Gun Trivia

Alphecca recently commented on how the AP defines “assault rifle” or weapon. Basically, it’s a rifle that looks mean, or “military” and it really doesn’t matter how you define the terms. It’s been my experience that where the media is concerned, AK-47 and assault weapon are synonymous.

Well, darned if the media didn’t have it right this time. Although I doubt they were any more aware of their correctness than I was.

It seems that the AK-47 was designed by copying certain features of the original “assault rifle”, the Sturmgewehr 44. It seems Hitler was highly impressed by that precursor to the AK-47 and gave it a name “satisfying his demented dream of eternally attacking the world”. (p.331)

Constitutional Originalism And… Whatever

There is nothing important I disagree with in Comrade PhysioProf’s essay — Constitutional Originalism, Natural Law, and the Ninth Amendment, except an apparent inability (or unwillingness) to discern whose ox is being gored.

He is arguing that “textual originalism” is a convenient tool for conservatives:

This provides a theoretical basis for conservative claims that there is no Constitutionally protected right to many things they despise: gay marriage, abortion, health care, housing, food, etc.

As far as marriage is concerned, the government should be involved only so far as it is a contract between two people. The states have defined this contract differently, some are community property states, some are not. Divorce is the legal dissolution of that contract. That’s as far as the government has any say in marriage as far as I’m concerned. It should in no way be involved in defining who can get married beyond setting an age limit, as it already does, of who can legally be a party to a contract.

That some people wish to have their marriage recognized by their church and are willing to accept further constraints due to religion are outside the realm of government. Government should not enforce a doctrine of religion. I believe that’s covered in the 1st Amendment.

Abortion is a bit different because it involves death of living tissue and pits the rights of one against another. Some will argue that it is only the death of a living tissue which, if such life were protected would mean it would be illegal to kill a mosquito. Others argue that because the tissue is human it has special status and protection. Government, especially the federal government should not be involved in defining where life begins.

I see a role for government only after the fetus is capable of survival outside the mother’s body. After that point, to me at least, it is obviously murder of a helpless individual and the government should and must protect that individual. This is not representative of my personal moral preference (no abortion ever unless the mother will die because of the pregnancy) but my view of where government has the authority to intervene.

Now I address whether there is a protected right to health care under the 9th Amendment. The idea that government cannot make a law denying health care to any group or individual is certainly protected. Does this mean that government has a duty to make laws mandating health care for every individual? Frankly, can anyone define what health care actually is?

Is it possible that mandating health care of certain types violates some of the enumerated rights? Why, yes it is. While I personally advocate for mandated vaccinations to increase herd immunity, I do not think that government should be able to force anyone to inject something into their body that they do not wish to. On the other hand, I can see where government has a right to refuse some services to people who wish to exercise this right.

Left out of Comrade PhysioProf’s list is whether there is a right to education. Most states (not necessarily the federal government) mandate education for their citizens to a great degree. Parents are punished for not sending their children to school or otherwise providing a state-sanctioned education. When public tax dollars are used to provide education, I see no problem with requiring vaccinations in order to partake of publically funded education.

Housing. Is there a natural right to housing? Further, is there a natural right to a certain standard of housing? What is this standard? Must this standard include ownership? Do SROs meet this standard? Damn, this is almost as sticky as abortion, is it not? Or… perhaps it is stickier. Should the federal government require the Amish have electricity? Some of my most idyllic memories of childhood are living in a place with no electricity and no running water. I realize now how much work my mother put into taking care of me in such circumstances, but in no way do I feel deprived for having experienced them. Rather, I feel privileged.

I once worked for a social service agency that perceived its continuing existence in providing housing. The working motto for the agency’s CEO was that any housing she would not be comfortable in was inacceptable for any of her clients. That is truly unrealistic, IMHO, although it is understandable. 

It is an unfortunate fact that federal government mandated housing has not been a success. I’m enough of an idealist to wish it had, but enough of a realist to realize it’s failed. There is no natural right to a defined standard of housing, however much I wish it to be so.

Food. Calories, to be exact. Should the federal government concern itself with providing a given number of calories to every citizen? Should the federal government concern itself with providing a certain quality of calories to every citizen? Should access to vitamins be a right? See above, where I  comment on the mandating of vaccinations, and then consider whether government is empowered by natural law to limit or mandate the consumption of any substance.

