Personal Liberty


The NYTimes has discovered a new constitutional principle: “selective incorpodumbassicity.” This means that the stupidity of some voters is incorporated, using a fabricated interpretation of the 14th Amendment, to rewrite the 2nd Amendment so that legitimate gun ownership, by responsible law-abiding citizens, is treated exactly the same way as if you robbed a bank.

In Dr. Munger’s response to this NY Times editorial.

retarded : adjective : slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development

— Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary

So, Rahm Emanuel call a group of White House aides and liberal operatives “retarded” when they were planning to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were balking at Mr. Obama’s health-care overhaul.  Sounds pretty accurate to me.  Only someone who was “slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development” would think that it was a good idea to attack members of one’s own party on the morning after a colossal slap down.

Now, Sara Palin goes all Jesse Jackson on his ass and insists that Emanuel resign.  What happened to all Palin’s threats of “less politically correct twitters“?

Just one more reminder that Democrats and Republicans are different sides of the same coin.  Both want to spend our money and control our lives.  They just have different plans of attack.

I bet most persons with intellectual disabilities couldn’t care less how Emanual describes the idiots* he has working for him.  Maybe that’s a lesson for the rest of us.

(* Oops, I probably shouldn’t use that word either — idiot : noun : a mentally retarded person having a mental age not exceeding three years and requiring complete custodial care.)

Berlin-WallTwenty years ago today, I sat in front of the TV with my dad, watching the Berlin Wall fall.  It was one of the defining moments of my youth.  He had served in the U.S. Army in West Germany in the early ’70s and had walked along the wall, seeing first hand the division it represented.  That night, we sat watching the events unfold, and both of us had tears rolling down our cheeks.  Seeing my father’s reaction more than anything else impressed on me the enormity of the changes unfolding in Eastern Europe.  I hope we never forget that we defeated a real enemy in that war, not just a philosophical paper tiger.

It took the courage and insight of an entire generation to defeat that evil.  While the war may not have been as obvious, these heroic men and women defeated an evil just as nefarious as the Naziism defeated a generation earlier.

It is a tribute to Reagan’s moral and strategic determination, as it was to everyone else who played their part in bringing down the Wall, that they could see through the sophistries of Soviet propagandists, their Western fellow travelers, and the legions of moral equivocators and diplomatic finessers and simply look at the Wall.

Why the Berlin Wall Fell, WSJ.com (Nov. 9, 2009)

My children likely will not understand.  It will be just so much ancient history—like Vietnam, WWII, the British Empire, Rome and the Pharaohs.  Already the memory is fading.  But, in case anyone needs reminding, communism is not merely an alternative political lifestyle, it is evil.

Considering the enormity of what it commemorates, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, dedicated by President Bush yesterday, is striking for its modest proportions: a 10-foot female figure raising a torch at a busy intersection in Washington, D.C. That’s a fitting rebuke to an ideology that made a fetish of statuary, and murder, on a monumental scale.

The numbers are almost beyond reckoning. Mao Zedong was responsible for 70 million peacetime murders, according to his biographer Jung Chang. The middle estimate of Stalin’s victims is 40 millionPol Pot slaughtered nearly three million fellow Cambodians in only four years. Ethiopia’s Mengistu killed some 1.5 million opponents in the late 1970s, and contributed to the death by starvation of a million others in the 1980s.

Throughout these and other horrors, Communists always managed to find high-profile apologists among the bourgeois intellectuals: Jean-Paul Sartre for Stalin, Noam Chomsky for Pol Pot, and so on. Some, like Sidney Hook, Arthur Koestler and Whittaker Chambers, repented, but most did not. They may not have been witting accomplices to the butchery, quite. But they are the reason why the West was almost fatally late in recognizing the depth of evil it faced in its communist enemy.

Not by coincidence, yesterday’s dedication took place on the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, calling on the Soviets to “tear down this wall.” Back then, the smart set (and some of his own advisers) said he was a fool for seeking to bring the communist nightmare to an end. Inasmuch as he led the free world in doing so, the memorial is also, inescapably, a tribute to him.

— On the dedication of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, Wall Street journal – June 13, 2007.

I don’t know the statistics, but I’m willing to bet that this doesn’t happen often in Virginia.

Mansfield, England:

A BUSINESSMAN and his wife were robbed by four men who burst into their home with hammers, a screwdriver and a large bladed weapon.

The men escaped in a black car with an undisclosed sum of cash after the incident in Hermitage Avenue, Mansfield, at around 9.25pm yesterday.

