[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Thursday, 2016-06-16

So you want to make the world safer

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms,Philosophy,Society — bblackmoor @ 16:35

(Note: I have linked to supporting references throughout this. These references are, with one exception, respected news outlets, scholars, and the US government itself. The one exception is a link to what “gun owners know”, which is a link to a pro-gun web site.)

You have heard about the mass murder in Orlando, and you have decided that this is a tragedy. You are right: it is a tragedy. 49 people were killed or mortally wounded in about ten minutes. It normally takes over a day for that many people to be murdered in the USA (about 27 hours, actually).

So you want to take action and do something about it, to prevent mass murders like this one from happening again (and perhaps prevent the isolated murders of 45 or so people every single day, as well).

Mental Illness

Perhaps you think we need better treatment for the mentally ill. You are right: we do. How we treat the mentally ill (or rather, don’t) in the United States is deplorable. Far too many mentally ill individuals find themselves ensnared in our prison system (I think we can all agree that what we have is not a “justice system”).

However, as a group of people, those with mental illness are far more likely to hurt themselves — or be hurt by someone else — than they are to cause harm to anyone. Being a young male is a far more reliable indicator of someone posing a danger to others (a young, poor, uneducated male even more so).

So while we do need better support for those suffering from mental illness, would that support have a significant impact on violent crime or intentional homicide? No, it wouldn’t. So if that is our goal, we must look elsewhere.

Assault Rifles

You have heard from countless entertainers and politicians that assault rifles are the cause of so much death. You want to ban them. No civilian needs a “weapon of war”, right? However, there is a problem with that argument: these weapons have already been banned from civilian ownership.

It has been illegal since 1934 (The National Firearms Act) for civilians to own assault rifles without special permission from the U.S. Treasury Department. They are subject to a $200 tax every time their ownership changes from one federally registered owner to another, each new weapon is subject to a manufacturing tax when it is made, and it must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in its National Firearms Registry. To become a registered owner, a complete FBI background investigation is conducted, checking for any criminal history or tendencies toward violence, and an application must be submitted to the ATF including two sets of fingerprints, a recent photo, a sworn affidavit that transfer of the NFA firearm is of “reasonable necessity,” and that sale to and possession of the weapon by the applicant “would be consistent with public safety.” The application form also requires the signature of a chief law enforcement officer with jurisdiction in the applicant’s residence.

Additionally, civilian purchase of newly manufactured assault rifles was banned entirely in 1986 (Firearms Owners’ Protection Act). Assault rifles which were manufactured prior to the Act’s passage are regulated under the National Firearms Act, but those manufactured after the ban cannot ordinarily be sold to or owned by civilians at all. And since the number of assault rifles that may be owned by civilians (subject to the long list of requirements above) is fixed or decreasing, the price of those weapons is quite high: $10,000 or more, typically.

Would placing even stricter limitations on the civilian ownership of these weapons have a significant impact on violent crime or intentional homicide? No, it wouldn’t. So if that is our goal, we must look elsewhere.

“Assault Weapons”

Perhaps you have done your homework, and have learned the difference between an assault rifle and an “assault weapon”. An assault rifle fires multiple rounds while the user holds down the trigger. An “assault weapon” is an ordinary rifle that cosmetically resembles an assault rifle. So if we ban “assault weapons”, that should make us all safer and save lives, shouldn’t it?

Unfortunately, there is a problem with that. While “assault weapons” cosmetically resemble assault rifles, they are functionally no different from ordinary civilian rifles. This rifle…

Ruger_Mini14

… and this rifle…

Bushmaster_AR15

… are functionally the same. Banning one but not the other would be like banning red lead paint but not blue lead paint. They are, for all practical (rather than cosmetic) purposes interchangeable. So would banning “assault weapons” have a significant impact on violent crime or intentional homicide? No, it wouldn’t. So if that is our goal, we must look elsewhere.

High Capacity Magazines

There is one functional difference in the two photographs above: the second rifle has a larger magazine, which is the container that holds the ammunition. Perhaps limiting the size of the magazine would have an impact on the number of people murdered. Unfortunately, there is a problem with that. There already was a ban on larger magazines, enacted in 1994. From 1994 until 2004, there was a ban on the manufacture of magazines holding more than 10 rounds (as with the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, existing magazines were grandfathered in). The result on violent crime? If there was one, it was too small to measure.

