The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort. -- Robert A. Heinlein
Somewhere in the crusty outer layer of small towns surrounding the warm creamy center that is Oklahoma City.
I've been thinking for the longest time that I'm primarily a gun-rights voter. It turns out I'm not. Economics is a far more important topic for me, as evidenced by my reaction to the Wall Street bailout package. I was livid with rage for several weeks.
The difference between Obama and McCain on economic matters is the difference between what Mises called "socialism on the Soviet model" and "socialism on the German model". Actually, it's not even that. Obama has a fair amount of both kinds of socialism in his plan. McCain is mostly German-style, which I like to call neo-mercantilism.
More to the point, both men voted for and vociferously supported the bailout package. John McCain lost the most critical opportunity to define himself as a "maverick" and do something the people actually wanted by voting against the bailout. I have zero doubt that had he voted against it, he would be walking away with this election right now. But he apparently prays at the altar of John Maynard Keynes just like everyone else in Washington, so now he's in a hard fight instead of a walkaway.
So if I'm an economics voter, and the two candidates are essentially indistinguishable, does it make sense to go to my second hot-button issue and vote gun rights? In that case, Barack Obama surely loses my vote. Like most of the gun owners I've met online, I am not sold on the "Obama is cool with guns" line.
First, the FactCheck.org page on the subject largely affirms the NRA's charges against him. They quibble over details, and in some cases seem to say that the difference in the details means that Obama must therefore be pro-gun, but their research largely shows what he is: a gun-banner at heart. Anyone who says otherwise is engaging in wishful thinking or outright deceit.
Address Gun Violence in Cities: As president, Barack Obama would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information, and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals who shouldn't have them. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets.
First off, the Tiahrt Amendment does nothing to prevent traces of crime guns. What it does is prevent data-mining by folks like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who like to troll through the lists to find gun shops (ie, small businesses, which Obama says he wants to protect) to sue out of existence.
Second, "child-proofing" guns is shorthand for introducing technologies to make guns more unreliable. So-called "smart guns" that use little computers to recognize fingerprints and such are just more things that can go wrong in an incident where a person really needs the gun to work flawlessly. Guns are simple mechanisms for a reason: simplicity is reliability. They are dangerous for a reason: if they weren't, they wouldn't be good for anything. The best "child-proofing" is a gun safe, educated children, and responsible adults, none of which can be legislated without seriously infringing on all sorts of rights.
Third, the Assault Weapons Sham was just that -- a sham. It did nothing of value except let a couple of handwringing, bedwetting ninnies pat themselves on the back for "doing something". It created a pretext for harassing gun owners and gun buyers, and severely limited the effectiveness of weapons that people depended on for self defense. The 10-round magazine limit alone made thousands of quality defensive handguns less useful than their design, as folks toting Glocks and other guns had to take a hit on their legal ammo capacity, putting them at a disadvantage vs any bad guy they ran up against.
Folks who don't understand this claim Obama is "good with guns". Folks who don't care say the same thing. But folks like me who understand the issue and understand what gun owners are concerned about, can see that Barack Obama is probably worse even than Bill Clinton on this issue. After all, Bill Clinton was at least a good ol' southern boy. Obama is a big city Chicago liberal. Gun ownership is an abstract concept for him, and it always will be.
Obama and McCain agree on the so-called "gun show loophole", which isn't a loophole at all. This is the gun show loophole in a nutshell: if I talk to my next door neighbor, and offer to sell him one of my guns, it's a private sale and none of the government's business. If we happen to be standing in the parking lot of a place where a gun show is being held, rather than at our fenceline, it's a "loophole". That's it. That's the whole mess they're worried about. I can run classified ads for guns in my gun club's monthly newsletters, sell them all day long to my fellow members or to anyone who reads the newsletter, but if I do it at a gun show, it's somehow a "loophole". I have another word for it: BS.
So McCain's not great on guns either, but he's at least not promoting the re-authorization or permanent renewal of the Assault Weapons Sham.