Even stupid criminals aren’t willing to risk a robbery using this,

when the man’s castle might be guarded with this,

pistol

or this,

Unfortunately, as I have noted here and here, the English aren’t even allowed to protect themselves with “large bladed weapons” anymore.

Only the guilty need fear the law, right?

Tamera Jo Freeman was on a Frontier Airlines flight to Denver in 2007 when her two children began to quarrel over the window shade and then spilled a Bloody Mary into her lap.

She spanked each of them on the thigh with three swats. It was a small incident, but one that in the heightened anxiety after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would eventually have enormous ramifications for Freeman and her children.

A flight attendant confronted Freeman, who responded by hurling a few profanities and throwing what remained of a can of tomato juice on the floor.

The incident aboard the Frontier flight ultimately led to Freeman’s arrest and conviction for a federal felony defined as an act of terrorism under the Patriot Act . . . .

. . .

After three months in jail, Freeman agreed to plead guilty in exchange for being released on probation. A court-appointed attorney told her that a plea deal would be the fastest way to see her children, who had been taken back to Hawaii and put into foster care.

Her probation required her to stay in Oklahoma City, where she grew up, and prohibited her from flying. Meanwhile, legal proceedings in Hawaii have begun to allow the children’s foster parents to adopt them.

Freeman has been denied permission to attend custody hearings in Maui over the last six months, court records show.

“I have cried. I have cried for my children every day,” Freeman said. “I feel the system is failing me.”

The New York Times has this article on fatty foods and the concept of “informational cascade.”

The notion that fatty foods shorten your life began as a hypothesis based on dubious assumptions and data; when scientists tried to confirm it they failed repeatedly. The evidence against Häagen-Dazs was nothing like the evidence against Marlboros.

It may seem bizarre that a surgeon general could go so wrong. After all, wasn’t it his job to express the scientific consensus? But that was the problem. Dr. Koop was expressing the consensus. He, like the architects of the federal “food pyramid” telling Americans what to eat, went wrong by listening to everyone else. He was caught in what social scientists call a cascade.

We like to think that people improve their judgment by putting their minds together, and sometimes they do. The studio audience at “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” usually votes for the right answer. But suppose, instead of the audience members voting silently in unison, they voted out loud one after another. And suppose the first person gets it wrong.

If the second person isn’t sure of the answer, he’s liable to go along with the first person’s guess. By then, even if the third person suspects another answer is right, she’s more liable to go along just because she assumes the first two together know more than she does. Thus begins an “informational cascade” as one person after another assumes that the rest can’t all be wrong.

Does this sound like another religious “scientific” non-debate grabbing headlines recently?  In fact, let’s play a game.  I’ll just take some of the money lines from this article on the health effects of fat and substitute a few words.

–  “The scientists, despite their impressive credentials, were accused of bias because some of them had done research financed by the food [oil] industry.”

–  “With skeptical scientists ostracized, the public debate and research agenda became dominated by the fat-is-bad [catastrophic global warming] school.”

–  “Later the National Institutes of Health [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] would hold a “consensus conference” that concluded there was “no doubt” that low-fat diets “will afford significant protection against coronary heart disease” for every American over the age of 2 [global warming is now a reality].”

–  “But when the theories were tested in clinical trials [against actual climate data], the evidence kept turning up negative.”

On both global warming and dietary fat, I’ll defer to the wisdom of Dr. Edward H. Ahrens Jr., who stood steadfast against the fat-is-bad consensus:

“This is a matter,” he continued, “of such enormous social, economic and medical importance that it must be evaluated with our eyes completely open. Thus I would hate to see this issue settled by anything that smacks of a Gallup poll.”

Aichmophobia: a morbid fear of sharp or pointed objects.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.

So, Stephen Tall walks into a shop and . . .

So I’m buying a new set of cutlery, when the sales assistant tells me there’s a problem: he can’t serve me. Erm, why not, I ask: I’ve brought money with me and everything.

Turns out he’s 17, and so cannot sell a knife to me. Even knives whose power of serration will scarcely trouble poached salmon. He calls over a colleague, who keys in her number to his till, and he then sells me my new set of cutlery.

Thank goodness for the protections afford by that law. Imagine the chaos that might rein if 17 year-olds were freely able to sell cutlery?

He’s old enough to join the army and die for his country, mind.

We’ve talked before about the British aversion to cutlery.  Tell me again how gun control isn’t a slippery slope.

(HT: Adam Smith Institute Blog)

Police Defuse Samurai Attack — The Telegraph, 7 March 2008.