It should be obvious by now that I favor little intervention in our lives by government. It’s also imperative that I address the 2nd Amendment, which was not addressed by our dear Comrade, but was by one of the commenters,  Dr Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde:

(Ignore the social conservative agenda of gays and abortions here; I’m talking about guns, unemployment assistance, business regulations, etc.)

Let’s address this parenthetical comment in a backwards manner. I’m not adverse to business regulations. Multiple posts could be generated on how I think business should be regulated and these matters are not addressed by the first ten amendments. Secondly, I’m going to address unemployment assistance separately.

But… guns……. ah, the 2nd Amendment. I personally think it addresses the right of individuals acting collectively to prevent a tyrannical government – ie, one which espouses taxation without representation, one which imposes limits on personal freedoms, one which mandates behavior, etc. It hails the idea that government should not control violence. If government is the only wielder of violence, what recourse does the citizen have? None…?

What the 2nd Amendment does not explicitly cover is the right to self-defense. This is, IMHO, covered by the 9th Amendment. Between the two, guns and their cousins (knives, blunt objects, baseball bats, mace, and tasers) are implements that are covered by both.

It is, to me, obnoxious, that humans do not have a right to self-defense, either of their corporal body or their form of government.

Let us not forget that icon of privacy, the 3rd Amendment. This is, IMHO, along with the 4th Amendment that a man’s or woman’s… ie, a citizen’s house is their castle.

Unemployment assistance — is there a right to a job and/or an income? hmm… This is actually a question of insurance, because that is what unemployment assistance is. It is insurance against a downturn of business success. It does not guarantee assistance if the employee was fired because he stole from the business or failed to perform in a way that assisted the maintenance or growth of the business.

Businesses pay premiums, generally based on their unemployment claims statistics, to a state insurance fund. Where is there a right to a job or to unemployment compensation? It is a monetary decision on the part of both the state and the business, is it not?

Is there a right to employment? Can the federal government compel you to hire any given individual? If not, there is not federal mandate for unemployment assistance. It is strictly the business of insurance, is it not?

Now… really… don’t get me started on insurance. Really. It is, IMHO (as so much of this essay is) a protection racket. No… don’t encourage me!!

While I maintain that Comrade PhysioProf is not necessarily wrong, I also maintain that there is no evidence of a definitive answer in the essay. Progressive is a noun as meaningless as Conservative. Neither offers an answer that should be written in stone. Or law.

Dr. Isis pointed me to Comrade PhysioProf… and I suggest that everyone read Dr. Isis because she wears really hot shoes and does really hot science.

How Is Rush Limbaugh Useful To Democrats?

While I disagree with most of Obama’s goals and policies as stated during the campaign and acted on so far, I do think he’s a brilliant politician and he’s got brilliant political advisors. So I have to wonder why they’ve chosen Rush Limbaugh as the conservative to elevate in the public’s attention.

In the campaign, Obama ran against Bush and the last eight years. There was little opening for McCain to say or do much that did not feed into that narrative. Bush was the easy target and the Obama campaign used him to effectively to distract from McCain’s campaign. Palin was used in the same way.

It appears they are setting up Rush Limbaugh to use in 2010. And they are succeeding because Republicans are going along with it. It will be easy for them to use him as a distraction in every 2010 contest. The theme will be something along the lines of all conservatives let Rush do their thinking for them. And they may not be far from wrong.

Scientists say the dose is what makes something poison and too much Limbaugh will weaken the Republican party. I am seriously disappointed that Michael Steele played into their hands so neatly and easily.

More HERE.

The Rightful Place Of Science

Since that phrase was uttered in Obama’s Inaugural speech, much has been written about what that rightful place should be.

My personal take is that science should be near the top. It epitomizes (or should, at least) logical thinking. Logical thinking comes in handy no matter the discipline, so science should be teaching us logic in all things. At least the most important things that impact our daily lives.

Science Blogs took the question seriously and many of the contributors there have offered their comments. You’ll find my comments in several of their posts.

It should be pointed out that I am science junkie. I’ve been one since the early 1980s when my son’s closed head injury sent me to the medical library at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. At that point in time, all I wanted to do was understand the reports of his CT scans, and later, his MRIs.

