Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Evolution of the flagellum (from Origins Talk)

Creationist and ID literature has cited the flagellum as an example of a structure that could not possibly have evolved, and therefore must have been designed by an Intelligent Designer.
The problem is, research keeps going on, and answers keep showing up.

"D R Lindberg (To Jim in Missouri): Here are a couple more of
those articles that you say do not exist..."
> Charles P: "I certify that this article exists."
> You might have noticed, Charles, that neither of the articles cited
by D R Lindberg actually explains how Darwinian evolution brought into
being the bacterial flagellum. Indeed, the first of the two articles
admits as much, saying that:
> "The bacterial flagellum has received attention as an exemplum of
biological complexity; however, how this complexity and diversification
have been achieved remains rather poorly understood. Although several
scenarios have been posited to explain how this organelle might have
been originated, the actual series of evolutionary events that have
given rise to the flagellum, as might be inferred from the
relationships of all genes that contribute to the formation and
expression of this organelle across taxa, has never been accomplished."

Still using the old creationist tricks, I see, copying from the problem
part of the article, rather than the results or observations, to pretend
that no one has any answers.

Look down a few paragraphs:
"Here, we take advantage of complete genome sequence data to trace the
history of each gene involved in the assembly and regulation of the
bacterial flagellum. Our results show that flagellum originated very
early, before the diversification of contemporary bacterial phyla, and
evolved in a stepwise fashion through a series of gene duplication,
loss and transfer events. In this article, we focus on the evolution of
the core set of flagellar genes that is uniformly present in all
flagellated bacteria. The later evolving and lineage-specific
components of the flagellar gene complexes remain to be addressed."
The remainder of the article is a detailed expansion of this.

> And it's hard to know what the second article says, as I couldn't
find anything more than the abstract, which spoke in glittering
generalities, for example:
> "The order and organization of flagellar genes have undergone
extensive shuffling and rearrangement among lineages, and based on the
phylogenetic distributions of flagellar gene complexes, the flagellar
gene operons existed as small, usually two-gene units in the ancestor of
Bacteria and have expanded through the recruitment of new genes and
fusion of gene units."

> Intoning such phrases as "extensive shuffling and rearrangement among
lineages" and "the recruitment of new genes and fusion of gene units"
is hardly enlightening if one wants to know how Darwinian evolution
brought the bacterial flagellum into being.

Imagine that! You might have to learn their language in order to
actually understand what they are saying!

Intoning phrases such as "fuselage," "stabilizers," "landing gear,"
"engine cowls, " "spoilers," and "flap track fairings" is hardly
enlightening if one wants to know how an aircraft is put together,

This comment leaves one wondering how you can be so sure that you know
exactly where their science is lacking when you aren't even interested
enough to learn a bit of the language.

Anyhow, for anyone interested, here is part of the relevant section of
this article:
To understand how the genes specifying the bacterial flagellar system
evolved and diversified, we previously analyzed the origins of the set
of structural genes that are ancestral to all flagellated bacteria (17\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-17> ). In this study, we focused
on the origins of the secondary flagellar systems, which are present in
several proteobacteria, as well as the formation and evolution of
flagellar gene operons. Despite the early origin and stable inheritance
of the core structural genes, flagellar gene complexes are subject to
extensive changes, promoted by both the gain and loss of individual
genes (and even entire flagellar systems), and the formation and
disruption of operon structures.
The primary and secondary flagellar systems within a cell can specify
different functions (swimming or swarming), display different expression
patterns (constitutional or conditional), and employ different motive
forces (sodium or proton) (3\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-3> , 14\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-14> ). But because the two
systems, when present in the same genome, have very similar sets of
structural genes, these functional differences are largely due to
changes in the regulation cascade of the systems (24\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-24> , 33\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-33> ). Our analyses revealed
that secondary systems originated twice from the duplication or
horizontal transfer of primary systems. The secondary systems present in
both the Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria appear to have originated from a
duplication of the entire flagellar gene complex in the nonenteric
gammaproteobacterial lineage, which was then transferred independently
to the Betaproteobacteria and to an ancestral lineage of enteric
bacteria. Whereas both the primary and secondary systems have been
sporadically maintained, this scenario suggests that the secondary
system was subsequently lost from most genomes.

Consistent with this history of an ancient duplication and horizontal
transfer and subsequent deletion of a flagellar gene complex are the
findings that there are two flagellar systems and that remnants of the
secondary system occur sporadically among strains of E. coli (33\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-33> ). This secondary system is
present in E. coli 042 but was deleted from E. coli K-12, which still
contains remnant copies of two boundary genes (fhiA and mbhB, which are
homologs of flhA and motB, respectively). Because the secondary system
of E. coli 042 clusters with those of the four Beta- and
Gammaproteobacteria that we investigated (see Fig. S2 in the
supplemental material) and is closest to that of Y. pseudotuberculosis,
the secondary system in E. coli seems to have originated early in the
enteric bacterial lineage and not by recent transfer events.

The primary flagellar system in B. japonicum is closely related to the
only flagellar system in Alphaproteobacteria group I, whereas its
secondary system is closely related to the flagellar system in
Alphaproteobacteria group II (Fig. 1\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#F1> ). Therefore, it is unlikely
that this secondary system originated from an intragenomic duplication.
The most likely scenario is that this secondary system resulted from
horizontal transfer from a species closely related to
Alphaproteobacteria group II, but it is possible that the ancestor of
all Alphaproteobacteria possessed a second flagellar system, like that
in B. japonicum, and that one system was subsequently lost in both
Alphaproteobacteria groups I and II. A recent study has shown that the
alphaproteobacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides contains two flagellar
systems, which encode polar flagella (30\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-30> ). One of these systems is
ancestral to Alphaproteobacteria, whereas the other is homologous to the
primary system in Z. mobilis, which was shown previously to have
originated by lateral gene transfer from Gammaproteobacteria (17\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-17> ).

