)

The Guru of Gas, and the entire complement of the ER came streaming out from the clinical area like a colony of ants bound for a piece of meat. Steve gave me his "you're going to be so annoyed in just a minute" look. In seconds the patient was wearing a c-collar and secured to a backboard and whisked off to the trauma room...where he should have been immediately after he came in. The doc hung around for a moment as the patient was carted off.  "I guess we should have paid more attention before we started the ER potluck, huh?"

I don't remember my exact words, but according to the Guru of Gas, there was some concern I was going to blow out a major cerebral vessel. There is also the slightest possibility I might have used "high impact language" that shouldn't have been directed at a senior officer. That's what the doc said the next day in the CO's office.  I have to admit, it wasn't often I wrote up an entire department. Did I mention how boring it is in the Caribbean?

Something else from the LawDog

I'd encourage everyone to take a look at his blog. It's pretty good (fine, it's really good...I may be just a little jealous).

The LawDog Files: I would like to cordially invite ...

The ramblings of an annoyed naval officer

I don't even know where to begin.

Since I have a background in mental health, among other things, I guess I'll start there. Put simply, mental health professionals (MHPs) are in most cases neither trained nor qualified to determine, except in overt, black and white cases, if someone should be reported as dangerous. It's a bad idea to put them in that position. It sets them up for failure and unnecessary liability. Not to mention the fact that mental health patients are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

Moving on. When I first joined the military, I was enlisted. When I took my oath of enlistment I was serious about it, but I was also very young. Here's the text of the oath every enlisted person takes upon entry into service and reenlistment:

I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God

When my enlistment ended I returned to college and eventually wound up taking a Navy scholarship which required me to enlist again and take the oath again. I was older then and maybe a little smarter and wiser, so I paid more attention to the enlistment oath that time. Wow, there's a lot in there when you're mature enough to really look at it. It was kind of sobering. It's interesting that the first part deals with an enlisted person's duty to the Constitution. Some have suggested it offers an “out” in the event of receiving orders that violate that part of the oath, though it's worth pointing out that although it was in the context of war crimes (and in Nuremberg vs the US) the plea of “I was just following orders” did not work for Eichmann. Most service people I knew then, and those I know now, say the primary obligation is to the Constitution.

The day I graduated I was commissioned as an officer in the US Navy. Part of that required that I take the Oath of Office:

I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

It was a little more sobering. Now, since I was commissioned into a staff corps, I was commissioned but still sent off to learn how to be an officer. It was there I met the LT who was our class officer. He went over the oath in painstaking detail, making the same point over and over. As commissioned officers our obligation was to the Constitution of the United States. Not to the Navy. Not to the DOD. Not to the President. Not to the chain of command. To the Constitution. Even the defense of our nation, he pointed out, was to be executed as part of our obligation to the Constitution. Everything else, he said, was to be subordinate to that. Further, he went on to explain in great detail, any order, any command given us that violated the Constitution we were obligated to disobey, regardless of the consequences. If we weren't okay with that, now that it had been explained, we were to let him know privately and he would recommend that we be returned immediately to civilian status without prejudice. I didn't sleep well for days. I stayed in the Navy.

My point to all this is that the oath I took is the same as the one taken by all members of both houses of Congress, the Vice-President and the President. The obligation is the same. To serve the country by supporting and defending the Constitution. I have no way of knowing what was in the minds and hearts of anyone else upon taking the oath. I'm not a mind reader. I do, however, know this. If you aren't able to fulfill your duty to the Constitution, you should step-down, forthwith. Why on earth would you continue in a job, an office, that requires of you that which you are unable or unwilling to do? I can think of no legitimate reason. If you have been seduced away from allegiance to your oath and the Constitution, if the lure of power has led you to effectively deny that which you swore an oath to do, and yet you choose to remain in your office, I offer the following. You have no idea of the contempt in which you are held by those who were true to their oath and by the great majority of Americans. You are a disgrace to the office you hold. You have truly become the worst sort of quisling. Samuel Adams would have had you for dinner.