Furthermore, mass-murderers are not deterred by small magazines: they just bring more of them. One of the two murderers responsible for the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 carried 13 ten-round magazines. The murderer responsible for the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 carried a backpack filled with 19 ten- and fifteen-round magazines for his pistols. To my knowledge, it has not been reported how many magazines the murderer in Orlando carried, but since he fired at least 200 rounds of ammunition, it is certain that he reloaded several times.

We shall have to look elsewhere if we want to save lives.

Rifles

So if assault rifles are already banned, and “assault weapons” are nothing more than ordinary civilian rifles, and banning “high capacity magazines” has no measurable effect, perhaps what we want to do is ban all civilian rifles. Surely that would save lives, right? It might. Around 4.5% of murders in the USA are committed with rifles. But that leaves over 95% of all murders committed with something else. Surely we can do better?

All Firearms

If we want to hope for even a single-digit percent reduction in the number of people murdered in the United States, and we want to accomplish that by banning (or drastically restricting the ownership of) something, then it is clear that we would have to target all firearms: rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Approximately 68% of murders are committed with a firearm. While that still leaves a large number of murder victims on the floor, at least if firearms were made unavailable, it should have some impact on the majority of them, shouldn’t it?

But we can’t grandfather in existing weapons, as the 1986 Firearms Owners’ Protection Act did. Recent studies have found that only 3% to 11% of criminals who used a firearm during the commission of a crime purchased the weapon legally. The rest obtained them illegally, and the easiest way to illegally obtain something is to steal it. So to cut off the supply of the 89% or more firearms used in crimes, we would need to not only ban the sale of new firearms, we would need to confiscate all or most of the hundreds of millions of firearms which are currently legally owned.

Feasibility

Would confiscating all or most of the firearms in the United States truly save lives? Opinions are divided, but I suspect that it might. Would the cost be worth it, for our legacy as a nation once “founded on the natural authority of the people alone“? I am not so sure. Is it legally feasible? Not with our current Constitution, no. Regardless of one’s opinion of the history or intent of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, the legal reality is that it does guarantee a right to keep and bear arms of some kind to individual citizens. Eliminating that legal right would require the repeal of that Amendment. It isn’t impossible: A Constitutional Amendment has been repealed before. I do not think it would be easy, but I could be mistaken. Would the individuals who currently own those weapons voluntarily hand them over, without resorting to violence themselves? I suspect not. On the other hand, the TSA gropes and ogles travelers by the millions, and we as a nation have permitted it with barely a complaint, so perhaps I am mistaken about that, as well.

Conclusion

I hope that you have learned something from this. If nothing else, you have learned that neither assault rifles nor “assault weapons” have a statistically significant role in the deaths of innocent Americans. They are, at most, emotional phrases used to grab your attention. You have also learned that the phrase often used to placate gun owners, “No one wants to take your guns”, is a falsehood. It must be, because no other course of action based on tighter regulations would have even a hope of making us safer from the risk of being murdered with a firearm (and that is our goal, is it not?). Most people pressing for stricter regulations on firearm ownership know this. Gun owners know it, as well. So hopefully you will not be repeating any of these phrases in the future.

I have little doubt that the Second Amendment will eventually be repealed. I do not think I will live to see it. When or if it happens, I hope the people responsible for carrying out the ensuing police actions, and the people against whom those actions will be taken, will be wiser than we are.

See also: So you want to make the world safer, part 2

Friday, 2016-04-08

Petula Clark, Harry Belafonte, and Mizhena

Filed under: Civil Rights,Gaming,Television — bblackmoor @ 07:21

There is a computer game called Baldur’s Gate. It’s a fantasy adventure game based on Dungeons & Dragons, along the lines of Lord Of The Rings. An expansion for the game was released recently, and in that expansion there is a minor character named “Mizhena” who, if you engage with them and repeatedly ask them questions, will eventually tell you that they are transgender. If you are unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons, you might not realize that transgender characters have been a part of that game world for 30 or 40 years. It’s not new. It is, however, new to the Baldur’s Gate game.

As a result, a small segment of the Baldur’s Gate fan base revealed themselves to be vile bigots. These bigots created a “controversy”, objecting to the inclusion of this character in the game.

