Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Corruption

The natural state of all government is to be corrupted by moneyed interests.

It would be pretty easy to 'prove' this by simply pointing to every government throughout history and daring any skeptics to find one that doesn't fit the pattern.  They would, of course, fail, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

More difficult, yet ultimately more satisfying, is to lay out a logical foundation showing how admitted human nature inevitably leads to a large, unwieldy, inefficient, and thoroughly corrupt government.  The starting point is as J.E.E.Dahlberg (Lord Acton) once warned us:  'Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely', and the essence of government is power — over people, over the economy, over corporations.  Aided and abetted by a population insufficiently wary of government's tendency to grow, government will grow incrementally at first, then by leaps and bounds until powers never intended for government to have will now seem ordinary and everyday functions of government.  Normalized by long-use, functions that once were solely the province of non-governmental entities appear so natural for a central government to handle that people forget the times when government didn't do such things.

This has been the path followed by all governments — ours is not an exception — as they grow from cottage industries to leviathans.  The reason is intuitively obvious.  Friedrich Hayek offers an alternative view to that of Acton:  government itself does not corrupt, but the power inherent in government tends to attract the corruptible.  That is: bureaucrats start out corrupted and gravitate toward an environment where their natural corruption is both tolerated and nourished.  Someone, say that this is not so.  Experience has shown us that it is the most true thing one can say about government, not just our government; all governments.

It's not even certain that a Libertarian administration — populated by people who are ideologically committed to minuscule government — would not fall into this same trap.

But it might be worth a try.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bad News from Alabama

Mike Vanderboegh who runs Sipsey Street Irregulars announced on his blog today that his cancer is back with a vengeance.  His doctor told him '6 months'.

For the 'patriot movement', this counts as Very Bad News.  Mike has been the voice and the pamphleteer of that movement, sometimes called 'the 3% movement', for a dozen years or more.  We can now see the day, sadly not too far in the future, when that voice will be stilled and his pen stop writing.

Mean-spirited trolls who publicly wished for his death will soon have what they want.  The rest of us merely wish that his doctor will turn out to be an incompetent pessimist.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Obama's "answer" to the problem (sic) of guns

I put 'answer' in quotes because what the President announced today really answers nothing.  There is this weird meme floating about that gun shows are some sort of magical land where all the rules are different and those who believe this think Obama has done something to change it back to reality.  He didn't, largely because gun shows operate just like the rest of the real world.

If someone buys a gun from someone who is not a federal firearms licensee (FFL), there is no requirement to perform a BGC as long as both of those people are residents of the same state and are IN that state at time of sale.  In all other cases, a BGC is required by federal law.  ALL other cases, period.  At a store, in a garage, behind the cathedral at dawn, or at a gun show; it doesn't matter where, and it doesn't matter when.  Virtually NO ONE who sets up a (gun sales) table at a gun show is NOT a FFL.  Now for the logic problem:  what percentage of gun sales at a gun show will NOT be accompanied by a BGC?  Answer:  virtually none.

It is possible that Jed will walk the aisles with a cardboard sign around his neck saying "Colt .44 Magnum; make offer" and it is possible that someone will make him an offer that he accepts, and a gun will be sold without a BGC.  This will happen rarely, and what Obama announced today will not stop it because he didn't do what many in the Second Amendment Community suspected he might:  declare that everyone who sells a gun is automatically "a dealer".  Why didn't he do that?

Back in the 80s and 90s it was fairly easy to become a FFL.  File the paperwork, pay a nominal fee, suffer a BGC that's somewhat more elaborate than the BGC for buying a gun or getting a concealed weapons license (CWL).  Presto, change-o, you're a dealer.  You can now buy at wholesale but you have to keep meticulous records of what you buy, what you sell, and from whom and to whom.  All your sales then require a BGC and a 4473 which ATF must (by law) process and destroy in 72 hours.  You keep your copies of the 4473s for 20 years before you can destroy them.

Damn, that sounds like the kind of Action Demanded by those Moms, doesn't it?  Yes and no.  They would take exception to the 'proliferation of gun dealers operating out of garages and living rooms', and that is why, in the 90s, Bill Clinton directed ATF to clamp down on 'kitchen table dealers'.  If you didn't have a real place-of-business and only made occasional sales and purchases, they said, you're not a real dealer and just revoked your FFL.  It would be difficult for Obama to have to admit that Bill Clinton screwed up, even if he did.