I learned the parts of the brain, from Wernicke’s area to the substantia nigra quite easily. It’s like reading a map in a way. I understood the reports about the significant and diffuse areas of injury that suggested that he might never speak or walk again. Thankfully, he proved those prognoses wrong. He does not walk perfectly or speak/communicate perfectly and his anxiety at realizing he doesn’t isn’t shown on a CT or MRI scan.

Innate curiosity took over from there. How can one learn just a little bit without wondering what came before and what might come afterwards? And how does this relate to seemingly unrelated things?

Thus began my on-again, off-again subscribtion to Scientific American. It’s recently been mostly off-again because of ScienceBlogs and ScienceDaily.

All of this leads to the most important statement I want to make:

SCIENCE IS IMPORTANT TO ME.

Because it is important, I am disgusted with poor science, science which aims primarily at a monetary result, and woo – science which is just junk – and closely related to making money over advancing knowledge. With all this in mind, I am linking the best of the responses (IMHO) of the ScienceBlogger’s answers to the “rightful place” of science (in no particular order):

Pure Pedantry – Science can tell us what is and in some cases what might be, but it cannot tell us what ought to be. Science can make us intelligent, but it cannot make us wise.

Neurotopia 2.0 – Science needs a voice. A voice of reason, a voice of information. So when the government, or your friend down the street is trying to make a decision, it won’t just be gut instinct. It will be feelings, AND science, AND social considerations, AND economics. And based on all of these factors, a decision can be reached. When science is included, I feel that decision is more likely to be beneficial. The place of science may not be at the very top. But it should at least be in the cabinet. And it should definitely be in the classrooms.

Not Exactly Rocket Science – This difference, between “Science: the Details” and “Science: the Principles is crucial to me. Lacking the former deprives you of knowledge; lacking the latter deprives you of the tools with which to acquire knowledge. The details are what most people think of when they think of science, and they view them as the provinces of geeks and boffins. The principles are a way of thinking, whether people think about it or not, and they are everywhere.

Respectful Insolence – The U.S. still has a healthy scientific endeavor, and the government is not the be-all and end-all of science. Unfortunately, the logo and the concept behind the Rightful Place Project seem to imply that it is, particularly given that President Obama’s statements about science were the inspiration for the project.

Let’s get one thing straight right here: “Revitalizing” science, whatever that means, does not depend upon government. It does not depend upon Barack Obama. There is no doubt that the government is very important as a funder of science, particularly biomedical science, and that the President can do a lot to support science in the U.S., but it is Americans doing science who determine how vital the scientific endeavor in this country is, not the government.

Corpus Callosum – What is being asked is this: help define the rightful place of science in our world.  The answer is this: Literature, Science, and the Arts.  The three noble human endeavors.  Each necessary; none sufficient; each overlapping; none mutually exclusive.

Science is one leg of the three-legged table that elevates all mental sustenance out of the mud. 

AND that, my friends, ends this inquiry into the rightful place of science. However, I’d like to submit an afterthought of my own:

Science is not well served by today’s popular media, be it television, internet, or print. Too much hoopla and too much hype. Were we to listen entirely to popular media, we’d think obesity is caused by a virus and we’re all doomed because of miniscule detectable amounts of mercury in high fructose corn syrup.

Where do you think the rightful place of science is? Could it possibly be in the pages of our newspapers, TV stations, and their websites? Nah… real science isn’t that good for scary headlines.

(formatting changed for clarity and links added)

Agreeing With Maureen Dowd

Well, almost agreeing anyway. She’s advocating putting the screws to Wall Street’s Socialist Jet-Setters and I have to admit I’d like to see that too. At least to the current crop of nincompoops. The problem is that stupidity is not a crime and that’s all they are guilty of. So far.

I want to see them suffer much more than humiliation and ridicule, though I’m disappointed that Ms. Dowd thinks these gentlemen would be trustworthy enough to fill an ATM with cash.

