“Van Control”

(I’m re-posting a Facebook comment here, because it might be useful in the future. All snark has been preserved, because I’m sick of this crap.)

The post:

When a 64 year old white man kills 58 and wounds 500 in fifteen minutes from 1200 feet with a knife, I will absolutely call for knife control. Until then, you've made the world's shittiest point.

The response:

A van killed 86 people in less than 3 mins, van control anyone????

The comment:

Oh, you sweet, sweet man. You’re obviously new here.
Continue reading


What I’m Reading, December 18, 2014

Katniss Everdeen, Thank You For Your Service, Ben Adams, Overthinking It, December 15, 2014

The individual experience of a veteran is as diverse and varied as any other institution with millions of members – prior to serving, those who served in the military come from all walks of life and backgrounds. During service, the experience of each service member varies widely, from a desk job in Washington DC to driving a warship through the Pacific to humping a rucksack and a rifle through the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan. And after leaving the military, veterans can be seen in all facets of society, making art, starting businesses, Overthinking things, etc.

But it is far too easy to leave this individuality behind and force the modern American* combat veteran into one of two competing narratives: the Courageous Hero or the Downtrodden and Broken Victim. In the Hero story, the veteran was born waving an American flag, traveling stoically across the sea to do battle with a distant enemy and returning home unbowed and unbroken; in the Victim story, the veteran was exploited by forces beyond his control, forced into the desert, subjected to unthinkable tragedy, and is now a hollow shell, subject to either crippling depression or psychotic breaks.


As with Katniss, veteran stories of heroism and victimization aren’t necessarily wrong. To be sure, many veterans have in fact accomplished any number of heroic deeds, sacrificing themselves for their fellow soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire. And to be sure, many veterans have in fact been victimized by combat, coming home either not at all, or with wounds both physical and mental.

But in the stories we tell ourselves, the actual living, breathing, veteran frequently becomes just a stand-in for an undifferentiated mass of Veterans.

Gun nuts’ racial duplicity: How Ferguson and Garner undermined their Second Amendment crusade, Amanda Gailey, Salon, December 15, 2014 Continue reading


The Second and the Twenty-Fourth

You may have seen this meme floating about (h/t Mare):

Via Facebook/Join the Coffee Party Movement

Via Facebook/Join the Coffee Party Movement

Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both agree criminals and terrorists should not have to show an ID to buy an assault rifle because it is an infringement on their constitutional rights.

But Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both agree a 92 year old senior trying to vote without the proper ID is a threat to our democracy and could destroy our free election system.

Leaving aside the atrocious font, the argument still isn’t quite right. It offers sort of a caricatured summary of the argument in favor of voter ID laws, and doesn’t note the constitutional implications of requiring people to get an ID that they would not otherwise need solely for the purpose of voting. That’s pretty much a poll tax, which is pretty unambiguously unconstitutional. Anyway, here’s my own caricature of the usual response to this meme from the pro-voter-ID-law crowd: Continue reading


What I’m Reading, October 7, 2014

My day at the gun nuts’ confab: Blunt talk, high drama and mass paranoia, Alexander Zaitchik, Salon, October 7, 2014

Earlier that morning, a speaker had flattered the [Gun Rights Policy Conference] crowd by calling them “the most sophisticated gun-rights gathering in the country.” This is probably true. It’s also telling. All of the room’s combined political experience, intelligence and savvy still does not add up to the ability to grasp how America’s largely unregulated gun trade has become a public health crisis, or why background checks and other common-sense measures poll so well. The gun-rights movement continues to see background checks through the same paranoid prism it sees everything else: the threat of door-to-door gun confiscation.

Why I will no longer speak on all-male panels, Scott Gilmore, MacLean’s, October 4, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, June 4, 2014

Insomnia Cured Here [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)], via FlickrThe NRA’s Frankenstein monster, Mano Singham, Freethought Blogs, June 3, 2014

The Frankenstein story is a morality tale that gets played over and over again in political life. A group (a government or political party or other organization) covertly supports and encourages extremists in order to achieve their own goals, thinking that they can control their surrogates and rein them in after they have served their purpose, only to find that the group has grown beyond its control and is determined to continue on its own path and in order to do us, turns against its own creator.


Things are so bad that the extremists are spawning even more extreme groups. The recent spat between the NRA and the group known as Open Carry Texas is a case in point. The NRA has been promoting the idea that people have the right of completely unbridled ownership of guns and to carry them anywhere at any time. The OCT took them at their word and its members went into a Chili’s fast food restaurant toting large semi-automatic weapons, freaking out the regular customers and this resulted in them being asked to not bring their guns into the store again.

This episode resulted in such bad publicity that the NRA, of all groups, has issued a sharply worded admonishment to the OCT telling them to cut it out. But OCT has turned on the NRA, accusing them of betraying the rights of gun owners.

*** Continue reading


I Know that the Vast Majority of Gun Owners Are Very Responsible

It’s just that the ones who aren’t ought to make us all very nervous.


Just Because You Think the Second Amendment Says You Can, It Still Doesn’t Mean You Should

By Lucio Eastman (Free State Project - PorcFest 2009 - Open Carry) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsYou might have a Second Amendment right to carry a gun into a restaurant, but others also have the right to call the police on you. I certainly have the right to state my opinion that you are a jackass. The following happened in Fort Worth

Let’s all take a moment to pity Open Carry Texas. The armed freaks who enjoy parading around terrorizing the public because they can are once again playing up their victim status after frightening the staff of a restaurant so badly that employees locked themselves in a freezer to protect themselves.