Another issue of mine is war. I don't want to be in wars when trade is a much better solution to international problems. Tangental to that, I don't want to be avoiding trade with other nations, as this whole "cutting dependence on foreign oil" business would have it. Trade creates interdependence and from that comes peace. Policies that get in the way of trade, like subsidies and protectionism, promote war and undermine peace. McCain and Obama are both in favor of both subsidies and protectionism. It's on their websites... go look.
More to the point, McCain and Obama are both in favor of war as a solution to the world's problems, rather than as a last resort. Our choices are between a couple of big wars and a bunch of little ones. Obama likes war for "humanitarian reasons". McCain is after national greatness. I'm not a fan of either approach, and though I can certainly see the appeal of tromping into Darfur and laying waste to all the bad guys, I can also see that it won't fix anything. The violence in places like Africa cannot be solved with more violence. America could completely obliterate a nation of thugs like Somalia or Sierra Leone, and within 10 years (probably much sooner), they'd be killing each other again. Neither candidate has offered a fresh idea on the matter.
The final thing that would really interest me in either candidate is their approach to the rural/urban divide. On this, Barack Obama is thoroughly insulting, with his "rural" page being basically a litany of handouts that he apparently hopes will turn rural folks into inner-city welfare queens. John McCain is a little better in that he gives lip-service to property rights, but his policy proposals are essentially just more socialism with a "free market" disguise.
Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate, does not appear to be winning his bid to get on Oklahoma's ballot. This leaves me with McCain, Obama, or "None of the Above". I did not enter a vote for President in 2004. I couldn't bear to put my endorsement on either guy. I'm very close to doing the same this year. I know I won't be voting for Obama. I see nothing of value on his website, and I don't understand what other people think is so great about the guy. The only time I really took a liking to him was during his comedy routine at that charity dinner a while back.
That leaves me with McCain vs not voting, and the only thing McCain's got going for him is some lip service to property rights and a somewhat better record/stance on guns. I don't want to vote for the man, but I also don't want to lose the ability to buy certain firearms and accessories. It's not that I'm especially interested in those firearms at present, but my tastes may change, and besides, there's a bunch of other good folks out there who are interested in them for perfectly legitimate reasons.
I struggle between my own conviction that a vote is a 100% endorsement and something Robert A. Heinlein, one of my personal heroes, once wrote:
If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for ... but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.
I have often forcefully advocated that children be taught about guns... how to handle them, how they work, what makes them dangerous, what makes them safe. For those who argue that children should never be allowed to handle, touch, look at, or think about guns, I often wonder rhetorically how ignorance has ever helped anyone with anything.
Just like children need to be taught about things like sex, money, work, diet, and exercise, they need to be taught about weapons. And just like all these other subjects, such learning should be age-appropriate -- tailored to the child's physical, mental, and emotional development.
An 8-year-old boy died yesterday at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield after he accidentally shot himself in the head at a Westfield gun club, Westfield Police reported.
Police said the child's death, caused by a fully automatic Uzi machine gun...
The death was not caused by a fully automatic Uzi machine gun, or any other kind of gun. It was caused by stupidity on the part of the adults in attendance.
"Witnesses state that he was shooting the weapon down range when the force of the weapon made it travel up and back toward his head, where he suffered the injury," the police statement read.
What does this tell us? It tells us that the people involved, especially the "certified instructor" that accompanied him to the range, knew more about guns than about 8-year-old boys. I am not a "certified instructor", but I was once an 8-year-old boy, and I remember a few things and have observed some others as I have considered the idea of how to teach kids to shoot.
The first thing I've noticed is that they don't have a lot of hand strength. If you give them a heavy object (like an Uzi) and then do something to that object to make it move in their hands (like pull the trigger), they're going to have a hard time holding on to it.