Nor would I trust most of the Representatives and Senators to do such a job either. And that’s where I’m in disagreement with Ms. Dowd. “Let the show trials begin.” she writes. The show trials we have in this country are Congressional investigations and that’s like asking the Mafia to turn over one of its own. I’m not interested in sacrificial lambs, I’m interested in actual reform. Trials before juries of their peers, with the understanding that their peers are average Americans, whether they want to believe that or not

Let’s wish Andrew Cuomo, New York’s attorney general, good luck in his investigation of the $4 billion in bonuses paid as Merrill Lynch was failing.

Blagojevich Makes Edwin Edwards Look Like An Amateur

Blagojevich’s arrest was so startling that my husband woke me up to tell me about it. (Yes, I was sleeping, I am trying to get over a horrible cold and sinus infection.)

Let’s just say that while Edwards was greedy and corrupt, I don’t think he had the “fire in the belly” to really hurt people that these recordings of Blagojevich have shown.

I’m not a great political blogger and for the truly astounding depth of scumbagginess that the Governor of Illinois has fallen to, start with Althouse, here and here. Her commenters are having some fun with this.

Gateway Pundit – just keep scrolling.

Classical Values – just keep scrolling.

UPDATE: From the comments below, you’ve got to read this, it’s short and makes a valid point I’ve not seen elsewhere.

An Addition To The Blogroll

Secular Right has been added. It’s a brand new blog created for conservatives. I hope that it does not devolve into merely discussion of evolution and whether God exists. We’ve got Pharyngula for that. (You’ll notice there’s no link to Pharyngula — it’s not because of his beliefs, it’s because he has a nasty hateful way of presenting them, which has made him very popular in some circles.)

What I’m Reading Tonight

Assistant Village Idiot has over the past several months intrigued me with references to this author and I finally ordered one of his books.

A not-so-random quote from p. 19:

Almost no one can conceal his emotions. Behavioral scientists believe that one of the main reasons why people become leaders is not from what skills they seem to possess, but rather from what extremely superficial impression they make on other through hardly perceptible physical signals — what we call today “charisma,” for example. The biology of the phenomenon is now well-studied under the subject heading “social emotions.”

Meanwhile some historian will “explain” the success in terms of, perhaps, tactical skills, the right education, or some other theoretical reason seen in hindsight. In addition, there seem to be curious evidence of a link between leadership and a form of psychopathology (the sociopath) that encourages the non-blinking, self-confident, insensitive person to rally followers.

(paragraph break added for online readability)

Back to the book now… I’m sure I’ll find more to share with you later.

Misdirected Outrage

I know who I’m going to vote for and I think everybody else does to, or they are at least strongly leaning one way or the other.

Nothing I write is going to change anybody’s mind at this point (if ever).

There is something that I would like everyone to consider:

The President IS NOT as powerful as some would like to think. His veto can be torn up by Congress. Judges ARE NOT that powerful. If they strike a law down as unconstitutional, Congress can rewrite it and overcome the constitutional problems.

Outrage at the President and judges is misdirected, but it’s so much easier than outrage at the people who are truly responsible for our problems: our 535 congressmen.

The people who are powerful are Representatives and Senators, our Congress, all elected by various groups of us. And it is broken, rotten to the core with corruption with rules that encourage self-dealing.

It’s going to be difficult to do a makeover on Congress because the system requires us to do it from the inside, one congressional district and one state at a time.

For this to happen, citizens are going to have to come together and support good people to represent us. Neither party has a lock on corruption. Neither party has a lock on good people.

I Am Joe’s Wife, Aunt, Sister, Mother, Daughter

Iowahawk (who I don’t have on my blogroll, but perhaps should) in a most serious note suggests that he is Joe.

Joe is defined too narrowly as merely a plumber. Joe is more than that, don’t you think? He represents my pipefitter husband, his welder brother, whose two sons are actually plumbers!

And how are they different from my dad the logger and sawmiller, my stepbrother who followed in my dad’s footsteps? How are they that different from my brother who didn’t, but perhaps wishes he had?

How are my sons – a teacher in training and AF National Guardsman and a disabled, but determined man different from Joe? Do they not have dreams? Are they not working to make them reality? Why, yes they are. Are they perfect? I wish… though I love them as if they were.

Truly, I can’t think of a more “perfect” example of the American working man than today’s plumber. While no more dignified than ditch-digging, it requires more education and training (yes, there’s math and physics involved).