To those in positions of great influence among the gun rights groups I say the following: Many groups claim to be the only group that will not compromise my second amendment rights. Really? Because, if there is only one, it can't be true for all of you. We don't have the luxury of petty bickering and infighting right now. If you're going to do that, if you're willing to sacrifice my rights and those of millions of other gun owners for the sake of influence and power, see my comments about quislings, above.

To the gun control advocates who have so patiently, so condescendingly and so paternalistically assured me that “no one is trying to take your guns” I humbly submit that one of two things is true. Either you were misled by those in positions of influence in the gun control movement or you, like they, lied to me.

I am amazed and saddened that my fellow citizens can see their freedoms being slowly eroded away and not become alarmed. It's not just second amendment rights that are endangered. The loss of any of our civil liberties endangers the others. Yes, I am concerned about the ongoing attack on the right to keep and bear arms. I'm equally concerned about ever increasing limits on freedom of speech (limiting free speech on campus to “free speech zones”? Really?), freedom of religion (freedom of worship is not the same thing), the right to due process, habeas corpus...the list goes on and on. At what point do we, as Americans, say “enough”? When do we get beyond the idea that short term comfort is more valuable than the freedom to live our lives the way we want, limited only by restrictions on harming others or preventing them from living their lives the way they want? Do we not see that each loss of freedom makes the next even easier to lose? Like a child we fail to discipline, when we fail to hold accountable those who are supposed to answer to us, we make it easier for them to destroy the next little bit of freedom.

To those who insist “we need to be more like Europe” I must ask this question. Are you serious? Their real tax rate is unreal, their economies are failing faster and to a greater degree than ours and their personal freedoms are far more limited than ours. Over the years I've worked and talked with a number of people who moved to the US from different parts of Europe. They were, to the very last person, incredibly polite and highly skilled in their fields. And unapologetic about why they moved be free to live how they want and achieve as much as they could. Every time I've broached the subject of the US becoming like them I've been looked at like I was an idiot. It took a while to get it through my head that in spite of our difficulties, issues and problems we are, overall, freer and better off than anyone else in the world.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Rights are really simple to understand

I'm already tired of the current debate over increased gun control. Tired in the sense of beginning to despair of hoping that some will ever understand how precious and fragile liberty really is. Liberties, once lost, are seldom regained. Instead, like many other things, the loss of liberty seems to pick up a momentum all its own. As it rolls downhill, picking up speed and mass, one liberty after another seems to fall, faster and faster...At the same time, there is a tendency for some to insist they have rights that simply do not exist. And so, we find ourselves exchanging the real rights that are essential to our continued freedom, for pseudo-rights that do nothing to elevate us as a people or require us to be responsible for our actions and decisions.

So, here I present my view of at least some civil liberties/rights/freedoms that do and do not exist. Prepare to be offended.

  • I and all other law abiding people have the right to possess all the firearms, of any description, we want without the necessity of demonstrating need.
  • You do not have the right to know what firearms or any other items, if any, I have in my house...nor I in yours. You certainly do not have the right to take them from me.
  • You have the right to say things I may not like just as I have the right to say things to which you may object. Neither of us has the right to not be offended, so grow up.
  • Freedom of speech was not intended to be limited to some arbitrarily determined "free speech zone". The very idea is alien to the concept of free speech. Denying someone the right to speak to avoid someone else being offended is the act of a coward.
  • If you or I choose to say it, we should be willing to accept the consequences of what we say.
  • Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution. Freedom of worship, for any group, is a poor substitute. If religion plays a big role in a person's life, he or she is likely to refer to it, or its principles, in public. If you don't like it, express your own opinions when appropriate. Don't deny the other person the right to speak. See the act of a coward, above.
  • You do not have the right to health care. A person's laboriously acquired skill, ability and education is his or hers to utilize as he or she sees fit. You do not have a right to that labor. We call that slavery. In case you've forgotten, or never learned, slavery is a Bad Thing. If you do just a little reading, you may find reference to a war that was related to that particular Bad Thing.
  • You have the right to vote. You have the right to complain. You even have the right to not vote and complain anyway. You are also the worst kind of lazy, irresponsible loser if you do.
  • Things are not So Much Better Over There. I've been Over There. The people are nice. The countryside is beautiful. The art and food are fabulous. And compared to here, the amount of freedom is virtually non-existent. And you want here to be like Over There?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Just to be clear