Our results for the formation and disruption of flagellar operons are
consistent with those of whole-genome analyses (13\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-13> ), which showed that operons
and gene order are typically conserved among closely related organisms
and that the destruction of operons may be selectively neutral. Our
analyses revealed that the flagellar operons are most extensively
disrupted in Epsilon- and Alphaproteobacteria, but whether other operons
also show the most extensive disruption in these two lineages remains to
be investigated. Because the flagellar gene operons of E. coli have been
subject to extensive experimental verification, we performed this
analysis using the operon structures of E. coli as our frame of
reference. It is possible that in some organisms, the flagellar genes
form operons containing member genes different from those in E. coli
K-12 and that these flagellar operons are not as disassociated as they
appear. However, based on their phylogenetic relationships, E. coli and
the Gammaproteobacteria in general are the most recently derived
organisms and also have the most clustered flagellar gene complexes,
indicating a broad evolutionary trend toward increasing cluster size
through both the inclusion of new genes and the fusion of existing

Different models have been proposed to explain the driving forces and
mechanisms in the formation and maintenance of bacterial operons. Under
the "selfish operons" hypothesis (16\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-16> ), lateral gene transfer
promotes the formation of operons because clustered genes have a better
chance of being transferred together and functional in the new host.
Whereas there are certainly instances of lateral gene transfer of
flagellar systems, coamplification may also be a mechanism underlying
the creation of flagellar operons. According to this model, genes in
proximity to one another are more likely to be coamplified, and thus,
the tandem duplication of small gene clusters can create new gene
junctions and generate new regulatory schemes (32\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-32> ). As suggested by a recent
study, coregulation seems to be a major driving force in operon
formation and maintenance (31\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-31> ), in that the products of
adjacent flagellar genes often form protein complexes (e.g., flgBC,
flgKL, flhBA, fliMN, and fliPQR), and operons serve to regulate both the
timing and the amounts of the interacting proteins.
Our data also confirm the rapid changes in flagellar gene regulators
reported in previous studies (24\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-24> , 36\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-36> ). Although details of
flagellar gene regulation have not been fully elucidated, it is clear
that species have widely different regulation networks, as shown by the
variation in the numbers and types of the regulators harbored by
different genomes. For example, the master regulators, which control the
flagellar gene regulation cascade, differ among groups of bacteria. The
master regulators in E. coli, FlhC and FlhD, are present only in enteric
bacteria, and the master regulator FlaK in V. parahaemolyticus appears
to be limited to nonenteric Gammaproteobacteria. Such diversity is
consistent with the general pattern uncovered by genome-wide analyses:
transcription factors evolve much more quickly than their target genes,
and bacterial regulatory networks are extremely flexible (18\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-18> , 21\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-21> ). Many of the genes with
auxiliary roles in flagellar systems, such as the chaperone genes fliJ,
fliS, flgN, and flgJ, have sporadic distributions or are lineage
specific, although other genes, such as the chemotaxis genes, are shared
by Bacteria and Archaea (11\
5a8b0fa-a5d9-4f26-88b0-2f347cbaee31#ref-11> ). Taken together, bacterial
flagellar systems have been formed with genes having very different
histories and have originated and evolved under a combination of
different evolutionary forces, including duplication, gene loss, and
lateral gene transfer.

> I'm grateful for the efforts D R has made to validate the claim made
by design theorists (and me) that the Darwinian literature provides no
detailed, testable accounts of how Darwinian evolution brought the
flagellum into being.

Again the galloping goalposts. Behe originally only required evidence
that this was possible. You seem to be demanding a billion or so years
old video recording showing it actually happening - one that anyone can
go back and make for themselves.

Interesting the picture your comments give of what you consider a fair
race. The obstacles you require from the Discovery Institute before
accepting their account are about three mm high (as seen in how quick
you are to offer excuses for Berlinski), whereas you demand that science
leap hurdles more than 16 miles high!

I understand that after the SARS outbreak a few years back, when
scientists went look for the source, they found a virus in a certain
species of Chinese bat that differed from the human SARS virus by a few
mutations. So the explanation considered most likely is that the bat
virus managed to make these few mutations that enabled it to infect

Similarly, the Type III Secretory System found in some bacteria is only
a few mutations away from the bacteria flagellum that Behe crows about.
So there appears to be no reason to suppose that it could not have made
a similar jump. As you can see from the illustrations here, the
similarities are pretty obvious:

The articles mentioned above are two of many that examine the various
mechanisms involved in greater detail.

When investigating something that took place in the past, it seems
logical to most people to work using the assumption that natural
processes worked the same way in the past as they do now so (unless we
have evidence to the contrary. While such explanations (probable
scenarios) may not be all that we would like, they seem satisfactory to
most, given the limitations of human powers.

But if one is determined not to accept anything, no possible evidence is

Which is what I originally saw as the problem with saying that Behe's
flagellum was falsifiable.

Nothing can be falsifiable to those who refuse to accept any conceivably
possible falsification.

The Wheel of the Year: Now available on Amazon Kindle

The Official Manual for Spice Cadets: Now available on Amazon Kindle

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Miseducation of Danny Glover | Online Library of Law and Liberty

In a January 17  speech to students at Texas A&M University, Danny Glover, the actor fromLethal Weapon etc., attempted to disparage the constitutional right to arms with the critique that “The Second Amendment comes from the right to protect themselves from slave revolts, and from uprisings by Native Americans.”
This is abundantly wrong and I hope the students will not consider Mr. Glover a definitive source on the question.  But I will give him credit for the try.  He attempted to engage the issue by at least skimming one piece of the voluminous scholarship in this area.
Most people appreciate that when someone continually changes their story, it diminishes their credibility and this is doubly true for legal claims.  This is the burden on the various and conflicting hollow Second Amendment arguments. There are at least eight of them, including the one that Mr. Glover has championed.  I summarize them here.
The right of the people really means the right of the states – In a lower court decision from the 1940’s U.S. v. Tot, the Federal District Court concluded that the Second Amendment, “was not adopted with individual rights in mind, but as a protection for the states in the maintenance of their militia organizations against possible encroachments by the federal power[emphasis added] .” Other courts repeated this. The problem here was sustaining the linguistic absurdity that right of the “people” really means right of the “states”, even though the clear distinction between those two things is evident throughout the Constitution.  Smart people still say this is what the amendment means even though not even the dissenters in Heller tried to keep this view afloat.
Justice Stevens’ incoherent “individual militia right” -  The now dominant version of the hollow Second Amendment (though some have not gotten the memo and continue to tout the states’ rights view above) is advanced by Justice Stevens’ dissent in Heller. At the outset, Stevens dispenses with the idea that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual right.  Then he glibly advances a view of the Second Amendment that purportedly protects some very narrow individual militia right.  “The question presented by this case is not whether the Second Amendment protects a ‘collective right’ or an ‘individual right’.  Surely it protects a right that can be enforced by individuals.”Stevens’ individual militia right is simply incoherent.  It is nearly impossible to imagine a realistic scenario that triggers it.  The majority captures the problem this way:  “If petitioners are correct, the Second Amendment protects citizens’ right to use a gun in an organization from which Congress has plenary authority to exclude them.” In another permutation, Justice Scalia chides that Stevens’ formulation is “worthy of the Mad Hatter”.
Stevens’ supposed individual militia right really is just a carbon copy of militia duty. His historical examples of the “right” in operation are all just duties.   Militiamen could be required to possess certain arms and accoutrements, to enroll, to muster, to military discipline, to risk and even sacrifice their lives in service of the state.  By eliding the fundamental distinction between militia as duty and arms as right, Stevens renders an empty and incoherent version of the Second Amendment
Steven’s aim of course is not to give the Second Amendment any real content.  Just the opposite, his aim is to say it’s an individual right, without having that translate into anything practical for citizens or any real limit on state power to regulate or ban guns.
A Leading Historian and the ABA Say the Second Amendment Means Nothing at All – For a time, skeptics would argue with a straight face that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution really means nothing at all.  It is a startling claim to make about any provision of our vaunted Bill of Rights.  But in 1975, the American Bar Association put it this way:  “It is doubtful that the founding fathers had any intent in mind with regard to the meaning of this amendment.”  A similar view was advanced in 1995 by historian Gary Wills who, claimed that it really was just a clever ruse by Madison that actually had no real meaning.
[The Second Amendment] was a remnant of old royal attempts to create a standing army by requisition of civilian facilities.  It had no real meaning … but it was part of the anti-royal rhetoric of freedom that had shown up, …in state requests for amendments to the Constitution.  … Madison knew that the best way to win acceptance of the new government was to accommodate its critics on the matter of a bill of rights. … Madison confided to a friend: “It will kill the opposition everywhere.”  Sweet-talking the militia was a small price to pay for such a coup… [emphasis added]