Thursday night, the “peaceful” and “non-threatening” group barged into a Jack in the Box with their usual heavy armaments, striking fear into the staff.

On multiple occasions in the past couple of years, I have heard people explain the difference between carrying a rifle in a manner in which it cannot be easily fired, as though this somehow makes it better that someone decided to stroll down the street with his definitely-not-for-hunting rifle (and I say “he” because it seems like it’s always a “he.”)

What is never explained is why I should trust the guy standing there with an arm cannon that is not in a firing position, simply because at that precise moment he isn’t holding it in a way that it could be fired. I know it doesn’t take long to move it into such a position—it wouldn’t be very useful otherwise—and that makes it impossible to tell the difference between a “good guy with a gun” and a “bad guy.” Continue reading


“The last time hundreds of Texans showed up at the Alamo with rifles…”

20131018-210704.jpgJerry Patterson, the current Texas Land Commissioner and candidate for Lieutenant Governor, is promoting a rally (or some other sort of event with people) at the Alamo in San Antonio, at which everyone is encouraged to carry their guns openly. This would be in violation of a city ordinance that gun people think is unconstitutional, and openly flouting the law in massive numbers is just so much more fun than challenging it in court, right?

Anyway, there’s a term for this: civil disobedience. Of course, when liberals practice civil disobedience, they often expect to get arrested. We’ll see how the liberty-loving folk packing heat at the Alamo handle it today.

One thing Patterson said causes me some concern, though: “The last time hundreds of Texans showed up at the Alamo with rifles, they were hailed as heroes in their stand against a tyrannical government.”

They also all died.

Photo credit: “The Fall of the Alamo” by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


Canada in the Caribbean?

20130510-174319.jpgI am writing this in the midst of five days of doing nothing in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The specific details of my trip are of no concern to my reader(s), but I have learned a few interesting factoids about this place. I had actually never heard of these islands before we started planning the honeymoon a few months ago, but I would not mind staying here a few more years.

– The Turks & Caicos are a British Overseas Territory, like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and others. Aside from tourism, its economy is largely based on banking, which also gives it much in common with the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
– They are geologically part of the same island chain as The Bahamas.
– The UK government suspended the islands’ government in 2009 amid accusations of corruption, imposing direct control over the territory. It restored local control in 2012. As a tourist, you don’t get much of a whiff of these goings-on.
– This is definitely not the gun-crazy United States. In April 2013, police arrested two Americans in separate incidents, an 80 year-old from Florida and a 60 year-old Texan, at the Providenciales Airport (where we arrived on Tuesday.) Both are accused of trying to smuggle a single bullet out of the islands. Not a gun, a bullet. The Royal Turks and Caicos Island Police Force put it in appropriately unfamiliar terms (to American ears, anyway):

If you suspect or know of anyone in possession of an illegal or imitation firearm; or ammunition, DO NOT approach or try to apprehend them. Call the Police on 911

They were each allowed to go home, but must return to the islands on June 7 so a judge can decide whether to drop the charges or commence proceedings that could result in five-year prison sentences. For a society that derives upwards of 80% of its revenue from tourism, this might not be good.

Hey, didn’t you say something about Canada?

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. Apparently Canada has explored the possibility of Turks & Caicos becoming a new province several times in the past century. The Turks and Caicos Islanders seem to favor the idea by a wide majority, and it could have quite a few advantages for Canada (aside from the obvious having a warm place to hang out.) Canada has hemmed and hawed on the issue for what appears to be a multitude of complicated domestic political issues. Not that I know much of anything about the issues, but I say go for it! (If the idea of Canada having a province in the Caribbean seems odd, ahem, Hawaii.)


So We Don’t Have Background Checks. Big Whoop.

450px-Open_Carry_of_a_9mm_Browning_Hi_Power_in_Eagle,_ColoradoI’ve been thinking about the vote in the Senate yesterday, and how a handful of red state Democrats supposedly betrayed the rest of the country, and so forth. The first thoughts that popped into my head were (1) just because a majority of Americans want something does not, by itself, make it a good idea or the right thing to do, and (2) legislation often works best as a formalizing process of a society-wide shift in attitudes. These two somewhat-contradictory ideas apply to gun regulation in the sense that, while most people seem to want background checks and other relatively modest regulations, and while the NRA can’t seem to address these issues without hyperbole and mendacity, the fact is that background check legislation, and similar laws, will be doomed to failure as long as the self-described “law-abiding” gun crowd seems predisposed to fight tooth and nail against them. I have seen no arguments against modest gun regulation that weren’t reduceable to “Regulation, registry, Nazis, oh my!” and quite frankly, I’m tired of trying to argue with people who refuse to address the issue at hand and tend to speak of everything in apocalyptic terms. As long as we tolerate people who have more respect for their guns than for their fellow citizens, none of this is ever going to get better.

The odd thing about all of this is that I’m actually pretty pro-gun rights, but I can’t stand shoddy arguments and uncompromising, extreme rhetoric. So here’s my point: Continue reading