Okay. Just to be clear. Apparently my comments suggesting people not Be Stupid were objectionable to some. Specifically, they were objectionable to a man who proclaims himself a "Take No Prisoners Pro-Gun Patriotic Real Red Blooded American" (to distinguish himself from yours truly, I suppose).  No, you can't read his insightful comments here because I have a simple rule regarding moderation:  If your comments are limited to all caps (in bold, italics and underlined no less), exclamation points and a description of my failings- intellectual, psychological, genetic and moral- you don't get to see your Wisdom of the Ages here. That said, here is my understanding of the amendment in question:

  1. It is not about hunting, though it certainly protects the right to own the implements necessary for that.
  2. While the Founding Fathers recognized the right to self-defense, it is not, primarily, about self-defense, though history tells us they certainly saw that as a right.
  3. It is about the right of the people to have in their possession the means necessary to oppose oppression and tyranny. End of discussion. Period.
Now, can we move on?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why Be Stupid?

Perhaps you've read it.  Maybe you've heard it on TV or YouTube.  I've done both and it really needs to stop.  This particular "it" is the increasingly extreme rhetoric from both sides of the gun debate (as an aside, you have no idea how hard it is for a retired Coast Guard and Navy guy to refer to firearms as "guns").

From pro-gun control people suggesting that it might be okay to kill members of the NRA or any other pro-gun person it's the height of hypocrisy.  And please, don't lecture me about the 10 bizillion uses of hyperbole.  It has its place, but this form of exaggeration for effect, if that's what it was, is not the place for it.   Likewise, shouting down your guests who happen to disagree with you does not lend your arguments weight.  It makes you look like a spoiled child, so impressed with your own importance and so used to having your way that the possibility someone might actually have a good reason for disagreeing with you makes you violate your own much vaunted comments regarding respectful discourse. And, lets not forget the spectacle of a grown man covering his ears because he didn't like what was being said (and yes, I understand that he was almost certainly wearing an earpiece so it was more for show than anything else, but still...).

Look, I grew up in and around newspapers at a time when there was still an understanding that the purpose of any news organization was to simply report the facts.  Opinions were limited to the op-ed section and even those had to pass muster with the editor.  I can remember editors who simply would not stand for the sort of outrageous editorializing we see so often, in both print and other media, surrounding the gun debate.

Now, as for my fellow pro-gunners.  Enough already with the increasingly shrill rhetoric. Must we insist our elected officials protect all our constitutional rights?  Of course.  Is the 2nd Amendment more about personal defense and resisting tyranny than it is hunting and target shooting? Duh.  That being said, let me suggest effectively making those points is not accomplished by doing any of the following things:

  • Repeating bogus quotes from the Founding Fathers, ad nauseum, in the hopes we'll convince those who disagree with us (while hoping we don't get caught lying).
  • Branding those who honestly disagree with us, including at least some of our elected officials, as traitors who deserve to be tried for treason (at least).  I understand that sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between honest disagreement and political posturing, but it's worth the effort.  Note that I'm not saying we shouldn't be pointing out errors and what are clearly lies, just that not all errors are the result of dishonesty...or stupidity.  We need to take the time to make the best determination we can as to which we're dealing with and then respond accordingly.
  • Declaring our republic at an end with armed uprising coming, along your preparedness for it and your willingness to participate.  This is the one which bothers me the most.  While there are exceptions, most of the people I encounter who spout this drivel have never been in a firefight and have never experienced the horror and terror of combat, even if they make sure to mention frequently that they are veterans.  They've not seen their friend's head when hit by a round from a rifle and they've not encountered the smell of the aftermath of a battle.  So, listen up, all you would be revolutionaries, warriors and war heroes:  Years ago, foolishly and stupidly thinking how it would make me stand out among my colleagues, I was in a Bad Place with Bad People trying to kill me and my friends.  We fought back and we won.  That is, more of ours lived to go home than theirs. was scary.  Really scary, as in lose control of your bodily functions, scary.  People got shot, including some of the Good Guys.  People died, including some of the Good Guys.  Many of those who died suffered horribly before drawing that final breath that took them to meet their Maker.  So, to the next would-be, wanna-be Terror of the Battlefield who tries to tell me about the oath I took and how I should still honor it, as if I don't know that as well as the price of honoring that oath, to the next would-be historian/constitutional scholar who tells me "freedom isn't free",  I make the following offer: You can waltz your happy little ass to my part of Texas and I will quite happily place my boot so far up your backside it dislodges your tonsils. Let me suggest that most of those who post this sort of "get ready for the uprising" crap have no idea of what they're saying.  And, if you're one of them and you're depending on others like you to have your back if and when the Bad Thing happens, you're going to be unpleasantly surprised to notice how many of them don't show up when it's time to cross that particular Rubicon. (It's usually at this point that my fiance suggests I take a deep breath and step away from the keyboard)
Don't get me wrong.  I am completely sold on the idea that we must resist any and all attempts to disarm the American people.  I also believe we need to sure we are being as effective as possible in our efforts.  The three tactics I listed above will not help us win, but they may lead to our losing and being left with nothing but deciding how we will respond to an arms confiscation.  That would be Not Good.

Okay, this rant is concluded.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Visit LawDog

I can't put this any better than did the original author.  Take the time to give LawDog a visit.  He's long on reasoning and common sense and short on tolerance for those who substitute excrement for gray matter.

December 29, 2012


The recent events in Connecticut, the murder of children and school staff at the hands of a madman, has brought the debate of gun rights vs. gun control back to the forefront.  I’ve decided to put my thoughts on paper (or hard drive, really) just so I can, hopefully contribute something to the discussion.


Some background first.  I grew up in a family from the south.  We fished and hunted and shot guns for fun.  We kept them at home for self-defense with little or no thought regarding the 2nd Amendment.  It was just part of what we did.  As a result, I didn’t start seriously looking at guns and gun control as a constitutional issue until I was in my late teens.

It’s also important to point out that I grew up in and around newspapers (that’s how we got in-depth reporting before the internet).  As a result, I grew up with a fondness for the ACLU that many of my now fellow conservatives sometimes lack.  This is important to understanding where I spent about the first decade of my research into gun rights and gun control.


I remember the very first editorials I ever read on the question of gun control.  I found it to be very persuasive.  Though I never bought into the idea that guns should be outlawed, I did, for several years, support varying degrees of gun control.  Even those I did not support I viewed as being consistent with the constitution.  And I began to read…a lot.  I read every article I could find about gun control.  About 5 years into that first decade I began to realize that if I was to have a position I could truly call my own, I could not rely on the words or arguments of others.  I would need to do my own research.  It was this decision that eventually led me to change my views on gun control.  Though there were others, I’ll share just two events that led to that change.

Just as I remember those first editorials, I remember the research I did that started me on the road to change.  I was in the US Coast Guard in the mid-eighties, doing search and rescue and law enforcement.  The Officer-in-Charge at our station had been a member of the NRA for many years and had recently quit because, as he put it, “they are okay with cop-killer bullets”.  While I had never been a member of the NRA (I’m still not) I was puzzled because he also said they NRA was historically a big supporter of law enforcement.  At the same time, I accepted his statement as true.  Still, I decided to look into the subject because of my puzzlement.   It took me a while to do the research and at first I was convinced.  After all, NBC had broadcast a prime time special about the dreaded “cop-killer bullets” and surely they had a larger and more effective research department than I did.  I was surprised to eventually learn, through my own research, that the “cop-killer bullet”, especially as the media portrayed it, was a lie.  I had been lied to, I had been deceived, and I view it that way because the misinformation was provided by people who were in a position to have known better.  My transformation had begun and would only pick up speed from then on.