Second, when something tends to go amiss with an object they're holding, kids that age tend to clench their fingers into a fist to try and settle it down. This means that the worse things got, the harder the kid was pulling on the trigger. There's a reason ATV's and jetskis have a requirement for operators to be 16 or older -- "let go of the throttle/trigger if you get into trouble" actually means something to them. They can override their instinctive reaction and stop the ugly stuff from happening. I have yet to meet an 8-year-old, not specially trained or excessively practiced, who can follow instructions that tell them to react contrary to their instincts.
In my opinion, no kid under the age of 16 has any business touching a fully-automatic firearm. I'm speaking generally here, recognizing that some 14-year-olds probably could handle it and some 18-year-olds probably couldn't. But as a guideline, 16 is probably where "trainability against instinct" is reliable enough... after all, that's when we start letting them drive.
So that's count one against the "certified instructor" (and, I'm sorry to say, the kid's father). Count two is that I figure it's probably not a good idea for a kid under the age of 12 to be handling a handgun or handgun-like firearm. The Uzi is a tricky beast to quantify, since it can have a shoulder stock like a rifle or be fired like a pistol, and the articles I've found on this incident do not describe the configuration this one was in. It would seem that the use of a shoulder stock might have prevented this, unless it was one of those folding, skeletonized deals that probably didn't fit the poor kid properly anyway.
My point is, if you're going to let a kid shoot, and teach him how, I'm just as much a fan of "start 'em young" as the next guy, but it should be done with proper tools. They start with a single-shot .22 rifle, and they have an adult present and not shooting to watch their every move while they have that rifle in their hands. Incidentally, I'm only talking about equipment here... there's a lot of other ground to cover, like the safety rules and such, which the child should be able to recite and explain on command.
After gaining competence and confidence with their single-shot .22, the child can be moved up to a bolt- or lever-action .22, appropriately sized for them. Using a gun that is too large is dangerous for anyone, but especially for a child with minimal muscular development. If the child cannot reach the trigger on daddy's bolt gun while holding his right arm in the proper position, the child cannot shoot daddy's bolt gun. It's as simple as that.
It's only after learning the operation of a manually-operated repeater and proving competence with it that the child should be introduced to a self-loading rifle, or "semi-automatic". (For the uninformed, this is different from the firearm used in the incident above in that it only fires one round per pull of the trigger, and holding down the trigger will do nothing but make your finger tired.)
It is only once the child has proceeded through this process, which I would expect to take several years, that one should contemplate the idea of letting them fire a handgun. The saving grace of the rifle is that it is far more visible to the observing adult, who can more easily make sure that the muzzle is being kept pointed in a safe direction. A handgun is a small object, easily and quickly turned this way and that, and affords the observing adult with very little time to make corrections if the child does something unsafe. My reasoning is therefore that the adult in question needs to have expended considerable time and effort ensuring that the child does in fact know the safety rules in practice as well as in theory, before allowing the child to shoot something with a much greater potential for error.
As I stated earlier, I am not a "certified instructor", but this is just the stuff that really seems like common sense to me. All condolences to the family, but this tragedy was entirely preventable if the adults had just used their heads.
Everyone's been so busy panicking about "the economy" that nobody seems to have noticed (well, Time did) how cheap gas has gotten. Remember gas? That commodity everyone was all a-flutter over early in the summer because it was so expensive?
The current "market meltdown" (as the doomsayers like to call it) has commodity prices falling. I always have a difficult time understanding why this is a bad thing. I like paying less for the goods that I buy. It means I have more money for other things, like guns & ammo. Why does everyone else want to pay more for stuff? Incidentally, gas has been on the decline since well before the government bailout/"rescue" package was even proposed, so we can firmly and emphatically state that the government cannot take credit for this.
Oh right... housing prices are falling. Supposedly this is a bad thing too. Again, I have difficulty understanding why. If I buy a new car and sell it later, it's a used car and commands less market value. So why is it that when I buy a new house and sell it later, it's not a used house? I realize that conventional wisdom has held for the longest time that a house is an "investment", but somehow we went from that to the idea that "investment" means "always goes up in value".
