[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…


… and this rifle…


… 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 which is obvious from 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.


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.


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.


I hope that you have learned something from this. If nothing else, you have learned that neither assault rifles nor “assault weapons” have a meaningful 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

Tuesday, 2016-06-14

Magic Item: Julian’s Magic Glass

Filed under: Gaming,Television — bblackmoor @ 08:40

Julian’s Magic Glass

Julian in combat, glass in handOnce filled with rum & coke (or some other nonmagical beverage) and a piece of ice (optional), the glass will continue to be full and the ice will not melt, no matter how many sips the holder takes from it. Additionally, as long as the holder has a firm grasp on the glass, it will remain level and the liquid will not spill regardless of what befalls the holder. Julian’s Magic Glass also has the property that the holder will be allowed to carry the glass without consequences even at times and places where it is impractical, inappropriate, or would otherwise be prohibited (in combat, on horseback, in a prison, at an audience with royalty, etc.). Observers can see the glass and its contents: it just doesn’t occur to them to object to it.

Tuesday, 2016-06-07

Looking back on copyright

Filed under: Art,Books,Intellectual Property,Philosophy — bblackmoor @ 18:30

Prediction: In five hundred years, our current system of “intellectual property” (copyright, trademarks, patents) will be considered an archaic affront to basic human rights, rather like “creative feudalism”. It will be mentioned alongside multi-level-marketing and trickle-down economics as one of the peculiarly unchallenged scams of our era. People of the future will wonder how we could have possibly been so stupid.

Thursday, 2016-05-26

Adventures in gardening

Filed under: Gardening,Nature — bblackmoor @ 16:44

Just had my heart attack moment of the day. I was moving this concrete planter (it’s about halfway to its intended new home, in this photo). I got it to this point, when suddenly a grey bullfrog-shaped critter leaped from right in front of me, in the middle of the the planter, away to the bushes on the right. And then another!

2016-05-26 17.19.28

“HOLY FREEZING SHIP!” I shouted (except that’s not what I shouted). The camouflage on bullfrogs is AMAZING, I thought to myself. I had no idea they were sitting right in front of me.

So I grabbed the sides of the planter, and just barely budged it when ANOTHER ONE jumps away.

“FRIEND!” I shouted (except that’s not what I shouted). I looked closely at the dirt. How could there have been another bullfrog right there? As I was looking, ANOTHER ONE jumped away.

It was at this point that I noticed two things. First, two of the ones that had jumped away were slowly hopping away from me in different directions, and they were definitely not bullfrogs. They were little bunnies. Second, that fuzzy looking spider-webby looking area on the dirt, covering a hole (I now realized), was squirming a little bit, like there was at least one more debating whether to flee the giant monster (me).

“Well, fudge,” I said (and that is actually what I said).

What was I to do? I briefly considered trying to catch the little bunnies and put them back. Yeah, right. Even if I did manage to catch one, it would probably just run away again. More likely, I would only succeed in making them run even farther away from where mama bunny expects to find them later this evening.

2016-05-26 17.19.54

2016-05-26 17.20.13

So I took these photos and then left the planter where it is. Bunnies have been dealing with creatures much meaner than me for a very long time, and I am sure that mama bunny has a plan for situations like this. So I am not too worried about the little bunnies. The planter will just have to stay where it is for a while.

Also, I think I sprained my wrist.

Wednesday, 2016-05-18


Filed under: General — bblackmoor @ 09:13

A group of 51 Muslim states has blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from attending a high-level meeting at the United Nations next month on ending AIDS, sparking a protest by the United States, Canada and the European Union.

People who are anti-Muslim are using this as ammunition to attack people who are anti-bigotry. I find that peculiar. No, all Muslims are not terrorists. That doesn’t make Muslim countries all beacons of tolerance and love. Some, like Saudi Arabia, are dictatorships that behead people (over 150 in Saudi Arabia last year). Some, like Albania, lack any form of religious fanaticism at all — except that which is imported from other nations (such as, you guessed it, Saudi Arabia).

And while yes, Muslim countries are, in general, far less accepting of homosexuals, etc., we shouldn’t be too smug about that. It wasn’t that long ago that American homosexuals were prevented from enjoying the basic human right of being able to marry the person of their choice. It wasn’t all that long ago that a “queer” would be at risk for a brutal, perhaps even lethal, beating in many parts of the USA. Some Americans would like us to go back to that.

So, yeah, this is wrong… but don’t get cocky. We don’t behead people in the USA, but we do execute them in other ways (a couple of dozen a year, at least), and we have the highest prison population rate in the WORLD. And of the three front-runners for being our next President, one has taken tens of millions from Saudi Arabia, and another is a notorious liar and bigot.