Wills’ argument never caught on with courts, who have strong traditions and actual hard rules against dismissing statutory and constitutional provisions as meaningless. Its main appeal was to allow otherwise serious people to glibly dismiss individual rights claims for another decade or so.
Professor Bogus’ “Real” But “Secret” Meaning of The Second Amendment - In a 1998 article entitled The Hidden History of the Second Amendment, Professor Karl Bogus claimed that the Second Amendment actually “was written to assure the Southern states that Congress would not undermine the slave system by using its newly acquired constitutional authority over the militia to disarm the state militia and thereby destroy the South’s principal instrument of slave control.”  On this account, not only is the Second Amendment irrelevant in our modern world, it also deserves the same disdain as other constitutional accommodations of slavery, which I think was Mr. Glover’s argument.
The unhidden history of the Second Amendment is that it affirmed the pre-existing right of Englishmen that the Supreme Court tracks at least to the English Bill of Rights. There is also the small matter of our Constitution establishing a federal government of limited enumerated powers, under which, the people retained the rights and powers not explicitly granted to the national government.  It is that basic division that grounds all individual rights.  Madison simply undertook to list some of the plain uncontroversial ones. We don’t need big conspiracy theories about slave power to understand why the existing right to arms would be affirmed in that list.
As far as the base political point, no doubt guns were used by slave patrols and slavers. But the other story is that fugitives and freedmen in the north under threat of kidnapping authorized by Federal Fugitive Slave laws, used guns in countless cases to fight off slave catchers.  Moreover, as I will show in depth in my forthcoming book, (final title: Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms) fugitive slaves, abolitionists, Jim Crow objectors, and modern civil rights protesters all recognized guns as a crucial private resource.
A Narrow Definition of Militia Exposes the “Individual Militia Right”-  In an article from 2000, Professor Bogus unintentionally acknowledges the core flaw of the supposed “individual militia right” advanced by Justice Stevens.  “Militia”, says Bogus,
“is defined in the Constitution itself.  The founders disagreed about how the militia ought to be organized.  … However, they agreed as a constitutional matter to leave this up to Congress… Thus, the militia is what Congress decides it is, regardless of whether it differs from an eighteenth century model.   Currently the militia is indisputably the National Guard because Congress has so decided.”Here Bogus candidly affirms the point that fueled Scalia’s Mad Hatter assessment of Justice Stevens (that a right to participate in an organization over which Congress has plenary authority is an absurdity). The militia, acknowledges Bogus, is whatever Congress says it is – today the National Guard, tomorrow nothing at all.  Which means that the supposed “individual militia right” has zero constitutionally protected content.
Collective Rights: A Gloss on States’ Rights – Within the case law, some courts attempted to answer the criticisms of the “states’ rights” version of the hollow Second Amendment, by saying it is “collective right”.  This attempted to finesse the fact that the right is to the “people”, by saying that its “a collective right of the people”. In practical application, this collective right extended not to the people as individuals, but as an organized political group – i.e., the state.  So the collective right was just the states’ rights Second Amendment gussied up in a new frock.
The Second Amendment Hollowed Out by Neorepublicanism.  In 1991, David Williams published an article in the Yale Law Journal offering a version of the hollow Second Amendment grounded in republicanism:
Creating or maintaining a republic against the constant risk of corruption by particularistic interests is therefore the most difficult of tasks.  Republican theory, however offers some structures to aid in this task, prominent among them the universal militia…
… the error of those who today seek to guarantee a private right to arms is that they would thereby consign the means of force to those who happen to possess firearms – a partial slice of society – rather than to the whole people assembled in militia…. At a minimum therefore any modern version of this militia must be so inclusive that its composition offers some meaningful promise that it will not become the tool of a slice of society, …
As we today have not such universal militia and no assurance that contemporary arms-bearers will be virtuous, the Second Amendment itself is – for now – outdated.
Williams rendered the Second Amendment not permanently hollow, leaving the right to arms contingent on the revival of a kind of virtuous citizenry that presumably he will alert us to, if and when it emerges.
A Prize Winning Historian Says American Gun Culture (and Thus the Right to Arms) is Myth.  In 2000,  historian Michael Bellesiles attempted to render the Second Amendment empty with the claim that historically Americans never really owned many guns, and by implication had no real expectation of a robust right to arms;  claims of a robust  individual right to arms were really just modern constructions of the gun lobby. He won a bunch of awards from people who liked his conclusions, but then it was uncovered that Bellesiles had fabricated much of his data and his book was withdrawn and pulped.  Gary Wills, who had given the book a rave review in the New York Times, later said that he and others were “taken” by Bellesiles.  Individual rights skeptics seemed to have abandoned the Bellesiles version of the hollow Second Amendment.
Upshot:  The primary aim of the hollow Second Amendment enterprise is to knock down the individual right to arms.  Proponents seem not to really care about the substance and implications of these various placeholders.  That is why so many versions are so cavalierly advanced and then discarded when they fail to catch on.  Mr. Glover has picked up one of these and taken it as gospel.  Perhaps he will read further and appreciate his mistake. More crucially, let us hope that the students he spoke to will be skeptical and diligent enough to seek their own answers.