I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but investments go both up and down. Which direction they go tells you whether they are a "good" or "bad" investment. This poppycock about houses being "special" in this regard really needs to stop. Unfortunately, it's a little late, since the government has already committed $700 billion taxpayer dollars to protecting the poor doe-eyed homeowner class from having to face reality.
In the meantime, enjoy the cheap gas. I'm sure that given enough time for the stupidity to flow, government will find a way to fix that problem too.
The ability of the media to ignore all of the massive government interference that exists today and to characterize our present economic system as one of laissez faire and economic freedom marks it as, if not profoundly dishonest, then as nothing less than delusional.
Oklahoma's biggest gun show is coming in a few weeks, November 8 & 9. It's the Saturday after the election, which means that if Obama wins, it's going to be a madhouse. The Obama campaign has been trying to deflect his anti-gun image, but a lot of folks aren't buying it. Look for sales of semi-automatic, politically incorrect black rifles (AR15's and the like) to go through the roof, as well as standard-capacity magazines for such rifles and many popular handguns. I may have to pick up a couple of 13-round extended mags for the ol' Glock 30.
My local friends are turning into party poopers, with one wondering whether he'd be bored at a gun show and another probably having to work both days of the gun show. The first guy's "gun nut" street cred is seriously eroding. I may have to do this one alone, unless Mrs. Curmudgeon goes with me, but I don't want her to be bored and fidgety.
My shopping/"want to fondle" list:
Surplus 7.65 ARG ammo
Surplus military ammo cans
Standard-cap magazine deals
other items of interest
Today I took the Mauser out to a new range I discovered... well, not really "new" in the sense that I'd never been there, but new in the sense that I'd never used their pistol/rifle facility.
As I was getting set up, a guy walked past and exclaimed "Hey, is that an Arjee? That was the first gun I ever owned!" He then told us how he paid 9 dollars for it, way back when he was 17 years old. He said he killed a lot of deer with it, and that it was a great gun. He also told me that while I might find a bunch of different ways to destroy it, I'd never wear it out. "Your great grandson will be shooting that thing."
Afterwards, he wandered back to his spot to work on his own shooting, and I got down to business:
I won't post any targets... I was only shooting at 50 yards, and suffice it to say that while any deer in the vicinity might file a noise complaint, they don't really have anything to fear from me. I only shot about 25 rounds, then my headphones started giving me a headache from pressing the earpiece of my glasses into a tender spot on the side of my head. So I turned it over to Mrs. Curmudgeon for a few shots before packing it up to finish out our day:
It wasn't a lot of shooting, but I was nervous, my head hurt, and I got what I came for. I know the rifle's doing its part... I did have one really good shot where I felt everything come together, and I'm almost positive it was one of the two bullseyes I scored. Now all I have to do is put some more work into it.
I also found out the sling doesn't fit me, so I've started looking around for a replacement. It'll probably just be a cheapo nylon thingie, but I'm making a pretense of comparison shopping. I asked about getting a 3rd sling swivel installed for a Ching Sling, but the guy I talked to didn't sound enthusiastic about drilling into an old gun like this. I'm still thinking about that.
Later, we wound up at Outdoor America, where I'd gotten (by proxy) the surplus ammo I was shooting today. It took a few minutes, but I finally got one of the clerks wrestled free of other customers, and asked about surplus 7.65 Argentine.
Today, for my birthday, Blizzard is giving me new toys to play with in my favorite hobby. Apple is giving me new toys to drool over in their online store. And God gave me a slightly chilly, drizzly day that reminds me of Alaska and gives me a chance to wear fleece.
Fleece (the modern artificial stuff, not the stuff better pronounced "fleas") is one of my favorite materials to wear when the temperature's just right. In that area between "I need to put a coat on" and "it's too warm for anything but short sleeves", is fleece weather. And the best fleece is made by Columbia Sportswear, a clothing company whose products are so fabulous I want to marry it and have like 10,000 of its babies.
