Re-visiting the Police State

29 07 2008

Metaphorically, anyway. I have no desire to subject myself to the perils in the Logic-Free Zone.

In my last rant, I implied that the City government of DC was in a persistent vegetative state. This was an inaccurate statement, which I will now clarify: The City government of the nation’s capitol is composed of one-third (more or less) morons, one-third (more or less) imbeciles, one-third (more or less) criminals, and three-thirds (more or less) poltroons.

Allow me to demonstrate. In the wake of the Heller Decision, the DC City Gummint changed the rules to permit residents to legally own handguns- supposedly in order to comply with the Supreme Court decision. In stark refutation of the clear language of that decision, they proceeded to make the process for registering a handgun in the city so burdensome as to discourage anyone from trying. Worse, and still in defiance of the Heller Decision, the city imposed such strict requirements for using a handgun in self-defense that such use would almost certainly be either impossible or ruled illegal after the fact.

According to the new regulations, a citizen can own a handgun (except auto-loading weapons- more on this later) and keep it at home, but it would have to be kept unloaded or disassembled and locked up until it was needed. In other words, if a burglar was breaking into a home in DC, the resident would have to discover the threat, unlock the gun safe or similar “approved” locking device, load or assemble the weapon, and then (and only then) would he or she be permitted the luxury of self-defense. Have you ever seen the 1973 version of The Three Musketeers? There’s a scene where the Cardinal’s Guards arrest Raquel Welch in her home, and her husband dutifully tries to defend her with a pistol- which he has to first find and load. It’s a very funny scene in the movie, but not one that any law-abiding citizen should be forced to endure in a real-world life-or-death situation.

For those of you playing at home, the DC police and City Gummint are the Cardinal’s Guards- the bad guys in the film (but not the book, which I highly recommend).

Now let us examine the requirements for registering a firearm in DC. First and foremost, no weapon which can fire more than 12 rounds- or could possibly be modified to fire more than 12 rounds– without reloading is classified as a “machine gun” by the City. “Machine guns” are specifically outlawed by the new DC ordinance, making legal ownership of “the most common weapon used by Americans for self-defense” (quoted from the Heller Decision) impossible. In fact, Dick Heller- the man who fought the City’s unconstitutional handgun ban to the Supreme Court- cannot register his five-shot pistol because it “could possibly be modified” to fire more than 12 rounds without reloading.

In addition to outlawing an entire class of otherwise commonly-legal firearms, the DC registration process requires that would-be registrants take their firearm to the police station, where they will be fingerprinted and a background check will be initiated. The firearm will be confiscated and tested by the police to ensure that the weapon has not been associated with any crimes and to determine its “ballistic fingerprint” (which may or may not be based on valid science). This process could take several weeks, and the police department has issued several different estimates of approval time, indicating that the time for approval is basically open-ended.

As expected, several people (including Dick Heller) have filed new lawsuits against the City, claiming that the new regulations are violating their individual right to own and bear arms. Having read some of these regulations, I tend to agree.

What really gets me hopping mad is the fact that the City expected to get sued over their new registration process. They knew in advance that they were deliberately violating the Supreme Court’s ruling against them. Worse, they’re counting on the fact that it will take years for the various appeals to work through the courts- during which time they will continue to capriciously and arbitrarily deny residents of the City their Constitutional right. By the way, your tax dollars will be paying for all of this.

The DC police and government seem to be Hell-bent on wasting the taxpayers’ money fighting justifiable lawsuits over deliberate violations of Constitutional law because they don’t want American citizens to own firearms. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but that sounds suspiciously like fraud. Perhaps the FBI should take an interest in the activities of the City’s Gummint. Also, since some residents of DC are already using the 3rd box against the City, the rest of the citizens should start using the first two boxes. Vote these numb-skulls out of office! Forever.

Current status: Outraged

Current music: Safety Dance by Men Without Hats

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Carry On

22 07 2008

By now, everybody not in a persistent vegetative state (like the District of Columbia) should be aware that the Supremes have finally given judicial notice to the existence of an individual right to keep and bear arms. To those somnambulists not familiar with this ruling, I invite you to read the decision in it’s entirety here. Briefly, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the draconian prohibition of handguns in the nation’s capitol. In doing so, Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, emphatically affirmed that self-defense (whether against Gummint intrusion or merely lesser predators such as robbers and murderers) is an inherent right of all Americans which predates the Constitution.

While I am pleased by this ruling, I am somewhat less than pleased by Scalia’s none-too-subtle swipes at the minority opinions of the Court- especially at Justice Stevens. Stevens may or may not be an idiot, but the ruling as written certainly gives the impression that Scalia considers him so. This sort of unprofessionalism is not a good idea, and might serve to further divide the Court along the lines of partisan politics. Not a good thing coming from the final arbiters of what is or is not Constitutional.