An armed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny — by guestblogger Lulu


Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:


via Bookworm Room by Bookworm on 1/21/13

In a recent interview on gun control in the wake of the slaughter of a classroom of innocent children and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Ben Shapiro said that one of the purposes of an armed citizenry is to prevent government tyranny. Piers Morgan harrumphed condescendingly in response, as if the very thought that Americans might need protection at this time from a potentially tyrannical government was wacky in an extremist, even paranoid way.

In the face of a relatively peaceful society with a government not waging literal war on its citizens, Morgan's emotions seem understandable. Why do you need weapons against tyranny when the government isn't attacking you? That's absurd! Paranoid! But by the time an unexpected situation is desperate, even catastrophic, if citizens are unarmed, it is too late and virtually impossible to acquire weapons.

In the face of real tyranny, an unarmed civilian population is completely defenseless. History has shown us over and over again that events that trigger the collapse of a society, including all legal boundaries and ordinary decency, happen in the blink of an eye. Jews living completely normal lives in Europe in the 1930s could never have imagined that, just a few years later, their own governments (because several occupied countries were complicit with the Nazis) would herd them en masse into buildings filled with poisoned air in order to slaughter each and every one of them. The collapse was total and dizzyingly brisk. In areas of Eastern Europe it was overnight.

So here's a question for Mr. Morgan: Once your own government, or a successful invading with which your government conspires, isolates you in ghettos, deprives you of food and possessions, and denies you any civil rights, including the right to possess a weapon, what do you do? At that moment, do you walk into a gun shop to buy protection for yourself? For citizens to have a chance at defending themselves against this overnight societal collapse, they need the gun before, not after, their government turns on them. Israel learned this lesson well, which is why the citizenry is armed.

As was everyone with a functioning soul and conscience, I too was horrified by the Sandy Hook massacre. It was another reminder (as if we needed one) that evil and insanity exist – and that, when mixed together, these two are a horrifying combination. Much needs to be done to help the mentally ill and to keep them away from weapons, and to help identify when their behavior is escalating dangerously so that we can react and get help sooner.

The question in terms of responses, though, is whether disarming our civilian population would make us more, or less, vulnerable and whether doing so would make our children more, or less, at risk. Reasonable people can logically accept the necessity of strict background checks for gun owners and laws about gun storage so that children, mentally ill people, and thieves cannot access them. But will eliminating guns entirely protect children? I took a look at the biggest mass slaughters of the past 100 years. This is what I learned.

Armenian children

Between 1915 and 1923 about 1,000,000 Armenians were slaughtered by the Turkish military by order of the Ottoman government.

Primary methods of slaughter: mass burnings, drowning, starvation, exposure, death marches.

Child victims? In the hundreds of thousands.

Ukranian children

In 1933, Josef Stalin, leader of the USSR, engineered a famine in Ukraine enforced by the armed military. Between 7,000,000 and 11,000,000 peasants starved to death. At its height, 25,000 people died of starvation per day.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation.

Child victims? In the millions.

Jewish Children

Between 1939- 1945 the German government organized the systematic slaughter of all humans they deemed undesirable. Their primary target was Jews, but victims included gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people, and the mentally ill. Those who enforced this slaughter were armed police and soldiers. After concluding that bullets were too expensive, the Nazis and their allies applied less expensive slaughtering techniques.

Primary methods of slaughter: mass gassings, mass burnings, beating, exposure, starvation, worked to death, buried alive, medical experimentation, torture.

Child victims? Between 2-3,000,000 children were murdered.

Chinese children

Mao Tze Tung, leader of Communist China, and the greatest mass murderer of all time, slaughtered between 49-70,000,000 people during the so-called "Great Leap Forward." Forty-five million people died in 4 years alone in work camps and gulags.

Primary methods of slaughter: worked to death, starvation, exposure, torture, beatings.

Child victims? In the millions.

Cambodian victims

Between 1975-1979, 2,000,000 Cambodian civilians were systematically slaughtered by their government, the Khmer Rouge.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation, exposure, and, because bullets were too expensive per Khmer Rouge officials ("Bullets are not to be wasted"), death was delivered by hammer, axe, spade, sharpened bamboo sticks, and burial alive.

Child victims: In the hundreds of thousands.

North Korean child

Between 1984 and 1988, between 240,000 and 3,500,000 citizens of North Korea were starved to death by their government engineering and incompetence. Armed police and the military enforced this policy.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation, work camps, and gulags.

Child victims? In the tens of thousands.

In 1994, a government sponsored massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda led to the death of 800,000 people in one year. Guns were expensive, so the Hutus used other methods.

Primary method of slaughter: machetes, clubs, knives, bombs.

Child victims? In the tens of thousands.

The common thread to these mass killings was that tyrannical governments using armed agents (military and police) carried them out against ordinary citizens who were either entirely unarmed, or under-armed. Were guns involved in the slaughter? Certainly. As these pictures show, guns were used against unarmed people to herd them, terrify them, and control them. Guns were used like cattle prods to move large numbers of people and to frighten them into cooperation. Repeatedly, governments bent on large scale mass slaughter found shooting to be too slow and costly. The Nazis abandoned their Baba Yar-type ravines for industrialized death factories. Resistance only occurred when civilians were able to gather together weapons to fight back. Without weapons, civilians were entirely defenseless against armed tormentors.

Planning to deal with tyranny after tyranny occurs is too late. An armed citizenry is the best system of checks and balances against a government getting too big, demonizing particular groups of citizens too much, and lacking any meaningful opposition within the country. Tyrants always look for easy victims and seek to disarm them. A population that can and will protect itself in advance of a tyrant's encroachments effectively prevents any tyranny from occurring.

[Bookworm here:  I am willing to bet that, in everyone of the countries Lulu describes above, if you had asked people months or a few years in advance whether they would be subject to tyranny and genocide, they all would have answered, "No way!  It can't happen here.]


Things you can do from here:


Sunday, January 27, 2013



Eugene Volokh wrote a post describing what it would look like if we actually regulated guns the way we regulate cars. 

Here's the flip side.