The 2nd Amendment was one with which I had struggled.  Because of my exposure to newspapers for so many years, the rest of the Bill of Rights posed me no problems.  I was very much in favor of their being applied as broadly as possible.  Not so with the 2nd.  I was greatly influenced by the views of Warren Burger.  He was, after all, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Even after his retirement, surely he was in a position to know what the Amendment meant.  Certainly there was no shortage of people, attorneys and otherwise, who agreed with him.  Still, since I wanted my position to be more than a parroting of other people, I started researching.  I learned that the view of the 2nd Amendment as guaranteeing an individual right to “keep and bear arms” was not, in spite of many protestations to the contrary, a new thing.  Indeed, it was viewed as an individual right by those contemporary with the Founders and the Constitution itself.  Again, I came to the conclusion that I had been deceived, deliberately or otherwise, by people in a position to know better.  I was done.  I was through being lied to and I was through accepting and promoting something that was fundamentally untrue.  The change was complete.


The 2nd Amendment protects an individual right.  That’s as simply as I can put it.  If you’re interested in historical evidence, I refer you to  Yes, it is a pro gun rights site so if you view the 2nd Amendment as protecting a collective right, I’d encourage you to look up the references to which they refer on your own.  If you can’t find them online, go to the library and do your own research.  It’s slower, but we’re dealing with a question related to a fundamental meaning of a part of the Constitution.  It’s worth and it deserves the time and effort.  Briefly, history teaches us that both the Founders and, after ratification, constitutional commentators, viewed the  amendment as ensuring an individual right.  This is important as there is a tendency for those of the collective right school of thought to suggest the individual right perspective as a late arrival.  History simply does not bear this out.

From the same site you can gain a historically accurate perspective on the nature of

  • The militia
  • “well-regulated”
  • Purpose of the Amendment

Again, I encourage you to not just read and either blindly accept or reject what you find there.  Instead, go to the sources the site references and read them for yourself.

Rampage killers, or spree killers, are hard for most of us to understand.  I have the advantage of having a fiancĂ© who not only has a PhD in psychology but whose focus is on serial killers and mass murderers (of whom rampage or spree killers are a type).  Her description of them goes something like this:

  • They feel disenfranchised and alienated from society
  • They are profoundly embittered
  • They view their lives as over, one way or another, and choose to bring them to an effective end, whether by suicide, being killed by law enforcement or arrest and conviction (spree killers who are convicted often commit suicide in prison).
  • They want revenge against the world and those they view as responsible for their failure to have the things others have (jobs, careers, relationships, etc) and/or those representative of the world that has so mistreated them.
  • While their lives may suggest otherwise, they are determined to prove to the world that they are a person of significance and power by one final, horrendous act of violence and destruction.
  • Their killing spree does not just happen!  It is planned out and executed coldly.

This description of spree killers gets to the heart of why they commit such horrific acts.  Not because they have access to firearms, or diesel fuel and fertilizer, or gasoline, or a knife, or a baseball bat or anything else but because they are psychologically flawed.  We can argue about the causes of their madness.  We can engage in discussions as to the nature of both evil and mental illness, but at the end of the day the fact is this: spree killers are damaged in a way that makes them dangerously unstable.  This instability will always find a way to express itself, regardless of the method used.

Gun control advocates look at these events, especially those that involve schools, as proof of the need for greater gun control.  This is a fundamentally flawed approach because it ignores the fact that spree killers will find a way to engage in their attacks.  Remember, they are determined to prove that they have power and significance by engaging in their violent acts.  When they attack, they will continue until they have killed or harmed as many as they can.  Typically, they will only stop when they either kill themselves (often in response to their impending capture and arrest) or are killed by someone else.

