Sunday, October 22, 2017

Where Focus is Needed...

Recently, I had a long conversation with people I care about deeply about the problem of rampant sexual harassment in US society.  I tried to convey that I am entirely sympathetic about the point, including agreeing it is FAR more often directed at women than men (and numerically at least, than trans-gender people).

I tried, ham-handedly, to express that restricting the discussion of who was impacted to women, would/could have the impact of having others say “Hey, why only women?  Why not men too?”  Why are you creating a double-standard of concern?  My reason for raising an objection to that approach is I recognize that other people are going to see that the narrow focus as unnecessary and hypocritical.  Those observers are the exact people you need to convince to win your point politically.  They will say, correctly, that you don’t gain anything by excluding one sort of victim vs. another (I’ll explain that thought in a moment), but BY excluding them, many people, not people who FAVOR harassment or abuse (who favors abuse?), but other people, will see the complaint as seeking to define the debate in a way that establishes one group as “more special” than any other.  It is that sort of message which will lose that audience right from the start (or enough of it to matter) because the audience will see you as purposefully focusing more narrow than you need and more narrow than is fair.  The other question is, after the "Me Too" campaign, what focus would you seek to change?  Would you seek to limit the funding for the abuse toward transgender?  I'll bet not, so then, what focus are we saving?  Sexual abuse and especially sexual harassment is an epidemic and has been in this country (and others) for decades/centuries, with the difference being we don't seem to be getting very much better, but no policy at any company or law within any government is made better by limiting the discussion to one set of victims, and so, neither is the discussion.

To illustrate the point, please consider your reaction to the following.  Men, overwhelmingly, serve in our armed forces (and those of other armies).  Men who serve in combat, especially those who serve in longer wars or repeated deployments where they see combat, nearly always suffer from some form of PTSD.  Whether it’s nightmares, the “1000 yard stare”, flashbacks, depression, the issues are there and they are VERY real points of pain for those men.  Were someone to say, “We need to stand up and help MEN who suffer from PTSD.  If you are a MAN who is hurting, please reply with ‘I’m Hurting’”, would you feel that was appropriate?  My question would be, why exclude women?  Even if less prevalent, is it less real?  Should we only provide funding for treating men, as a result? Yes, men are the by far and away more impacted group, but failing to include women in the conversation is a glaring hole, and does not help the cause at all.   There’s no reason to do so.  You don’t “lose focus”, nor is there a better time for talking about women’s cases, because it’s not the sex of the victim which is important, it’s the illness or in the case of Sexual Harassment (or abuse), it’s not the sex of the victim, it’s the act.  Seeking to limit the discussion to one sex marginalizes the impact to anyone else.  I’m fairly certain that transgender people suffer massive amounts of sexual identity discrimination and taunting, taunting which leaves them feeling cheapened and abused in the same way casual sexual harassment causes a sense of being cheapened and abused.  They are no less deserving of our sympathy and support and the issue is not any less “focused” by including them.   My son made a brilliant comment about this whole point, people seek empathy, not sympathy. Empathy is learned from many experiences and it is not necessary those experiences be the exact same for the other person to have empathy.
 
Also, while it might seem like it, I don't feel this is a debate of having too few resources to confront the issue.  Would anyone truly argue we should deny equal protection to men (or women) in court from abuse?  Would they argue that a perpetrator shouldn't have to pay if the victim were transgender?  We aren't "short on resources" here and even if we were, we'd never (should never) condone a dividing line based on sex, or religion, or race.  As an example, would anyone support a stance saying we should only focus on female drug addicts, because they very often have kids and we only have limited resources? 

The purpose of this post and point is this, Liberals, me and people like me, have long stood for inclusion.  We defend the rights of unpopular people, we consider everyone the EQUAL under the law and since law is the lowest rung of morality, to be moral, we have to consider their rights to be our moral responsibility to protect, not just our legal responsibility.  When we start creating special categories, we start to create the very divisions we strive to tear down.  When we do it needlessly (or if not needlessly, without good justification) we look hypocritical and we lose the audience we are trying to persuade.
 
The reality is we can come up with a million ways to define any difference, and use that as justification to make one group “more special”, it’s not hard, there’s always one way or another, and in so doing, marginalize others.   As long as you demand different treatment based on race, sex, religion .... you will have distinction and from distinction, bias.  That point, THAT concept that we must fight against policies which demand different bathrooms, different seats on the bus, EVEN IF EQUAL, has been a fundamental tenet of liberalism for more than 60 years.  We recognize that the perpetuation of that distinction is what drives bigotry, or at least, we used to.
 
This is not an easy subject, and I mean no disrespect to any woman (or man or transgender person).  The suffering you’ve experienced is real and wrong.  I have my opinion of course, but it’s only my opinion.  This issue I’m pointing to isn’t really about sexual harassment but is rather about how we address it.  My aim is to remind us Liberals that to be most effective, when we want focus, attention, and action on something, we have to live to our full values, especially the value of protecting the rights of everyone, even if their segment of the population is small or unpopular. 
 