To buy or operate a standard car, one will have to be 18 years old.  Under that age, adult supervision will be mandatory.  This means the adult must be in the vehicle with the underage driver.
To buy a sports car, you will have to be 21.  A "Sports car" will be defined as any combination of any two of the following: 2 doors instead of 4, spoked rims not requiring hubcaps, aerodynamic effects such as spoilers or air dams, a wheelbase under 100 inches, a manual transmission, a curb weight under 3000 lbs, fiberglass or other non-metal construction, or painted logos.
For every purchase, you will have to fill out a questionnaire confirming you're a US citizen, do not use drugs or abuse alcohol, have never had a conviction for alcohol related incidents or reckless driving.  Lying on this form will be punishable by 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
New cars will only be purchased from Federal Automobile Licensees who must provide fingerprints, proof of character, secure storage for all vehicles, and who must call the Federal Bureau of Motor Vehicles to verify your information before purchase.  They may approve or decline or delay the sale.  If they decline, you may appeal the decision in writing to a review board.  If they delay, it becomes an approval automatically after 10 days. However, the dealer may decline to complete such a sale in case of later problems. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

More Historical Bull on the Second Amendment

via Allergic to Bull by A.W. on 1/11/13

Here's another lovely piece from the left resorting to distortions and outright lies in an attempt to justify destroying the right to bear arms.  It is a common trope of the left to pretend, for instance, that the Second Amendment is purely about militias.

Let's pull up that amendment's language, shall we?

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

So what anti-gun liberals do here, is they say that the militia clause limits the right to bear arms.  Now Justice Scalia does a masterful job of ripping it apart in D.C. v. Heller, but let me give you a smaller sample.  In my eyes it is obvious that the militia clause in an inoperative preamble—that is pretty words inserted into the amendment to explain why they give a crap, but not meant to limit the rest of it.  After all, if they wanted to limit the right to bear arms to those in a militia, wouldn't it say something more like this?

The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, in a well regulated Militia, shall not be infringed.

Or perhaps this:

The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, in a well regulated Militia, shall not be infringed, nor shall it be infringed in going to, or returning from the same.

That borrows a little language from the part of the constitution offering a limited privilege from arrest to Congressmen (Article I, Section 6, Clause 2).  The fact is the founders knew how to limit rights and privileges when they needed to.  For instance, the First Amendment doesn't protect simply the right of assembly.  Instead it only protects "the right of the people peaceably to assemble" (emphasis added).  So a peaceful demonstration is protected by the Constitution, a riot is not.  The Thirteenth Amendment eliminated slavery, "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."  And for that matter the privilege offered to Congressmen preventing them from being arrested I just mentioned, is limited, too.  Here's the full text.

The Senators and Representatives ... shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same[.]

So if you are a Congressman you cannot be arrested at Congress, or on your way to or from it, unless it is for Treason, a Felony or Breach of the Peace.  And that exception is pretty dang important.

So the founders knew how to limit Constitutional rights.  So why on earth didn't they write something as simple as what I suggested, making the militia language a clear limitation on the right to bear arms?  Why didn't they just say that?

One other objection is that ordinarily language in the Constitution is not considered inoperative.  Now of course the actual preamble to the Constitution ("We the People…" and so on) has long been understood as simply pretty words.  So anyone who cites "the general welfare" in support of a given law doesn't know what they are talking about.  But still, to have inoperative language might at first seem out of place in the rest of the Constitution.

And then you might read Thomas Davies' tour de force about the original intent of the Fourth Amendment and realize that there are in fact two amendments in the Bill of Rights that were meant to be read as having a preamble.

Seriously, go read it.  It's a classic and it will change forever how you look at the Fourth Amendment.  I'll wait.

But all that is just lead in to get to this pieceI found on a blog north of the border in Canada.  Now I am not emphasizing the Canadian sourcing of this material to cut it down, but there is a very strong, "we are Canada, not America!" part to his argument later in the piece, so it is relevant that his indeed a Canadian, and not an American.  It's entitled: "Freedom From Gun Terror: Why Understanding American History Can Help Keep Canadians Sane."

Yes, of course in the Orwellian left, taking away the rights of citizens is a matter of freedom.  Sigh.

So it starts with some introduction claiming that gun control is coming to America (fat chance), and how it is brought on by the Sandy Hook massacre.  Then it gets into the meat of things:

One useful aspect of this harsh debate has been the exposure of a popular misreading of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that "a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

It is simply nonsense to suggest, as has become the conventional wisdom in the circles that advocate gun proliferation, that the intention of the Founding Fathers of the American Republic was to encourage the placement of a firearm in every household as a tool to enable the overthrow of the state should tyranny take root.

This is a preposterous and perverse – and in many cases, quite intentional – misreading of the intention of the Fathers, which is quite clear on the face of the words of the Second Amendment.

Indeed, the purpose of the Second Amendment, which took effect on Dec. 15, 1791, with the other nine amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, was the preservation of the nation and its government, tyrannical or not.

Ah, so the purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect a tyrannical government from rebellion.

Well, let me give you a thoughtful response to that.

Okay, let me actually give you an actual thoughtful response to that.

Oy, there is so much wrong with that it is hard to know where to begin.  First, if there is anything preposterous about it (which sparked my laughter), it is the idea that the Bill of Rights was designed to protect tyranny.  James Madison and other advocates of the Constitution initially thought the Constitution was fine just as written—that no amendments were needed.  But those opposed to the Constitution constantly pointed out a lack of a Bill of Rights.  If you read this prior post, you know that the English had their own Bill of Rights were had already cribbed off of when writing our Declaration of Independence.  These Bills of Rights proliferated among the states, either standing separately or embedded in their constitutions, and it was asked by the Anti-Federalists why we didn't have one.  They hammered them with the point: "why isn't there a Bill of Rights?"

Initially, Madison himself thought that a Bill of Rights might actually do harm.  He felt that every limitation on the government likely to be in such a Bill of Rights was already implied.  Like for Freedom of the Press, Madison would say, "the Freedom of the Press is protected because the Federal Government is not empowered to regulate the press in the first place.  So there is no danger."  But over time Thomas Jefferson worked on him and eventually he decided that it was better to explicitly protect some rights, than to risk an interpretation that would imply none of them were protected.  So he and other advocates of the Constitution promised publicly that if the Constitution was ratified the first order of business would be to amend the Constitution to include a Bill of Rights.

Incidentally, his fear that by explicitly providing for some protections would imply others would be denigrated was the very foundation of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.  Here's what he said originally when introducing the Bill of Rights:

It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow, by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard urged against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the last clause of the fourth resolution.

And if you scroll through the same speech to the part he is referring to, you can see the embryonic beginnings of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments:

The exceptions here or elsewhere in the constitution, made in favor of particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people, or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.