While there is currently a great deal of debate about the advisability and efficacy of having a greater armed security presence at schools, there is one thing that cannot be denied.  In the wake of the Columbine tragedy, police departments have changed their tactical response to such events.  At Columbine, the deputy who was there as security did, as gun control advocates assert, shoot at one of the perpetrators, Harris, without hitting him as did a nearby deputy who responded to the seen after hearing gun shots.  Neither of these tell the whole story.  After Harris entered the building, the two men, as was the procedure at the time, waited for backup to arrive.  The result was that Harris and Klebold were able to continue their killing spree without interference.  Now, as a result of what was learned at Columbine, the policy is for police to enter the building, in a 4 man wedge if possible, but individually if necessary and head directly for the killer.  The reason?  An understanding that the most effective way of preventing more deaths is to stop the killer as quickly as possible.  The idea of containment, which was SOP at the time of Columbine does not accomplish that goal.  (I’ve elected to italicize this section because my last law enforcement experience was over 25 years ago when I was in the USCG chasing drug runners.  My understanding of the status of tactics commonly used at the time of Columbine and now is second hand at best, so feel free to correct me, if your information  and experience are current).

It is misinformed, at best, to suggest that because the deputies fired at Harris and missed is proof that armed security will not be effective in preventing or reducing deaths in such situations.  If that were the case, if trained and armed response were not effective, their would be no reason for the change in police response.

It’s also worth noting that typically, spree killers do not carry out their attacks in places that will not only allow but virtually guarantee an immediate armed response.  Spree killers are deranged and view their lives as over, but they aren’t interested in dying before they can make their horrible “statements”.  It seems reasonable that the known presence of armed and trained personnel would act as a deterrent to their violence.  Even if they do carry out an attack, far better that it be stopped sooner rather than later.  Sooner requires that an armed response be an immediate option.

Other criminals seem to fear armed citizens.  2000 incarcerated felons were interviewed by Wright and Rossi with the following results:

  • Percent who had been shot at, captured, scared off or wounded by an armed victim 34%
  • Percent who knew another criminal who had experienced the same         69%
  • Percent who often or regularly worried about getting shot by the victim 34%
  • Percent who agree criminals are more worried about armed victims than police         57%

What’s really interesting about this study was that it was conducted in 1986 when fewer states allowed concealed carry and there were far fewer total concealed carry permit holders in the US than there are now.

Evil, I want to talk about evil.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s real.  Yes, the people who commit heinous acts are often psychologically damaged.  That makes their acts no less evil and no more defensible.  So often, we want to pretend evil doesn’t exist as if that will somehow make things better.  But what else would you call it?  It doesn’t matter if you have any spiritual or religious beliefs or not.  The things some people do are so fundamentally wrong, so warped, as to defy in the most basic sense, any other definition.

This is a fundamental flaw with the idea that disarming, in any way, the majority of gun owners will somehow prevent the kinds of atrocities we sometimes see.  As long as this world stands, evil will find a way to express itself.  That is its nature.  Evil knows of no restriction or restraint of appetite.  That too is its nature.  The more shocking, offensive and extreme it is, the more directly it must be opposed.  That is never more true than when dealing with evil that delights in violence, havoc and destruction.  There exist not only evil acts but evil people who care nothing for the well-being and lives of others.   When they choose to strike, to give life to their anger and rage, by attacking others with their violence, they must be opposed, immediately, with the one thing that is most likely to prevent or at least limit it.  That is, an equally violent though more reasoned and compassionate response.  It is more reasoned because it arises not out of a raging desire to destroy, but from the desire to protect.  It arises from a compassion for those who evil selects as its target.  It arises from an absolute refusal to say anything to a truly evil person, bent on savagery and destruction, other than “not here, not now and most certainly not on my watch”.