Petula Clark and Harry BelafonteThis “controversy” comes at an interesting time. Today, April 8 2016, is the 48th anniversary of the broadcast of the Petula Clark Show on NBC. Petula Clark was a very popular singer at the time, having fifteen consecutive Top 40 hits in the USA, starting with “Downtown” in 1965. Clark was joined on her special by Harry Belafonte, who had made Calypso and Caribbean music popular throughout the world with his singing in the 1950s. During a duet toward the end of the show, Clark touched Belafonte briefly on the arm. Doyle Lott, a vice president from Chrysler, the show’s sponsor, was present at the taping. Lott objected to the “interracial touching”. He pressured NBC to remove the “forced” contact between Clark and Belafonte, to remove this “social justice” from the show. However, Petula Clark stuck to her guns, and the special was broadcast with the “controversial” touching. When the show aired, it received high ratings.

It’s been over 40 years, and the Doyle Lotts of the world are still manufacturing controversies to defend their bigotry. I think it is right and just that people are enjoying the music of Petula Clark and Harry Belafonte to this very day, while Doyle Lott has been reduced to a footnote in the history of civil rights.

There are many cases where people of good will can and do disagree. That is usually the case, in my opinion. However, these cretins who wail and moan and gnash their teeth any time they see someone other than themselves represented are not people of good will. They are the bartender who says, “We don’t serve their kind here.” They are the prejudiced priest who refuses to heal the half-orc in the party. They are the pig-faced sheriff that says, “We don’t take kindly to outsiders around here.” They are the craven peasant accusing a midwife of witchcraft. They’re the corrupt king who doesn’t want the adventurers to fight the dragon because it’s never his daughter that gets sacrificed to it.

These are not people of good will. They are not defenders of the sanctity of gaming. They are, by their own choice and by their own hand, villains.

Monday, 2015-08-24

Why Dracula has such incompetent henchmen

Filed under: Civil Rights,Movies,Society — bblackmoor @ 09:12

Years ago, while watching The Wraith, I wondered out loud why “cool” villains like Dracula (or Nick Cassavetes in The Wraith) were always surrounded by incompetent creeps and toadies like Renfield (or “Skank” in The Wraith) — people I wouldn’t trust to guard an egg salad sandwich. Her reply was, in essence, because those are the kinds of followers they deserve — that they are not, in fact, “cool” at all.

I am reminded of that conversation whenever I read comments by Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen where they make weak attempts to distance themselves from Theodore Beale without distancing themselves from what Beale says or does. When you find yourself on the same side as the Theodore Beales of the world, it’s time to reevaluate your position.

Tuesday, 2013-08-20

Groklaw takes its ball and goes home

Filed under: Civil Rights,Privacy,The Internet,Travel — bblackmoor @ 14:15
book in chains

Legal Site Groklaw Shuts Down Rather Than Face NSA

I stopped flying years ago, because it offends me to be scanned, groped, and treated like a criminal in order exercise my fundamental human right of travel. Now I am wondering how long it will be before I stop using email and the web. Perhaps I should have stopped already.

How did we become a cyberpunk dystopia without most of us noticing?

Sunday, 2013-04-21

Mind-boggling horror

Filed under: Civil Rights,Politics,Television — bblackmoor @ 10:21

Warning: this video is graphic. It shows dead people. You’ve been warned.

Now for my thoughts:

The first segment, on the Philippines, illustrates the scenario that I think motivates some of the anti-gun hysteria in this country. Ironically, I think that divisive rhetoric and attempts to infringe on other people’s civil rights makes that scenario more likely rather than less. I hope, really hope, that Americans wake up to that and stop with the attacks on each other. Ignorance, hatred, and irrational fear are poor foundations for public policy.

The second segment, on the Taliban and Afghanistan… that’s almost too tragic. I have trouble even wrapping my head around it. It would be easy to blame religion, but the suicide bombers aren’t even being told what their own religion says. They are lied to and manipulated by their Imams and Muftis, who are distorting their own religion to use these children as weapons. The horror of it baffles me.

I am so grateful that I live in a relatively safe, relatively sane country. I hope it stays that way.

Saturday, 2013-04-20

A letter from a leftist to the gun control Democrats

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms — bblackmoor @ 11:06
teach gun skills

The author of this letter to “gun control” Democrats is a left-leaning supporter of reproductive rights “who participated wholeheartedly in the Occupy movement and in the national campaign to expose ALEC”. They make six suggestions on how to better present the argument for gun control in the USA. It’s worth reading.

Tuesday, 2013-04-02

Which side are you on?