It doesn't look very much like the final product, but I think you can see that the intent behind it was similar.

So the Bill of Rights was urged by people who initially opposed the Constitution.  This opposition was not based on the Federal Government not being strong enough.  Instead it is based on the fear that the Federal Government would become tyrannical.  As Justice Marshall wrote in Barron v. Baltimore:

But it is universally understood, it is a part of the history of the day, that the great revolution which established the constitution of the United States, was not effected without immense opposition. Serious fears were extensively entertained that those powers which the patriot statesmen, who then watched over the interests of our country, deemed essential to union, and to the attainment of those invaluable objects for which union was sought, might be exercised in a manner dangerous to liberty. In almost every convention by which the constitution was adopted, amendments to guard against the abuse of power were recommended. These amendments demanded security against the apprehended encroachments of the general government[.]

(Emphasis added.)  That's the history we are talking about, folks.  The Fifth Amendment—and by extension the entire Bill of Rights—was about restraining the Federal Government, and emphatically notgiving it more power.  Like or hate it, that is what the history and the amendments themselves tell us.

Alas, this blogger goes on:

That is not to say the Founders favoured tyranny, and least of the monarchial sort. But since the new United States had both powerful enemies encamped right upon its doorstep – and that would be here in Canada, my fellow citizens – and an instinctive distrust of standing armies based in the circumstances of its birth, the Fathers deemed it necessary to possess a well-regulated militia to ensure the security of their new nation. The secondary clause of the Amendment defines the mechanism for making the militia effective – principally, to ensure its swift mobilization and deployment in the event of a threat to the new country.

So in his vision was that the purpose of the second clause of the Second Amendment was to help the Federal Government to arm itself?  Why would that even be needed?  There is already a clause allowing for that!  It's in Article I, Section 8, declaring that Congress has the power "[t]o provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States[.]"  So the Federal Government is already empowered to arm the militia!

The only way that interpretation makes any sense is if 1) the founders wanted the militia to be armed primarily by private ownership of weapons, and 2) they were afraid the states would attempt to prevent that.  In other words, it only makes sense if this was intended to be a limitation on the states and not the Federal Government.

Oh, except for one thing.  Remember that Barron v. Baltimore case I just mentioned?  Well, you might have noticed that I cut out a little from the very last line of that paragraph.  Well, let me fill that in:

But it is universally understood, it is a part of the history of the day, that the great revolution which established the constitution of the United States, was not effected without immense opposition. Serious fears were extensively entertained that those powers which the patriot statesmen, who then watched over the interests of our country, deemed essential to union, and to the attainment of those invaluable objects for which union was sought, might be exercised in a manner dangerous to liberty. In almost every convention by which the constitution was adopted, amendments to guard against the abuse of power were recommended. These amendments demanded security against the apprehended encroachments of the general government — not against those of the local governments.

In compliance with a sentiment thus generally expressed, to quiet fears thus extensively entertained, amendments were proposed by the required majority in congress, and adopted by the states. These amendments contain no expression indicating an intention to apply them to the state governments. This court cannot so apply them.

In other words, Marshall, who was in the founding generation, was telling us what I just told you: the Bill of Rights was about restraining the Federal Government and they did not apply to the states.  If a state law infringed on your freedom of speech, in 1834, if you claimed the Federal Constitution was violated the courts would say you were out of luck.

Now before supporters of the right to bear arms (or civil rights and liberties generally) get worked up about this, I will point out that this is no longer the case.  This is not something I think the general public understands, but the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution was designed, in part, to "incorporate" the Bill of Rights to the states.  So when you say a state is violating your "First Amendment rights" what lawyers say is, "the First Amendment as incorporated to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment."  Or truthfully, they very often skip that part, but you know what I mean.

Now I think that this was supposed to be an all or nothing proposition—that is all of the Bill of Rights were supposed to be incorporated to the States—but the Supreme Court so far has not agreed, picking and choosing which rights to apply.  So for instance, in the Federal context, all criminal trials have to be conducted with twelve person juries, while state-based trials do not.  And I don't believe I have ever seen a case incorporating the Third Amendment relating to the quartering of soldiers to the states, although to be fair, I don't think the Third Amendment has been applied, at all, in any court case (because there has never been a violation of it that inspired a lawsuit).

And yes, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment applies to the States in this case.

Alas, the blogger goes on:

That aristocratic old federalist and tax-raiser George Washington, of all people, would laugh through his wooden teeth at the suggestion the new Republic needed to be populated by an armed rabble that could rise up on a moment's notice and overthrow its government, which in the late 18th Century was made up of people some of us might dismiss in 2012 as "the 1 per cent."

Gotta love the Occupy reference.  But two responses to that.  First, is he saying that he didn't believe in the right of rebellion?  George Washington?  Really?  Second, even if it was proven to be the case (fat chance), Washington didn't write the constitution.  He didn't even get a say in the Bill of Rights, at least not more than any other voting American at the time.

But really it is a bare assertion of fact that somehow it was too absurd to believe Washington would believe in the right of rebellion, and I don't think that is exactly self evident.

Of course, toward the beginning, he does quote Washington as putting down the military effectiveness of the militia.  When I was reading up on Washington some time ago, I recall him making many comments and taking many actions to the effect that he didn't think much of the militia as a military force.  But if anything, doesn't that cut down on this blogger's point?  How much of a threat to the republic would the "rabble" be in Washington's mind, if he thought so little of them?  And while Washington might have felt that his professionally trained soldiers were better than the unprofessional militia, that didn't mean he had no respect for their work in the beginning of the American Revolution.  He was likely to expect that at first rebels would be disorganized and untrained, and then as the rebellion went on to become more professional as his soldiers did at places like Valley Forge.

Oh and then there is the small matter of how Washington actually signed a lawrequiring "every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective states, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years" to be enrolled in the militia and buy for himself a gun.  (That is the Militia Act of 1792.)  If he was scared the "rabble" might take over if they were armed, he had a funny way of showing it.

Also I didn't miss that our blogger from up north also wrote that "This is a preposterous and perverse – and in many cases, quite intentional – misreading of the intention of the Fathers[.]"  So his approach in his mind was so obvious that any other interpretation was downright preposterous and indeed many of the people advancing the view that Second Amendment protects a right to bear arms are doing so dishonestly.  I suppose that would include the Supreme Court.

No, to bring this into a big picture for a moment, what is preposterous is to suggest that the Founding Fathers, having just thrown off British tyranny in a war sparked by an attempt to take our arms at Lexington and Concord, would turn around and give up those arms in the face of a new government when they openly expressed the fear that it would become tyrannical itself.