Most important, we cannot succeed if our initial message includes an element of exclusion because the knee-jerk reaction will be that WE are biased, we will then be tuned out and they’ll never read or hear the deeper message.

It is one of the more important challenges of our time that we liberals do not follow in the paths of the conservatives and begin defining our concern for other people in smaller and smaller circles.  One of our greatest distinguishing features has been protecting ALL, even the unpopular, and caring for ALL, even the callous, and even if and especially when, we may be mad about something that group has done.   If we are to avoid war, our focus needs to be on showing love for hate and on showing empathy for our opponents, not contempt.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why is the US plagued by insurrectionism when other Commonwealth Countries are not?

I know someone who has a T-shirt with rebellious US Colonists that says something like "right wing crazies" on it, which is patently wrong.

The US rebels were liberal in their politics (there is a reason "tory" means conservative in Commonwealth political systems).  The rebellious US Colonists belonged to the liberal/whig tradition.

Which gets to the nest issue: Of all the formerly British Countries,  why does the US have a problem with insurrectionism?  The other countries have similar militia tradition.  Australia had the most similar gun culture.  Yet look how quickly Australia went from loose to strict firearm regulation.

And, yes, the other countries had rebellions.

Only the US, which fought a war for independence is the one that has a gun problem.

It was breaking with the rule of law and fighting the war for independence which led to this problem.  It created the culture where Shays' Rebellion and all its various progeny, which includes the US Civil War could occur.

People should not be celebrating the American War for Independence, but looking at the suffering it caused both during and immediately after.  The history which led to the US Constitution being written as an attempt to bring the rule of law to US culture.

An attempt which appears to have been a massive failure.

The French have tried to repair their similar mistake with five different republics (and a couple of Empires tossed in for good measure), yet the US is working with  broken constitution.

It's time for a change.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

An open letter to the US Legislature.

I am tired of you lot being a bunch of Galahs on the issue of gun control.

Australia’s political climate surrounding this issue at the time of the Port Arthur Massacre was eerily similar to that of the US, yet the Australians were able to cut through the non-sense and enact serious and effective gun control laws.

Prof. Simon Chapman was one of the activists and politicians involved in the rapid passing of Australia's sane gun laws. His Over Our Dead Bodies: Port Arthur and the Fight for Gun Control – Australia’s last gun massacre is now a free E-book and available at the following link:

http://bit.ly/YZtHQ2

You don't really need to grow a set, but can do what former Australian Prime Minister John Howard did and wear a bullet proof vest under your suit.

But it makes sense to ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons for the safety of all Americans.

The right to life is far more important than any illusory right to arms.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

What if the Las Vegas shooter's weapon was perfectly legal?

OK, I'm not talking NFA firearm or illegally converted semi-auto, but a gizmo called "bump-fire".

This ties into my previous post about banning semi-auto.  Gunloons want to talk about "cosmetic" bullshit: we can get to functional.  These arms can be made to fire incredibly rapidly in a few ways

The rapid pace of the gunfire suggested that the shooter was using either a fully automatic weapon, tightly restricted under US law, or that he had attached a device to a semi-automatic gun to make it fire more continuously, said Massad Ayoob, a firearms expert, instructor and author. “It’s faster than almost any human being is going to be able to pull a trigger on a semi-automatic,” Ayoob said.
Fully automatic weapons, which fire multiple rounds of ammunition from a single pull of the trigger, are strictly regulated, taxed and tracked under US law. This makes them expensive collectors’ items, and comparatively rarely used in crimes. Semi-automatic rifles, in contrast, which fire only one round of ammunition with each pull of the trigger, are widely available.
Unlike some states, Nevada, which has laws generally friendly to gun owners, does not ban the sale of “assault weapons” – semi-automatic civilian guns built to resemble military weapons.
From listening to the footage of the attack, Ayoob said that the gunshots “did not sound as consistent” as he would typically expect from a fully automatic M-16 or AK-47. “The pace of fire is a little bit erratic. At one point it’s slower than it is at another point.”
Paddock could have used a Hellfire or a bump-fire device, which attach to normal semi-automatic rifles and allow them to fire more rapidly, Ayoob said. These devices are legal, but rarely used by serious shooters, he said.

As I said, these weapons are easily made to fire in a fully automatic mode and should be regulated accordingly.

See also:


Monday, October 2, 2017

Ban semi-automatic weapons

Listening to the online vids of the Las Vegas shooting, it sounds as if a fully auto weapons, or something which has been modified to fire extremely quickly (e.g., bump fire) was used in these shootings.


I like the idea of regulating assault weapons as machineguns, his example of an M1 Carbine would be an assault rifle in my opinion because:

In selective fire versions capable of fully-automatic fire, the carbine is designated the M2 carbine.
which places it in the 26 USC 5845 definition of a Machine gun:
Machine guns, defined as any firearm which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.
 The M2 variant is designed to be capable of fully automatic fire, therefore, the M1 is a machinegun using that defintion.