In the aftermath of this decision, a group of people from an organization called Open Carry have started a “public-awareness” campaign to demystify firearms in general and handguns in particular. These folks wear their weapons openly and proudly in an attempt to wean their fellow citizens away from the visceral panic attacks which invariably result at the sight of a firearm these days.

So far, so good. I have no problem with the organization’s stated aims. I do have a problem with the implementation of those aims.

As with any group- however noble in intent- a small but vocal minority of the Open Carry organization are apparently unhappy with the low-key and non-confrontational tactics of their fellows. This fringe group seems to enjoy confrontations with police, and go out of their way to be “in your face” about their right to bear arms. They boast about confrontations with police and ideological opponents, where their fellows would have been content with education and awareness.

I own firearms, and I have a permit to carry concealed weapons. I also live in an “open carry” state, where the right to bear arms openly is written into law. That said, I do not wear my pistol openly in order to avoid the sort of confrontation some of the “Open Carry” members seem to enjoy. In my opinion, going out of one’s way to get into a confrontation with the police is not only stupid, it is working directly against Open Carry’s stated purpose. The major media outlets may or may not be biased toward liberal issues, but they are absolutely biased toward sensationalism. Loudmouthed imbeciles with guns who boast about causing friction with the police will quickly and permanently drown out the message they are supposed to be presenting- that firearms are not bad in and of themselves. The public will only see the confrontational ass-hats, and their opinion of all guns and gun owners will be colored by this flawed impression.

Sanctimonious and self-important ass-hats are intensely irritating, no matter which side of the issue I happen to be on. If anything, the sanctimonious and self-important whackjobs on my side are more irritating than anyone else, because they tend to make me look bad by association. Also, people who seem to go out of their way to defeat their own purpose are not folks I think I can rely on.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of unreliable people with weapons bothers me. I’m willing to put up with it as part of the price for the freedoms we all enjoy, but I don’t have to like it.

 

Current status: Concerned

Current music: Roll the Bones by Rush





Stuff and Nonsense

14 07 2008

I overheard in passing a television commercial flogging some gas-guzzler or another where the announcer boldly proclaimed that the vehicle could go 400 miles on a tank of gas. I was literally awestruck by the sheer stupidity of that statement. I sputtered incoherently for a few minutes before going off on a profanity-filled tirade that only ended when my wife physically shoved me out of the room and gave me a beer.

For those of you weak on basic mathematics, 400 miles on a tank of gas is nothing to write home about. Assuming the vehicle has a 15-gallon tank, that comes out to 26.62 miles per gallon. With a 20-gallon tank, the vehicle only gets 20 miles per gallon. By way of comparison, my 4-year-old Buick Medicare Sled gets better than 30 miles per gallon on the highway.

I’m pretty sure that the manufacturer and the marketroids who dreamed up this drivel are counting on their target demographic being truly stupid and/or ignorant of elementary-school mathematics. The fact that they’re selling SUVs to this demographic confirms my long-held belief that only morons drive SUVs (with some notable exceptions). When I see an SUV on the highway with chips and scratches in the paint and mud splattered as high as the windows, I tend to assume that the driver is using the vehicle for its intended purpose. Far too often, however, the SUV is immaculate- freshly washed and waxed, with expensive rims and loads of nice-looking but fragile adornments. The people who drive these land behemoths are morons.

A similar group of imbeciles are those who drive pick-up trucks with the teeny-tiny bed. These vehicles are invariably squeeky clean and never have anything in the bed. The cab of the truck is usually a study in luxury. Why buy a “luxury” pick-up or SUV? Pick-ups were designed to carry things and tow trailers. This is the sole reason for their exemption from the mileage requirements of cars. The people who drive these vehicles are either deliberately throwing their money away (for fuel, insurance, and tires) or are congenitally stupid. In either case, stay the Hell away from them on the roads.

Now let us move on to the manufacturers. There are several proven ways to improve the fuel efficiency of an internal-combustion engine. Sadly, most of these methods come at the cost of making the vehicle less safe. One of the few means of improving efficiency without reducing safety is to use diesel engines.

There are several diesel engine designs already in use in Europe which could be put to good use in the US. For some reason, most of the auto makers in the US refuse to use them. Diesel-powered passenger vehicles in this country are typically eight- and ten-cylinder monsters used in the largest pick-ups for towing heavy loads, and they get lousy fuel economy because they’re designed for hauling, not cruising. These huge engines are very good at what they do, but would not be practical for ordinary passenger vehicles.

There is one auto maker who builds a very nice four-cylinder diesel for passenger cars. The EPA estimated mileage for this vehicle is 44 mpg on the highway, but Car & Driver magazine test-drove one of these cars and got 53 mpg out of it. Very impressive. There are two problems with this vehicle. One- there aren’t enough of them. The manufacturer only produces a small number for the US market because of a perception that Americans won’t buy diesels. Hopefully, the fact that there are long waiting lists for the few they produce will encourage them to make more.

The second problem with this vehicle is it’s size. It is a small car. The cabin is well-designed to allow just about anyone to fit in the driver’s seat, but that leaves very little room for anything else. Trunk space and the back seats are laughably small.