ATF (short for 'Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives') now considers a person 'a dealer' if they regularly buy and sell firearms and make a profit doing so, even if they don't have a real place-of-business, so Obama announcing that from now on ATF will require such persons to register as dealers is nothing more than declaring — to the blare of trumpets — that current policy will henceforth be enforced as current policy.  In short, it's all hot air.

Outside of the Second Amendment Community, none of this is common knowledge, so all those Obama cheerleaders will be confident that their man in DC has just struck a blow for common sense.  I think it would be cruel to spoil their euphoria, don't you?  So let's just not mention to them that nothing happened today, okay?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Phi-bonacci's Mysterious Series

I'm fascinated and intrigued by Leonardo Bonacci who was, oddly, called 'Fibonacci'.  He introduced what we now call 'arabic numerals' to Europe in 1202 in what was the forerunner of all mathematics texts in the Western World, the Liber Abaci.  In that book he introduced what today is known as 'the Fibonacci sequence':

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, &c.,
wherein each new term is the sum of the previous two, e.g.:
2 + 3 = 5.
And that about sums up what we know about Leonardo Bonacci.

What he didn't put in the book is also significant, mostly because he probably didn't realize it.  Understand that computing with arabic numerals was brand-new in Europe, even for Bonacci.  The thing he missed was that the limit of the ratios of the Fibonacci sequence homes or 'asymptotes' to 1.6180339887, e.g.:

832040 / 514229 = 1.6180339887...

"Big deal," I just heard someone mutter.  Well, yes, when you consider that the inverse is almost exactly identical:

514229 / 832040 = 0.6180339887...
514229 / 832040 = (832040 / 514229) - 1
Slightly weird.

Mathematicians find this number (1.618...) very useful and it lends itself to beautiful graphic explanations as well.  Since it's used so often, it has become a convention to use the Greek letter phi (Φ) to represent 1.618033... and its lower case form (φ) to represent 0.618033...  That means that

Φ - φ = 1 and Φ × φ = 1.

This number, Φ, is also called 'the golden ratio' and is found nearly everywhere you look, especially in architecture, botany, biology, and meteorology.  Φ is implicated in the spiral shapes of the chambered nautilus, sunflowers, and hurricanes.

YouTube has many great short videos that talk about Φ-bonacci, the Φ-bonacci sequence, and the Golden Ratio.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Heretofore Otherwise Law-Abiding Gun Owners

I use that rather longish phrase to introduce a contra-intuitive notion:   the people we always thought of as 'most likely to obey the law' have changed their attitudes, their positions relative to the law, and their willingness to be bullied.

In times past, legislators could pass laws and be relatively certain that the bulk of the population would honor the law with their obedience even as the criminal element took the opposite tack.   It appears that is no longer the case.   It appears now that — at least as far as gun control laws are concerned — the overwhelming response is not obedience but defiance.

The State of Connecticut, reacting to the Sandy Hook incident, passed a severe assault weapon registration law.   It forbade the sale or possession of AR-15-type and AK-47-type rifles except for grandfathered units properly registered by the deadline for registration, January 1st, 2014.   Also included in the ban/grandfathering were so-called 'high capacity' magazines, those holding more than ten (10) rounds.   Banned units that were not going to be registered had to be surrendered to police for destruction or moved out of state.   CT State Police estimated 370,000 rifles were subject to the ban along with 4 million magazines.

As of the deadline for registration, CSP had received about 47,000 registrations for rifles and about 38,000 registrations for magazines.   That is, 13% of the firearms and 1% of the magazines.   Unless the original estimates were badly out-of-whack, Nutmeggers have decided they'd rather be felons than register their hardware.   The heretofore-otherwise-law-abiding have become law-breakers.

The following year, New York did the same thing, passing the NYSAFE Act in the dead of night over the objections of elected officials who demanded the legislature follow its own rules and give New Yorkers adequate notice of impending legislation.   They needn't have worried.   Barely 10% of New Yorkers have registered their firearms, the other 90% having decided, it seems, to be criminals themselves.

In Oregon, ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg poured a truckload of money into a ballot measure demanding background checks for all transfers (not just sales) of firearms.   That is, I'm at the range sighting in my newest hunting rifle and the girl next to me says "Nice rifle.   Mind if I try it?"   As soon as I hand it to her, we have both become criminals because no BGC was done for the 'transfer'.  

Two months after that became law, the Washington State Gun Collectors' Assn held a widely-advertised 'no BGC gun show' at which — observed by police standing close by — several thousand blatant, in-plain-sight violations of the law resulted in zero arrests.