I strongly suggest that people read the case law 26 USC 5845 in particular the law relating to “designed to shoot” and “readily restored to shoot”:
“There were two welds in the gun which obviously was, when manufactured, ‘designed to shoot.’ The barrel of the gun was welded closed at the breech and was also welded to the receiver on the outside under the handguard. Scroggie testified that there are two possible ways by which the firearm could be made to function as such. The most feasible method would be to cut the barrel off, drill a hole in the forward end of the receiver and then rethread the hole so that the same or another barrel could be inserted. To do so would take about an 8-hour working day in a properly equipped machine shop. Another method which would be more difficult because of the possibility of bending or breaking the barrel would be to drill the weld out of the breech of the barrel. United States v. Smith, 477 F.2d 399(8th Cir.1973)
In the context of the NFA and its use as a modifier describing the manner of firearm restoration, “readily” has been read to encompass several elements of restoration: (1) time, i.e., how long it takes to restore the weapon; (2) ease, i.e., how difficult it is to restore the weapon; (3) expertise, i.e., what knowledge and skills are required to restore the weapon; (4) necessary equipment, i.e., what tools are required to restore the weapon; (5) availability, i.e., where additional parts are required, how easily they can be obtained; (6) expense, i.e., how much it costs to restore the weapon; (7) scope, i.e., the extent to which the weapon has to be changed to allow it to shoot automatically; (8) feasability, i.e., whether the restoration would damage or destroy the weapon or cause it to malfunction. See S.W. Daniel, Inc. v. United States, 831 F.2d 253, 254-55 (11th Cir. 1987) (ease and scope); United States v. Alverson, 666 F.2d 341, 345 (9th Cir.1982) (expertise, ease, and scope); United States v. Smith, 477 F.2d 399, 400 (8th Cir.1973) (time and equipment); United States v. Aguilar-Espinosa, 57 F.Supp.2d 1359, 1362 (M.D.Fla.1999) (time, ease, expertise, and equipment); United States v. Seven Misc. Firearms, 503 F.Supp. 565, 573-75 (D.D.C.1980) (time, ease, expertise, equipment, availability, expense, and feasibility); United States v. Cook, No. 92-1467, 1993 WL 243823, at *3-4 (6th Cir. July 6, 1993) (availability)…
The decisions of several other courts make clear that the Defendant weapon, which would require, according to Alverson’s own expert, a maximum of six hours to convert to fire automatically, “can be readily restored” under the NFA. The Eighth Circuit held that a semiautomatic rifle that would take an eight-hour working day in a properly equipped machine shop to convert to shoot automatically qualified as a “machinegun” under the NFA.10 Smith, 477 F.2d at 400; cf. United States v. Shilling, 826 F.2d 1365, 1367 (4th Cir.1987) (holding that disassembled guns that could be made to shoot automatically were “readily restor[able]”); S.W. Daniel, Inc., 831 F.2d at 254-55 (upholding the use of a jury instruction defining a machinegun as “those weapons which have not previously functioned as machine guns but possess design features which facilitate full automatic fire by simple modification or elimination of existing component parts”); Alverson, 666 F.2d at 345 (concluding that an automatic weapon that was converted to fire sLemiautomatically prior to its sale to defendant could be “readily restored” where it could be modified to shoot automatically by filing down one of its parts); United States v. Lauchli, 371 F.2d 303, 312-13 (7th Cir.1966) (in a case prior to the addition of the “can be readily restored” language to the NFA, deciding that weapons requiring assembly to shoot automatically were machineguns under the NFA). U.S. v. One TRW, Model M14, 7.62 Caliber Rifle, 441 F.3d 416(2006)
There’s readily restorable for you!

 Anyway, there are enough manuals out there on how to turn semi-automatic weapons into full auto that it should be a no-brainer that these firearms fit the above description of readily restorable.

Let's throw in things like bump fire and other mods that turn these weapons into fully automatic fire without making an actual conversion.

Bottom line: too much talk has been about gun rights, rights come with responsibilities.  It's time we start factoring in that too many people are not responsible gun owners.

And they are usually the ones screaming about their rights.

The Second Amendment as written gives no personal right to arms outside the context of actual membership in  a well-regulated militia.

The Heller-McDonald regime are incredibly friendly to firearms regulation and held that registration, licensing, and background checks were constitutional.  Additionally, some people obviously haven’t read the DC v. Heller decision, in particular page 54. They could also do with reading footnotes 23 and 26. Heller did not get rid of firearms regulations. In fact, I have pointed out that Dick Heller was denied a permit for one of his guns. The DC Metropolitan Police notes on its website that: “about 50 applications to register handguns have been denied since the Heller decision”.

Now, let's start talking about gun responsibilities and keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't even dream of owning them.