Anyway, the rest of the article is about opposing the rise of gun rights in Canada.  And while I generally support the right to bear arms everywhere, I'll let the Canadians fight their own battle (of words) on this one for now.

By the way, as is often the case, this led to a discussion with the author on twitter:

Freedom from gun terror: why understanding American history can help keep Canadians sane - #cdnpoli#guncontrol
— David Climenhaga (@djclimenhaga) January 11, 2013

Really? The ppl opposed to the const insisted on a 2nd A to make the Fed Gov stronger? what claptrap @djclimenhaga
— Aaron Worthing (@AaronWorthing) January 11, 2013

@aaronworthingDo you seriously think George Washington wanted an armed rabble to hold his new country hostage? Talk about claptrap!
— David Climenhaga (@djclimenhaga) January 11, 2013

I think George Washington believed in--and practiced--the right of rebellion. @djclimenhaga#NoWayNRA#GUNCONTROLNOW#guncontrol
— Aaron Worthing (@AaronWorthing) January 11, 2013

Oddly, he hasn't responded.

John Mackey Was Right the First Time: Obamacare is Fascism

John Mackey Was Right the First Time: Obamacare is Fascism

John MackeyNo doubt with his marketing honchos standing over him, tapping blackjacks into their palms, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has been busy walking-back comments he made to NPR in which he described Obamacare as an example of a fascist enterprise. While still critical of the administration's controversial healthcare scheme, which is heavy on government mandates, he now regrets his choice of words. That's a damned shame, since he was dead-on with his original description.
NPR originally reported on Mackey's obviously thoughful, if harsh, assessment of Obamacare:
What he doesn't think is right is President Obama's health overhaul and the new costs that coverage requirements will place on businesses.
When Inskeep asks him if he still thinks the health law is a form of socialism, as he's said before, Mackey responds:
"Technically speaking, it's more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn't own the means of production, but they do control it — and that's what's happening with our health care programs and these reforms."
Mackey took a lot of flack from the usual suspects who strongly resented the linking of a policy they like to an ideology known for being a tad authoritarian. And no doubt Whole Foods, as a business that caters to a customer base that may be more Obamacare-friendly, on average, than Americans as a whole, is vulnerable to political push-back. So Mackey publicly reiterated his criticism of government-dominated healthcare while repudiating his word-choice. From the Whole Foods company blog:
I made a poor word choice to describe our health care system, which I definitely regret. The term fascism today stirs up too much negative emotion with its horrific associations in the 20th century.  While I'm speaking as someone who works hard to offer health care benefits to more than 73,000 team members, who actually vote on their overall benefits packages, I am very concerned about the uninsured and those with preexisting conditions.
I believe that, if the goal is universal health care, our country would be far better served by combining free enterprise capitalism with a strong governmental safety net for our poorest citizens and those with preexisting conditions, helping everyone to be able to buy insurance. This is what Switzerland does and I think we would be much better off copying that system than where we are currently headed in the United States.
I believe that health care should be competitive in the open market to promote innovation and creativity. Despite the criticism of me, I am encouraged that this dialogue will bring continued awareness and a better understanding of viable health care options for all Americans.
Benito MussoliniFair enough. I get it that Mackey's main job is running a company and avoiding offending his customers. So spin away. But here's the thing: He was right the first time. Obamacare looks an awful lot like fascism — specifically, like the corporatist economics at the heart of the ideology. If anybody knew a little something about fascism, it was a fellow named Benito Mussolini. In 1935, Mussolini wrote in Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions:
The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.
So ... Privately owned businesses under state control is what was envisioned by Benito Mussolini as fascism, and it is what John Mackey very accurately described in his discussion of Obamacare.
Too bad if that accurate description hurts some folks' feelings.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why Does Anybody Need an Assault Weapon? Because They Want It.

I propose that, in political discussions, "need" be considered a four-letter word, not to be used in polite company.


Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:


via Hit & Run by J.D. Tuccille on 1/17/13

Leon PanettaApparently doing his best to piss off the people who work for him, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta went in front of  crowd of overtly Second Amendment-supporting U.S. troops at a military base in Italy to ask why anybody "needs" assault weapons or (oddly) armor-piercing bullets. It's a question that's become a bit of a mantra for would-be restricters of personal armaments who insist on knowing what possible justification gun owners could have for possessing semi-automatic rifles that have pistol grips, or for purchasing magazines that hold more than ten seven rounds. It's also a question that seems deliberately dismissive toward the underlying principles of a free society.

As the Washington Post reported, "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta fired off a strong defense of gun control legislation Thursday, in front of a decidedly skeptical audience." Panetta's comments came after he was asked what proposals the Obama administration had in mind that "don't have to do with tearing apart our Second Amendment." Showing the tact for which he has become famous, Panetta answered:

"Who the hell needs armor-piercing bullets except you guys in battle?" Panetta told the soldiers at the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza in northern Italy. "For the life of me, I don't know why the hell people have to have assault weapons."

At this point, many self-defense activists respond that the need for guns has to do with the ability to defend against tyrannical government. Then gun controllers chirp, "but you can't defeat tanks and nuclear weapons with rifles!" thereby demonstrating that they don't keep up with the war in Afghanistan and skipped their history lessons about some difficulties the U.S. military ran into in a place called Vietnam.

But really, that's all irrelevant. Because in free societies, you don't have to justify owning things. You get to own them because you want them and have the means to acquire them. And you get to acquire more than just the basic necessities, if you so choose.

As I look around my office, I see a lot of stuff I don't need. There are two dogs aggressively shedding on the upholstery, a hat collection (panamas and vintage fedoras), CDs and DVDs, a shit-load of books ...If I owned only what I need, I'd be living in a spartan efficiency apartment, wearing a Mao suit and eating gruel. I have no interest in living that way.

Brazil maskMy ability to acquire pets and stuff that I want without having to justify the acquisitions is an expression of my personal freedom. If I had to go, Stetson Stratoliner in hand, to some puffed-up bureaucrat to beg permission to purchase the boxed set of Firefly DVDs or a mutt rescue dog, I would very obviously be living in a state of severely constrained liberty. I would be unfree, even if that hard-working civil servant ultimately signed off on my acquisitions without extracting too hefty a bribe.

The appropriate answer to "Who the hell needs ... ?" is "hey, if you don't want one, don't buy it." The right to own stuff without an explanation is the right to be free.

Oh ... And Leon, all bullets are armor-piercing, depending on the armor. You might want to bone up on that, given that you're the Secretary of Defense.