And I won't get to it today for scheduling reasons, but this weekend I intend to take Gramps' old deer rifle out to the range for some quality time.
Argentinian Mauser ammunition is extremely expensive from new manufacture. Only a couple of modern manufacturers make it, and it's not in high enough demand for them to make a lot of it. So you can generally expect to pay between $1.50 and $2.00 a round.
It turns out however, that there's gaggles of this surplus ammunition marked S.F. (San Francisco?) available for dirt cheap... something like 22 cents a round. There's a reason for this. Not all Argentinian Mausers are created equal, and there's some confusion over the proper cartridge length. Some say 53mm, some say 54mm, and some say 53.4mm or 53.5mm. This means that some Argentinian Mausers cannot chamber the 54mm S.F. ammunition.
It's apparently a symptom of the "newer" guns... the 1901 and later models. One story goes that the tool blades were worn down and just didn't cut the chambers as deep, and the folks in the factory were too cheap/lazy to replace them.
All of this becomes important to me because I'd really like to shoot the Argentinian Mauser given to me by my grandfather, and have long since used up the box of ammo that came with it. I found a local dealer who sells the S.F. ammo, and had Tom the Impaler swoop by and pick some up for me.
Then I read on the net about a bunch of folks having trouble chambering it, just as I, so pleased with the price, was plotting the purchase of a whole case of the stuff. This had me worried until I tried out the stuff I got, chambering 5 randomly selected rounds, and it turned out all right. My 1891 model is fit as a fiddle and feeds the 54mm cartridges almost like it was made for them.
I have read a few blogs where the right-wing types have christened Barack Obama the "Obamessiah", lampooning the left's devotion to him. I was pretty well convinced that this was all hyperbole for the sake of humor. After all, it would be ridiculous to imagine anyone on the left turning Obama into the Second Coming.
Then I ran across this video, claiming that Obama is the one "chosen by God".
I won't claim it's even representative of the Democrats at this point, but ... WOW. Someone's been hitting the ganja stash pretty hard.
Lew Rockwell over at Mises has written up a nice little summary of how FDR's policies exacerbated the Great Depression, and what, if history is any judge, we're in for as the government repeats the same mistakes:
The ghost of FDR is everywhere, haunting both Washington and New York. The terrible trouble is that the minds in power have confused an economic wrecker with an angel of mercy. They are following his confusions and prescriptions day to day in an attempted repeat of the longest economic calamity in modern American history.
They have looked at the history of the New Deal and completely misunderstood it, believing the civics-book claptrap about how FDR saved us from the Depression, whereas the fact is that FDR's theories and policies lengthened and deepened it to the point that the only way out that the Roosevelt administration saw was war.
The great theoretical error of the New Dealers was to confuse the symptom of low prices with the causes of the economic downturn. The real problem was that prices were massively inflated before the stock-market crash of 1929. The correction had to occur and would have occurred peacefully, if not wholly painlessly, had the government not intervened.
The rest is a litany of economic abuse, as FDR modeled his administration on Mussolini's and went after people who charged too little for their goods and services, in an attempt to prop up prices. It's a good read, check it out.
UPDATE 3: Hat tip to reader PastorFreud, it's back up on NBC, minus a couple of seconds in the middle where they refer to Herb and Marion Sandler as "People who should be shot".
I think of comedy as art, and it pains me to see things get redacted... though I probably wouldn't have used that particular phrase in making the skit in the first place. The Kids in the Hall used to do things far more potentially offensive than that, but admittedly they didn't make reference to actual people but rather used archetypes when they wanted to skewer someone. And South Park goes WAY over the edge on a regular basis, with caricatures of real people using their real names. Of course, some of what they do on South Park is really disturbing and I wind up wishing they hadn't done it, so I guess it's appropriate to be circumspect before whole-heartedly endorsing an "anything goes" attitude towards comedy.