This is a very bad sign — for governments.   The surety in legislators' minds that all they had to do was vote in order to see their decisions carried out — that surety is gone, and it won't easily be regained.   In the meantime, sheriffs in those states are refusing to arrest citizens for failing to register, and the state police organizations are too understaffed to be of much use in enforcing the diktats.   The status quo is that these laws might as well not have been passed for all the effect they've had.

Viewed from another angle, the picture doesn't even look that rosy:   when you have citizens who have always in the past been the strongest supporters of 'law and order' now lining up in opposition to it — because they see it as the perfect antithesis of law and order — it has to make a legislator wonder what response the next law will get.   How long before the peasants, armed with pitchforks and torches, storm the castle looking for a head to chop off?

And it was all so unnecessary.   It is estimated that 100 million American gun owners have 350 million guns and 200 billion rounds of ammunition.   If those American gun owners were a real problem — if they were a problem worth attacking — there wouldn't be just dozens dead at this school or that post office.   There would be thousands dead every week in paroxysms of slaughter that would reduce us to third-world-status in a trice.   That hasn't happened, and a thinking person must wonder why it hasn't if all those bitter clingers are as dangerous as the New York Times seems to think they are.

The answer must be — because it can be naught else — that your average heretofore otherwise law-abiding American gun owner isn't someone to fear.

Yet.

You can, of course, change that whenever the spirit moves you.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Campus Carry

The big issue on Florida college campuses these days is the impending possibility that people who can lawfully carry a concealed firearm elsewhere in Florida may soon be permitted** to do so at Florida colleges.  Horrors!

That is: those who are 21 or over (we're talking seniors or grad students, generally), who have had an extensive background check both by FDLE and FBI, whose fingerprints are on file in Tallahassee, and who have demonstrated reasonable proficiency with a firearm, may do on a college campus that which they can do almost everywhere else in the state, viz.: be inconspicuously armed.  Students, faculty, and administrators are suffering a case of the vapours at the mere thought that, should a Virginia Tech incident or a Strozier Library incident occur in their school, there will be even more guns making loud noises.  At least, that's what I believe they're thinking##.

Now, it turns out that only two states, Texas and Florida, compile statistics on "how many crimes are committed by people who have concealed weapons permits (CWPs)".  The numbers are truly puzzling if one accepts the dominant meme that all CWP-holders are Dirty Harry wannabees looking for any excuse to whip out their penis-substitute and start rendering swift justice — you know, like George Zimmerman.  The numbers Texas and Florida supply suggest that CWP-holders are more law-abiding than the police as a class.  Not only that, it appears they are less likely to shoot the wrong person than the police are — by a factor of five (5).

On net, then, for those really worried about their safety, the most logical course of action is to hope that they're seated next to one of those... those... people (ugh!) with their nasty guns (shiver!) because — oddly enough — that's likely the safest place in the room or the building or (perhaps) the school.  Far from making the college a riskier place, those CWP-holders will actually make it a safer place.

 

 

(**:)  By 'permitted', I mean that they will no longer be under threat of felony prosecution for the action.

(##:)  ...if, in fact, thinking has actually occurred, something for which there appears to be little or no evidence.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

First, Charlie Hebdo, now...

Well, it's been a few days since the terrorist attacks in Paris.   The dust has mostly settled and speculation has tapered off.   We're pretty sure what we know or suspect is, in fact, true:   ISIS has claimed responsibility and there is little reason to doubt their veracity, in this case at any rate.

The French — indeed, all of Western Europe — are shocked — shocked, I tell you — that terrorists can so easily obtain better, more deadly, weapons than the Paris gendarmerie typically tote.   The ordinary Jacques-sur-la-Rue, I might add, is a criminal for carrying almost anything that might be called 'a weapon'.

I could rant on and on for paragraphs about how important it is for ordinary people to be able to be their own first responders and how that requires that they be able to act — forcefully — in their own defense.   You've just heard all the ranting I'm going to do, except...  

I do wish to point out something L. Neil Smith has already expounded:   'terrorism' is a diffuse problem and it will not succumb to a targeted solution;   only a diffuse solution will fit a diffuse problem.   What this means, on net, is that we cannot expect the police, the FBI (or, in France, DCPJ), or the NSA to always be on top of the situation.   Yes, they will thwart the occasional plot, but not every one.   The only thing that will put a bullet into the nefarious plans of terrorists is the thought that Jacques Bonhomme will put a bullet into one or more terrorists.

I am pretty sure France will not take my advice.   Too bad, but I've done my part.