With a Bonzai scream heard for miles, 10,000 Samurai warriors descended on Hyde Park Wednesday morning.  The Samurai, dressed in traditional armor and wielding swords, swarmed over the park attacking everything in sight.  Ninety-eight people were killed, as were 8 dogs, 32 park benches, and countless pigeons that had left-off shitting on Nelson’s head long enough to go have a look at the commotion.  An additional 76 people were injured, 11 of whom remain in intensive care.

One of the witness was quoted as saying, “They were kung-fu fighting.  Those cats were fast as lightning.  I mean, it was a little bit frightening.”

Seven of the victims were American citizens and President Bush responded to the tragic news with his usual aplomb, saying, “Not this again; I thought daddy took care of those crazy Japanese imperialist terrorists years ago.”  The Prime Minister lent his support, “What Bush said, but with a more open and accepting attitude consistent with modern multicultural Britain and the Samurai’s place in our diverse society.”

The slaughter would have been much worse, but police began confiscating swords and arresting the Samurai in accordance with the recently enacted ban on Samurai swords.  One constable quipped, “Thank goodness for the new Samurai sword law, otherwise how would we have stopped the little bleeders from killing everyone in Kensington?”

Apparently, it isn’t enough to have a law against killing people with a sword, you also need to ban the swords themselves.

The sale, import and hire of samurai swords could be banned by the end of the year, Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said today.

The proposal, outlined in a consultation paper issued by the Home Office, will help to take dangerous weapons out of circulation and protect the public.

. . .

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: “Public safety is our greatest priority. Samurai sword crime is low in volume but high in profile and I recognise it can have a devastating impact.

“Banning the sale, import and hire will take more dangerous weapons out of circulation, making our streets safer.”

. . .

“It is already illegal to have a samurai sword in a public place but I want to restrict the number of dangerous weapons in circulation to enhance community safety.”

Devastating impact, indeed.  Just so everyone understands, because we know that ignorance of the law is no excuse, in Britain, you can get four years in prison for carrying a Samurai sword.  But, actually killing someone only gets you two years.

(HT: Samizdata).

I have argued on many occasions that gun violence is a result of culture and not of gun ownership or liberal gun laws.  This article in the Times shows that the British are learning exactly that.

Victorian gun crime—The Times, 03 March 2007 (emphasis added).

Illegally held guns are flooding Britain’s inner cities and a spate of fatal shootings in London has highlighted gun culture’s allure to disaffected youth. This comes despite the best efforts of the law and its enforcers to restrict the supply of guns. Yet, any man, woman or street urchin could own a gun in Victorian Britain — at least until 1870 when a licence fee was charged if they wanted to carry the weapon outside their home. And, surprisingly, there was very little gun crime.

The right to own firearms was enshrined in the 1689 Bill of Rights (the Americans had to get their ideas from somewhere) and as late as 1900 the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, was happy to declare how much he would “laud the day when there was a rifle in every cottage in England”.

There were a quarter of a million registered firearms in private hands before the First World War and the true figure was almost certainly far higher. In those years the average number of crimes involving firearms in London was 45. In 2006 it was 3,350.

True, in 1903 a Pistols Act restricted small handgun ownership to those who were not “drunken or insane”. This did not prove overrestrictive. When in 1909 unarmed police gave chase to a couple of gun-toting Latvian anarchist desperados in Tottenham, there was no shortage of passers-by who lent their pistols to the coppers.

. . .

[Later restrictive] legislation had less to do with armed robbery and more to do with the Lloyd George Government’s fear that a combination of disaffected soldiers returning from the Western Front, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the surge in trade union membership might be harbingers of trouble. It was thus better if firearms were monopolised by the State and the more responsible classes.

. . .

In recent years, life in Britain’s cities has got far more dangerous. Since there are not more guns around, perhaps the real problem is cultural?

Ross Firestone, a commenter on the online version, notes:

Of course, the real problem is cultural.

In the rural American state of New Hampshire there are esssentially no gun laws. When I lived there as a boy I had the usual youthful arsenal: a handgun, a rimfire rifle, a shotgun and I was saving money to buy a center-fire rifle. Gun ownership is part of the culture of the state who’s motto is, “Live free or die!”. Yet the crime rate was very low then and still is.

I now live in urban Chicago. Handgun ownership is forbidden and long gun ownership is restricted so there are far fewer legally owned guns. The crime rate is 50 times that of New Hampshire.

This mirrors my own experience growing up in rural Utah and now living in the Nation’s Capital.  There wasn’t a problem with students bringing guns to school in my hometown.  Everyone just kept them in a gun rack in the back window of his pick-up.

(Via An Englishman’s Castle).

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