I will note however, that this guy hits the nail on the head with regard to a pervasive attitude of "good for me but not for thee":
Frankly, just the caption "People who should be shot" could give the Sandlers justifiable cause for a complaint. After all, no matter what you think about these folks, advocating their execution is clearly over the line unless they're Republicans and you post at Daily Kos.
On the "bright" side of things, according to the Austrians we will have a brief period of apparent return to prosperity. This may last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, then it will all come back to haunt us, and it will be even worse. The thing for individuals to do is to spend this time trying to get their personal lives in order. Pay off debt, save money, buy non-perishables.
Essentially, we had a bunch of credit cards. We charged them all up to the maximum, and discovered we couldn't make our monthly minimum payments. To "help", government has now doubled our credit limit. As a result, we'll "pay our bills" with the credit cards, keep making less than the monthly minimums, surf a few balances between cards, and putter along until we reach the new limits. At some point, we're going to have to realize that we have to hold a yard sale and get rid of all this crap we bought, at pennies on the dollar.
I wonder if all those people who balk at the idea of a gold standard still think Inflationary Fiat Money and his conjoined twin Easy Credit are good guys to have around.
Well, they passed the bailout bill. Time to get busy throwing the bums out. Voters in this country, who are about to get bent over the barrel for this, need to adopt a scorched-earth policy towards the election. Let no incumbent stand. Well, maybe the ones who voted against it twice, if there are any.
Wachovia has decided to thumb its nose at the government-brokered deal with Citi, choosing instead to sell out to Wells Fargo. Wait a minute... I was sure that someone in the government told me this sort of thing couldn't happen, and that's why we need a bailout.
It's almost as if a sort of... I dunno... let's call it a "free market"... were working to clean up the mess already, while Congress continues to argue over pork.
I didn't watch it. I couldn't. I flipped to it after watching Boston Legal on DVR, saw Sarah Palin blaming "predatory lenders" for the mortgage crisis, and lost all hope for humanity. It wasn't the government's push to get people with bad credit hooked up with a mortgage. It was those evil corporations. In that one answer, she basically ripped away any meaningful distinction between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans have completely bought the Democrat party line that anyone who can be described as a "businessman" is an evil, no-good, mustache-twiddling ne'er-do-well straight out of the Saturday morning cartoons. They've come around to the Karl Marx view of the economy, and the passage of the bailout bill will be the final straw.
BIDEN: "We should be allowing bankruptcy courts to be able to readjust, not just the interest rate you are paying on your mortgage to be able to stay in your home, but in -- be able to adjust the principal that you owe, the principal that that you owe.
I can't even begin to imagine where he got this idiotic notion.
This article at Reason provides an excellent explanation of the whole mortgage mess, including clarification of some points that I've been fuzzy on. Specifically, what was the $700 billion going to be used for, and how would it supposedly "help"? The last few paragraphs are especially instructive:
The original plan crafted by Treasury would authorize the department to spend up to $700 billion to buy MBSes and other "toxic" debt and thereby remove them from banks' balance sheets. With the "bad loans" off the books, the banks would become sound. Because it was assumed that the MBS market was "illiquid," the government would become the buyer of last resort for these products. There is a certain simple elegance to the plan.
Except that no market is truly illiquid. It just isn't liquid at the price you want to sell. This summer, Merrill Lynch unloaded a bunch of bad debt at 22 cents on the dollar. There are likely plenty of buyers for the banks' bad debt, just not at the price the banks would prefer. Enter the government, which clearly intends to purchase MBSes at some premium above the market price. That was the nature of the bailout that failed on Monday.
In other words, the banks could simply sell off the debt at a discount and take a loss. Sure, it would slam their stock price pretty hard, and might open them up to takeover by a competitor, but it beats going out of business altogether. That is, unless you can somehow swindle the government into sticking it to the taxpayers and buying the debt for more than it's worth.