If I understand Democrat ideals (it’s entirely possible I do not), Joe the Plumber should be their poster boy. Yet… he’s not. Why? Why are middle Americans not represented by the Democrat Party? And why do so many of them think they are?

What Bernanke, the Fed, and the Treasury Should Do

They should listen to “real” people instead of Congress. (Did you ever wonder if one has to be one can short of a six-pack to be a politician?)

See Dean’s Forum Wide-Ranging Discussion of Financial Crisis, Taxpayer-Funded Rescue Bill – full video or clip from the University of Texas McCombs School of Business blog – McCombs Today.

Then scroll down the comments (7th one) and read what Economics Professor Brandl has to say:  

Bernanke, the Fed and the Treasury have to make it clear where the “bailouts” are going to stop.  This will help to put a floor under the financial markets and decrease uncertainty.  They need to be more transparent and clear as to who will be and who won’t be saved.  The piecemeal approach they are following is not working.  Also this “drawing of the line in the sand” should be coordinated with policymakers in other OECD countries as well as Russia and India.  Notice, I deliberately left out China.

Structuring the bailout as buying of assets was a mistake.  Instead the Treasury should have injected capital into the banks and taken an equity stake in return.  This would have punished stockholders in these firms by diluting their ownership stake.  This would also give the Treasury power in setting executive compensation at these firms.  Is this socialism?  No, it is a step in internalizing the fiduciary responsibility these firms have to the broader financial markets and economy.  The current “leaders” of these firms have demonstrated they are incapable of performing this role satisfactory.

The Treasury should be buying the mortgages of people and families who were truly victims and there are many.  But, the Treasury should not be using taxpayer money to bailout real estate speculators or those who should have know better as to what they were getting themselves into with these sub-prime and Alt-A mortgages.  But how does the Treasury make this distinction?  They need to set up some system, with oversight, to do this.  A mortgage-based RTC is what is needed.

Oh, yeah… remember the Resolution Trust Corporation? Why not use a model that worked fairly well?

Since the bailout has been structured as it is, Paulson should have named someone to run it, and the buying of bank assets, who has a great deal of experience and credibility.  Potential names include:

Bill Gross, Chief Investment Office at Pimco, who the Washington Post described as “the nation’s best-known bond-fund manager.”

Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Board of Governors

Don Powell, former head of the FDIC and famed Texas banker

Glenn Hubbard, Dean of the Columbia Business School, former head of the Council of Economic Advisors

So who did Paulson pick?  A 35 year old former Goldman Sachs underling named Neel Kashkari. Needless to say, this was not a great confidence building move.

Once the current liquidity crisis ends the Fed, Treasury and the new President are going to have to put in place measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.  Among the things they need to consider should be:

  • Overhaul of the financial regulatory system.  Paulson’s idea on this in the spring was a first (but bad) attempt to do this.
  • Ensure high quality regulators.  This means paying a decent salary to attract well educated and trained “bank examiners.”  The Fed, FDIC and other regulators need to pay salaries of say $125,000 a year to attract the best and the brightest if we expect them to correctly “oversee” sophisticated financial firms.
  • Establish the “rules of the game” for future bailouts.  If any entity is going to be labeled as “too big to fail” who is going to pay “the price” for the bailout?  What will that price be?  My suggestion is to do the following:  make it clear to the board of directors as well as the executives of financial firms, that if the firm they control receives federal government assistance these people will pay personally.  That means, if you run a TBTF firm and that firm requires a government funded bailout, the Federal Government will seize your home, retirement funds, children’s trust funds and demand repayment of your salary for the last 5 years.  This is called internalizing the externality on a personal level.

These are only a few of the things that should be done.  Here is hoping the discussion continues long after the current crisis ends.

The above is also on Professor Brandl’s Macroeconomic Updates page (for now). I think you have to be a UT student or alumni or know a secret “hook ’em” handshake to subscribe to the email list.

Sphincters Of Steel

Dominic Lawson: Democrat fingerprints are all over the financial crisis

Of all the characteristics of a successful politician, none is more essential than bare-faced cheek. Never has this been more evident than in the past fortnight, as senior Democrat members of the US legislature have sought to lay all the blame for the country’s financial crisis on the executive arm of Government and Wall Street.Neither of these two institutions is blameless – far from it. Yet when I see such senior Democrats as Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Christopher Dodd, Chairman of the Senate’s Banking Committee, play the part of avenging angels – well, I can only stand in silent awe at the sheer tight-bottomed nerve of it. These are men with sphincters of steel.