Finally, there is the idea of self-protection.  In the vast, overwhelming majority of cases, the intended victim of a criminal is the true first responder.  When I was in the USCG I had the opportunity to go on authorized “ride alongs” with law enforcement personnel from other agencies, local, state and federal.  When I was with the local folks especially, it wasn’t unknown for them to receive those 911 calls that required and immediate response.  When someone reported a prowler or someone in their house at 0300, the LE guys responded immediately.  The problem was that immediately did not mean instantaneously.  Think about it.  A home owner awakens to the sound of a window breaking downstairs.  He or she picks up the phone and calls 911.  The call is answered.  Now, in hushed tones, the 911 operator is told of the likely intruder.  The homeowner gives his or her address.  The 911 operator makes the call to law enforcement.  The nearest squad car begins heading that way.  Now, how long will it take for that officer to arrive?  That is a function, not so much of a desire or willingness to help as it is a matter of distance and road conditions (if the officer slides off the road and wrecks his or her car in haste to get to the scene, that only delays things further).  How long must the scared homeowner wait for help? 5 minutes? 10? 30?  How long should that person be willing to wait before something definitive can be done if it’s necessary?  It’s one thing, perhaps, to say “I’d just hide quietly in my closet or go out the back door”.  Aside from some tactical questions, suppose that down the hall you have two or three bedrooms in which your children lie sleeping?  Hide?  Go out the back door?  Really?  And who will stand between your children and whoever has entered your house?  Here’s the reality.  You are the one primarily responsible for your safety and that of your children, not law enforcement.  The LE officers want to help.  They will do everything within their legal power and ability to help.  But they cannot be there 24/7 and they can’t respond as quickly as someone who is already there!  You are responsible for your safety and that of your family and it is unfair to abandon that responsibility to law enforcement.  That puts you and those you love at risk and gives law enforcement personnel an obligation they cannot successfully discharge.  It teaches your family that their safety is not important enough for you or they to ensure.  More than that, it is as far as I can see, a cowardly act.

For those who oppose the use of guns to ensure individual safety, I have only a few questions.  Why do we entrust the safety of the President of the United States and his family to those with guns?  Why do we have no problem with those who have the resources to hire their own armed security?  And why is their safety more important than mine…or yours?  I do not begrudge those folks the armed security they enjoy.  I do, however, object to the idea that my safety and that of my family is somehow less deserving of that same protection.  The idea that the difference is training, is specious.  I knew many LE personnel who only went to the range or took tactical training courses once or twice a year.  The rest of the time they were content to merely carry a weapon and were far less competent than their colleagues, or any civilians, who were willing to spend their own time and money to constantly improve and maintain their own skill and competence.  Training to use a weapon is only have the equation.  I am convinced that in many cases those people who are armed but fail to use the weapon successfully are unsuccessful because they are either inadequately trained and/or haven’t made the decision ahead of time to shoot another human.  All the training in the world will not help if a person is unwilling to use the weapon and that means being willing to shoot another person if necessary.  The time to ask and truly, honestly answer the question “can I shoot someone else” is not when the time to use a gun is right now!  That question must be asked, seriously considered and answered before the tactical shoot/don’t shoot decision must be made.  I asked that question of myself long ago, revisited it as necessary…and it kept me alive to go home 2 decades later.  I have never wanted to shoot and kill another human being.  I still do not.  Doing it hurts.  I’m not proud of it and I certainly don’t glory in it.  That said, if the same or similar circumstances arose again, I would make the same decision.

At the end of the day, each of us must decide how much responsibility we are willing to take for our individual safety and that of our family.  How accountable are we willing to be for our actions?  Is it okay to allow those who would engage in horrendous acts of evil against us and others in our society to only be strongly opposed when they have killed or injured as many as they can?  My answer is this:  I am responsible for my safety and that of my family.  I am accountable for my actions, including the possibility that I might make a bad decision, though I train and prepare as much as I can to not only be able to act decisively, but to also make good decisions.  And I will not stand idly by and tell myself that if evil attacks me or mine that my best defense is my cell phone.  Not here, not now and most certainly not on my watch.

Here I am

Well, I've decided to finally get around to putting "on paper" my thoughts on just about everything.  It seems appropriate, given my now 6 month acquaintance with that condition known as "being fifty".  I know some things on which I'll comment, but since I expect the list to grow and might change my mind on others, I don't think I'll list any topics right now.  As the name of the blog says, I'm a retired mustang.  For those unfamiliar with the term, I'm using it to mean someone who begins a military career as an enlisted person and then, at some point, chooses to accept Darth Vader's invitation to "give yourself to the dark side" and become a commissioned officer.