What this country needs is a fuel efficient five- or six-cylinder diesel engine for passenger cars and light trucks. Why aren’t the auto makers building one?

Let’s take a look at fuel prices. For purposes of this discussion, we will assume that diesel fuel costs 25% more than gasoline. Thus, when gasoline is at four dollars a gallon, diesel will be five dollars. Let us further assume that diesel engines are 30% more fuel efficient than gasoline engines of comparable size. We shall use my car as the test vehicle. If the car gets 30 mpg highway, then I can travel 100 miles for $13.32. A comparable diesel engine should get 39 mpg, giving me a cost of $12.80 to drive 100 miles.

Assuming diesel only costs 25% more than gas and assuming diesel engines get 30% more miles per gallon, then diesel engines would seem to be the way to go. I’m not an automotive engineer, so I don’t know how close these figures are. I based them on a comparison between the gas- and diesel- powered versions of the same small passenger car using EPA numbers (not the much higher figures from Car & Driver) and the difference between gasoline and diesel at the local pumps (in other words, not quite a wild guess).

So, why aren’t the auto makers turning out passenger vehicles with diesel engines? Take a look at the idiot in your mirror.

We, the People, have permitted manufacturers and merchants to pander to the lowest common denominator- and that denominator is pretty low and common, based on the TV ads. Companies whose advertisements insult your intelligence should not be rewarded by purchasing their products. “This vehicle gets 400 miles to the tank” is an example of an ad campaign targeted on the barely sentient. Every time someone purchases one of those vehicles, they are rewarding the company who made it for speaking to them in baby-talk.

We, the People, can use the power of the Market to force companies to stop treating us like ignorant children. Becoming an informed consumer is not terribly difficult. You should have learned the required skills in elementary school. All you have to do is make sure your brain is in gear before considering a purchase.

Based on the TV ads, I would guess that a solid majority of Americans have their brains in neutral. Wake up! Using your brain helps you make your money go farther. There are lots of simple things you can do to save money and maintain a decent lifestyle.

But first, you have to think.

Current status: Churlish

Current music: I Hate California by Jonathan Coulton





No Truce With Kings

6 07 2008

Since my country has just celebrated the 232nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, I believe it would be good to review that document. I will add my comments (in italics) along the way.

*****

Source: http://www.ushistory.org/Declaration/document/index.htm

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

(This is one Hell of a long run-on sentence, but basically sets forth the purpose for the rest of the document)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

(At the time , “men” referred to white male land-owners. Today, thankfully, this applies to all of humanity)

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

(This is the core of the American experiment. The government is constituted by the people and rules by the consent of the people and should be cast aside by the people when that government fails to secure those inalienable human rights listed above)

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

(Whenever the government stops being responsive to the will of the people, the people can and must get rid of the government. Think of the Four Boxes)

— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

(Please read the following grievances against King George III of England and compare them to the current state of the United States today)

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

(This one in particular rings true today. There are herds of regulatory agencies with enormous control over the lives of the people, but whose decision are not subject to public review or appeal)

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

*****

Their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. The men who signed the Declaration were all wealthy and respected men in their Colonies. They all had a great deal to lose by tweaking the nose of the most powerful ruler in the world. But they put all of that at risk to be free of what they saw as despotic and tyrannical usurpation of the natural liberties which are the birthright of all humans.

The important bit is that they saw the rights the King was abrogating as natural rights. These rights were not granted by the Crown or Parliament- they were inherent in every human, whether King of England or the poorest farmer in the wilderness.

Please understand this if you learn nothing else from the history of our country- the Government cannot grant rights to the People. The Constitution was written to limit the powers of the Government over the People. It is we, the People, who are sovereign in this country. The Government is charged with the tasks found in the Preamble to the Constitution:

“We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and preserve the blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our posterity; do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Anything beyond these duties should be beyond the power of the Government. Anything which permits the Government to obstruct, limit, or remove the rights of the People should be opposed at all costs.

Written into the Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments) is the fact that all powers not expressly granted to the Government by the Constitution belong to the People (see the Tenth Amendment). The Bill of Rights also expressly states that the natural rights of the People belong to the People exclusively- whether or not that right was enumerated in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights (see the Ninth Amendment).

Not only are our rights not granted by the Government, those rights are not granted by the Constitution, either.

Four Boxes. Remember the Four Boxes to be used in defense of Liberty. Those boxes are to be used in the following order: Soap, Ballot, Jury, and Ammo. The Founders of this country ended up having to use all four, because the King of England would not listen to the complaints of the founders or his own Parliament. Consider this an open letter to those in our Government who see themselves as above the Laws. We, the People, are willing to be patient with your manifold stupidities so long as we have adequate redress through the use of those first three boxes. For your sakes, for all our sakes, for the sake of our Republic, do not make us resort to that fourth box.

Current status: Disgruntled

Current music: What Do You Want From Life? by the Tubes