The point I am making is this. First, a potato ain’t a cow pie, but that don’t make it a pumpkin pie, either. Second, don’t be too proud just because we are a few decades ahead of some (some) countries when it comes to treating people like human beings.

Tuesday, 2016-05-17

Captain America (1990)

Filed under: Comics,Movies — bblackmoor @ 15:04

Watched the Captain America movie from 1990 last night. You know, it really wasn’t all that different from the 2011 film. Yes, the 2011 film is better, but the 1990 film hits a lot of the same beats, and it has a good cast. It’s a lower budget film, but it’s certainly not a bad film. I haven’t seen it since I first saw it at the theatre in 1990 (YES, I DID), but to my surprise, I still like it. It still tickles me that the Red Skull’s minions are all beautiful young Italians.

FUN FACT! Darren McGavin plays an American General. The World War 2 era younger version of McGavin’s character is played by Bill Mumy. Danger, Karl Kolchak! Danger!


Friday, 2016-05-06

C-3PO’s red arm

Filed under: Movies,Philosophy — bblackmoor @ 08:32

I think it’s telling that the only people in the Star Wars movies that treat robots as though they were people are Luke (who is desperately lonely) and Anakin (who is a mass-murdering, child-killing psychopath). To everyone else, the fact a machine can talk means no more than it does for you and I when our car tells us the door is open or our phone tells us that we have an appointment in 15 minutes.

That a robot has a red arm means exactly as much as the fact an old yellow Fiat has a red door.

Yellow Fiat with a red door

Thursday, 2016-05-05

Definition of “virtue signaling”

Filed under: Philosophy,Society,Writing — bblackmoor @ 10:46

vir·tue sig·nal·ing
/ˈvərCHo͞o ˈsiɡnəliNG/
gerund or present participle

  1. a phrase used by sociopaths when trying to explain the behaviour of someone who has empathy.
    “she is collecting cans of food for the hurricane victims, but that’s just virtue signaling”
    “my rape jokes were funny, but I got fired because my supervisor was virtue signaling”
    “people who call Donald Trump a bigot and a sexist are just virtue signaling”

Thursday, 2016-04-28

A game of three factions

Filed under: Politics — bblackmoor @ 09:08

From my own particularly skewed point of view it seems that there are three basic factions in this game.

The first faction is controlled by the super-rich, and seeks to maintain the status quo and push us even further into oligarchy. Their figurehead is Clinton. She’s a puppet, she knows it, and she’s perfectly comfortable with that.

The second faction is basically the same as the first faction, but they are seeking to supplant the first faction by appealing to the angry and ignorant, providing easy answers and asking only that people give up their humanity in return. Their figurehead is Trump, although I don’t think he’s self-aware enough to realize that he is a figurehead.

The third faction is controlled by ordinary people, everywhere from dirt-poor up to moderately wealthy. They want to depose the oligarchs and return some portion of that power to the citizenry. Their figurehead is Sanders, and he knows it, but he does his best to keep telling them that he doesn’t want to be their figurehead — that he wants them to take that power back for themselves, and not make it about him. But people do love their figureheads, don’t they?

Monday, 2016-04-25

Mobile audio 2003-2016

Filed under: Fine Living,Technology — bblackmoor @ 10:49

One of the first things I did when I bought my Hyundai Tiburon in 2003 was to replace the stereo and install an mp3 player in the trunk (mounted on the back of one of the back seats). It was a full size 20 GB hard drive that connected to the “head unit” (the stereo in the dash board) via the interface that was originally intended for a trunk-mounted CD changer (basically a very long extension cord). Imagine that: 20 GB of music in a space the size of a large hardback book! Keep in mind that this was a year before the iPod was released: we are talking some cutting edge stuff here.

Neo 35 mp3 car jukebox

A couple of years later, I upgraded from that beast to a Creative Zen Touch portable mp3 player, which held as much as the Neo did in a fraction of the size. I replaced the stereo with one that had an auxiliary jack in the back, and custom-wired a headphone jack into one of my blank dash buttons. As the years passed, I eventually upgraded to an 80 GB iPod Touch (running Rockbox firmware — I have no love for iTunes). 80 GB in a package the size of a pack of cigarettes? Astounding!

Tiburon dash 2010-07-13

Now it has come time to upgrade again. This time, the stereo has USB ports in the back that can support a standard thumb drive. I removed the headphone jack from the dash, and installed USB ports in the ash tray (which is normally closed). Into one of those USB ports, I now have a 128 GB flash drive: six times as much music storage as the Neo 35, in a widget the size of a nickel, hidden in my ash tray.

Freaking amazing.

Tiburon ash tray 2016-04-25

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