Things you can do from here:


Rewriting History on ‘Torture’

"From [sic] some reason, enhanced interrogation critics hate to admit that opposing these techniques for moral reasons and opposing them because they are ineffective are entirely independent arguments. You don't see this reaction with other issues. For example, you can criticize Lance Armstrong's steroid use without needing to claim that doping is ineffective. And people are generally aware that driving over the speed limit is a bad idea, without insisting that it won't get them to their destination faster."

Rewriting History on ‘Torture’

Kathryn Bigelow, the Zero Dark Thirty director who has been attacked by senators and anti-war types for her portrayal of how enhanced interrogation helped intelligence officials track down Osama bin Laden, has published a very sharp response to her critics:
On a practical and political level, it does seem illogical to me to make a case against torture by ignoring or denying the role it played in U.S. counter-terrorism policy and practices.
Experts disagree sharply on the facts and particulars of the intelligence hunt, and doubtlessly that debate will continue. As for what I personally believe, which has been the subject of inquiries, accusations and speculation, I think Osama bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work. Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt. That doesn't mean it was the key to finding Bin Laden. It means it is a part of the story we couldn't ignore. War, obviously, isn't pretty, and we were not interested in portraying this military action as free of moral consequences. …
Bin Laden wasn't defeated by superheroes zooming down from the sky; he was defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they sometimes crossed moral lines, who labored greatly and intently, who gave all of themselves in both victory and defeat, in life and in death, for the defense of this nation.

From some reason, enhanced interrogation critics hate to admit that opposing these techniques for moral reasons and opposing them because they are ineffective are entirely independent arguments. You don't see this reaction with other issues. For example, you can criticize Lance Armstrong's steroid use without needing to claim that doping is ineffective. And people are generally aware that driving over the speed limit is a bad idea, without insisting that it won't get them to their destination faster.
But enhanced interrogation opponents get offended whenever it's pointed out that these tactics contributed to keeping America safe. They're so intent on ignoring reality that they would prefer Hollywood rewrite history rather than acknowledge the benefits of enhanced interrogation. As Bigelow rightly notes, that historical revisionism is a disservice to the men and women of the CIA who put their lives at risk in the Global War on Terror. They deserve to have their stories portrayed accurately, not airbrushed to fit a political agenda.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Paradoxical Meanness of the Minimum Wage


Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:


via The Anchoress by Elizabeth Scalia on 1/10/13

Over at dotcommonweal, Paul Moses links to this Bloomberg piece on the pay gap between McDonald's CEO and a Counterman, and I urge you to read both the article and Moses' blogpost. The issue of pay disparities between the CEO of any company and it's "front end" employees is one of those fights I leave [...]


Things you can do from here:


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Test - Reserving rooms for local conventions

Marriott Link to support LASFS

There are three conventions that meet at the LAX Marriott.  If everyone staying used the LASFS GoodShop referral during their reservations, the LASFS would get money donated to its coffers.

The Wheel of the Year: Now available on Amazon Kindle

The Official Manual for Spice Cadets: Now available on Amazon Kindle

Friday, January 11, 2013

In Debate with Breitbart's Shapiro, CNN's Piers Morgan Calls the Constitutio...

In Debate with Breitbart's Shapiro, CNN's Piers Morgan Calls the Constitution 'Your Little Book'

"You come in here, brandish your little book as if I don't know what's in there--"
"My little book? That's the Constitution of the United States. It's our founding document, Piers."
"I know what's in your Constitution."
"Do you really?"
That was the climax of a heated debate between Breitbart News Editor-at-Large Ben Shapiro and CNN's Piers Morgan on live television this evening--one in which Morgan came off much the worse for wear.
Shapiro began by pointing out that for weeks, Morgan had bullied guests who defend the right to bear arms by "standing on the graves of the children of Sandy Hook."
"How dare you," said a rattled Morgan.
"I have seen you do it repeatedly," Shapiro replied.
He challenged Morgan to explain whether he wanted to ban all guns, not just "assault rifles," since the vast majority of gun deaths involve ordinary handguns. "Why don't you care about banning the handguns in Chicago?" Shapiro asked him.
Morgan, who later stated that he supported Americans' right "to defend themselves with a handgun or a pistol," pointed out that the weapons used in recent sensational mass shootings had been "assault rifles," and insisted that the debate was not one of "left and right," because his position ought to be the consensus, as in Britain. Shapiro countered that the basis of the Second Amendment was not self-defense or hunting, but the ability to resist government tyranny--a point that Morgan attempted to mock, unsuccessfully.
Shapiro's statement is worth quoting in full:
Shapiro: I think the reason that it's about left and right here is because fundamentally, the right believes that the basis for the Second amendment--and they believe in the Second Amendment--the basis for the Second Amendment is not really about self defense, and it's not about hunting. It's about resistance to government tyranny. That's what the Founders said, and that's what the right believes in this country.
Morgan: Which tyranny are you fearing, yourself?
Shapiro: I fear the possibility of a tyranny rising in the country in the next fifty to a hundred years. Let me tell you something, Piers. The fact that my grandparents and great grandparents in Europe didn't fear that is why they're now ashes in Europe. So this kind of leftist revisionist history where there's never any fear of democracy going usurpatious or tyrannical, is just that. It's fictitious.

Subsequently, Morgan accused Shapiro of wanting to "do nothing" about mass shootings, to which Shapiro replied that his position was to improve background checks and screening for mental illness and criminal histories among potential gun owners and their households. Shapiro later pointed out the hypocrisy in attacking the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment without subjecting violent video games, the American Civil Liberties Union and the First Amendment to the same scrutiny.
Morgan then presented Shapiro with a letter co-signed by Ronald Reagan in 1994, urging support for the assault weapons ban (an ineffective policy, which lapsed after ten years). He challenged Shapiro to justify "why an American needs an assault weapon."
Shapiro repeated his point on tyranny, to which Morgan said: "Do you know how absurd you sound?"
In so doing, he proved Shapiro's point:
Here's where you go into the bullying....For weeks now, you have been saying that anybody who disagrees with your position is absurd, idiotic, and doesn't care about the dead kids in Sandy Hook. And then when I say that's a bullying tactic, you turn around and say that I'm bullying you.
Later on the program, once Shapiro was safely off camera, Morgan admitted: "In an ideal world, I'd have all guns gone, as we have in Britain, but this is not my country and I respect the fact most Americans wouldn't wear that kind of argument."
An epic win for Shapiro, and for our "little book."
You can read a full transcript of the 15 minute interview here...