Once again, have supposed “do-gooders” hurt the ones they profess to love and help?

The saddest outcome of all this within America – apart from the crippling cost to the nation’s taxpayers – is that the very people the Democrats had intended to help will be the biggest victims: for many years to come banks will demand the most stringent terms for mortgages to the least well off.

We can hope that won’t be true, but even if it is — if one cannot afford the mortgage payment, it’s better they be denied.

via Classical Values

Experts And Idiots

I’ve been asking in comments on various blogs why the raters of MBS (mortgage backed securities) were not more on the hook than they seemed to be.

If you have an expert, a supposedly unbiased expert telling you that this is a good investment, should you question their motives?

Apparently so.

Read An Expert-Induced Bubble.

I still think that while the creation of Fannie Mae was a good idea 70 years ago, it should have been phased out instead of encouraged to grow. In every instance where its growth has been phenominal, it’s been a Democrat controlled Congress that has spurred it on. Note that I am not blaming Democrat or Republican presidents, but Congress.

Note also, that neither party is capable of always getting its way even if it is in the majority. Everything is ultimately bipartisan to some extent.

Finally, this entire fiasco is a good time to review whether government programs can improve the financial well-being of poor people, regardless their color. It is also a time to examine the playing of the “race card” every time regulation, oversight, or cutbacks are called for.

Stupid, Evil, or

Pelosi, Reid, and the Democrats do not want to take “ownership” of the bailout. Sure, it’s a lot of money and they don’t want responsibility for a spending bill of that size.

But does it go further than that? Do they fear it the spending bill will fail? Do they want they economy to fail, with or without the spending bill? I think that Pelosi is playing politics, fast and furious. She said the bill was in response to “failed” Bush policies of the last 8 years. Hasn’t it been adequately documented that the policies of the last 30+ years are responsible?

With all due respect (which may be none) I am of the opinion that Nancy Pelosi did not want this bill to pass. The reasons why may be numerous.

If I may quote myself (a comment on Ambivablog)

If Pelosi had really wanted this bill to pass, it would have. You cannot convince me that there were not 12 of the 95 Democrats who voted “no” that she couldn’t persuade to a “yes”. She has a bunch of carrots and a wheel barrel full of sticks to use, but she chose not to. Then she did everything she could to ensure that no “on the fence” Republican would be swayed to vote “yes”.

Yet she ( and her Democrat cronies) are doing a very good job of making it look like this was all the Republicans’ (and by default, John McCain’s) fault.

That takes a lot of talent if you ask me. Talent put to use NOT for the good of this nation or for its citizens.

Nancy Pelosi is not stupid, she’s mean-spirited and evil.

I do not want my blog to become a political blog. I’d much rather post pictures of my grandchildren. At one time, I thought about this place as a money-making venture. Being political is one way to do that. But it really isn’t a way suited to me. Been there, done that, found it’s only useful once every four years.

I’m a registered Republican, because I wanted to vote against David Duke 10.. 15… how many years ago was that? The only bumper sticker I’ve ever even considered putting on my car was one for Edwin Edwards, the crook, when he was opposing the racist (truly racist, not just a politically incorrect racist) David Duke.

(I also considered putting a “Don’t blame me, I voted for Jindal” sticker on my car. But I didn’t. I really hate bumper stickers.)

Bottom line – it’s Amba’s to promote if she chooses. Michael Reynolds doesn’t think I get the “politics” of this fiasco. Of course, I disagree!

A Fundamental Agreement

I mentioned below that my husband and I have some fundamental political disagreements and that I liked to focus on things where we agree.

One of those things is Congress. We’ve both agreed for some time now that most of them are self-infatuated idiots. This is not determined by party affiliation.  It’s come about watching them “work” on CSPAN.

The Anchoress has a few details: 545 people with too much power. I might add that those 545 people have a fundamental misunderstanding of their job description.

It’s performance review time for many of them. Let’s not be shy about imposing term limits.