Filed under: Civil Rights — bblackmoor @ 21:16
I love free speech

Folks, if you are fighting to infringe on the civil rights of other people, you’re on the wrong side. That means if you are for *any* of these, you are on the wrong side: “gun control” [sic], marriage discrimination, censorship, *any* religion being given preferential treatment by the government, warrantless wiretaps, warrantless searches at airports, warrantless surveillance, detention of civilians without a trial, assassination of civilians without a trial… I’m tired of typing. You get the idea.

Friday, 2013-02-01

‘US a police state, Obama consciously allows torture’ – CIA veteran John Kiriakou

Filed under: Civil Rights,Politics,Society — bblackmoor @ 13:16

Ten years ago, the idea of the US government spying on its citizens, intercepting their emails or killing them with drones was unthinkable. But now it’s business as usual, says John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent and torture whistleblower.

Kiriakou is now awaiting a summons to start a prison sentence. One of the first to confirm the existence of Washington’s waterboarding program, he was sentenced last week to two-and-a-half years in jail for revealing the name of an undercover agent. But even if he had another chance, he would have done the same thing again…

(from ‘US a police state, Obama consciously allows torture’ – CIA veteran John Kiriakou, RT.com)

Friday, 2013-01-18

Ignorance, prejudice, and irrational fear

Filed under: Civil Rights,Society — bblackmoor @ 16:09

Most anti-civil rights legislation is based on the argument, “I don’t like the way you live, even though it harms me not at all, and therefore it ought to be illegal.” Give that some thought before you advocate legislation to criminalize behaviour that does you no harm. Ignorance, prejudice, and irrational fear are a poor foundation for public policy.

Of course, it doesn’t help that some of the people exercising their civil rights are assholes.

Monday, 2012-11-05

Musings on “race”, culture, and the President

Filed under: Civil Rights,History,Politics,Society — bblackmoor @ 18:41

I am, by ancestry, as white as white can be. However, I grew up in a black neighborhood — I was the white boy on the school bus. My family was on food stamps from time to time, and I was on the hot lunch program at school. So it’s always struck me a little surreal when people brag or bitch about our “first Black President” when he had one white American parent and one foreign parent (not an “African-American”, but a plain old African — a senior governmental economist from Kenya), he was raised by his white mother and grandparents, and he lived a life of privilege that I never saw anywhere but on television. In every way that matters, I think Barack Obama (who was called “Barry” most of his life) is just an ordinary, affluent, career politician. I don’t think he has anything in common with any of the people I grew up with.

I am not supposed to say any of this, because, as I mentioned, I am as white as a slice of Wonder Bread. But on the eve of his re-election (he’ll get approximately 64% of the popular vote) (* see below), I was just thinking about all of the important things that I wish people were taking into consideration when they vote (like the erosion of our civil rights, the lack of accountability of corporations, the insane expansion of our military, the fact that we incarcerate more of our population than China does, and so on), and all of the trivial nonsense that they talk about instead. Like who the candidates’ ancestors are.

What is the controversy? It’s not his culture and upbringing. Is it because, like a great many completely ordinary Americans, Obama’s ancestors are from multiple continents? Is it literally the color of his skin that makes a difference? Is the big deal not that he’s our “first black President”, but that he’s our first President who isn’t as light-skinned as I am?

Apparently I am the only one who finds this obsession with Obama’s pedigree peculiar.

I’ll be voting for Gary Johnson, because I think he would do a decent job. I know that he won’t win. I am not betting on who will win: I am voting for who I want to win. But even though I’m not voting for President Obama, I do wish him good luck on his next four years. Who knows? Maybe he will end the expensive and bloody Drug Prohibition, attempt to scale back our military expansion, reduce the amount of spying his administration does on American citizens, and support fair and open trials for everyone detained under the color of law.

Or maybe he won’t. We’ll see.

One thing I don’t expect from President Obama’s second term is a miraculous resurgence of our economy. The President is not the Wizard Of Oz. Despite the sound bites from both Romney and Obama, we have neither recovered from the depression, nor are we still at the bottom of it. Actual unemployment is around 14%-16%, but it’s getting better. The housing market still sucks, but it’s getting better. The price of gasoline is still over $3.00 a gallon, and it’s not going down by much, if at all, ever again. None of this is Obama’s fault. He didn’t break the engine of our economy, and he can’t fix it. He might deserve a little credit if he doesn’t do anything to disrupt the current recovery process. We’ll see.

* 2012-11-07: I was way wrong on the popular vote. I said Obama would get almost 2/3 of the popular vote, and he barely got 50%.

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