Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fast cars, bad laws

All too often on the internet I am called names for holding a particular position. I'm generally told that I hold my position on "X" because (1) I'm not smart enough to understand it (2) I haven't considered the matter critically or (3) I'm just parrotting my (parents, church, etc.). Amazing at how people can know so much about me from a single sentence.

It seems people think one's position on a topic always comes from preconceived prejudice. I wonder if the reason they think that is because that's the reason behind their own position...

Anyway, I thought I would do some posts on things I have given considerable thought to and subsequently changed my mind about. One of those is the law. I used to think it was acceptable, or even good, to make laws that were designed simply to have a desired effect. I know that sounds vague so let me give a hypothetical example, and then a real example.

Let's say we want to stop dangerous speeding. So let's make a law that you can't own a car that goes over 90 MPH. Seems reasonable. Nowhere in the US is there a legal speed limit over 90, so anyone who's doing that is clearly breaking a law somewhere. Nobody needs a car that goes more than 90 MPH. There's no doubt that this law will save lives! Trot out some studies of how excessive speed is a factor in one third of all fatal car crashes.

Of course we have to make an exception for the police, since they need to be able to catch people who go over 90, and since we have a lot of cars on the road that can go over 90, the owners are required to either buy new cars or have their cars fitted with speed limiters.

Would you be behind this law? There's a time when I would be, but not now. Laws exist to protect the natural rights of citizens. Whenever a law is proposed I consider several things:

  • What right does the law protect?
  • What right does it limit?
  • Is the thing being limited wrong itself?

One could argue that the law above protects the right to life and there is no right it limits (since driving is considered a privilege and not a right). However, the law does so only in an indirect, limited way.

We already have laws that make illegal to drive more than 90 MPH, so there is no additional protection of the right to life. And the right that is limited is the right to own property that has good uses as well as bad. The fact that my car can go over 90 does not mean I must drive it over 90. A car that can go over 90 has perfectly good uses, such as driving my kids to school and getting me to work. It may even be safer than a car that ca't reach 90, since it will have enough power to potentially get me out of a possible collision.

The problem is that we ave literally tens of thousands of laws like this on the books, and lawmakers propose hundreds more each year. Some examples? How about New York's 16 ounce drink limit?

I recently read about a new proposal to ban civilians from owning body armor. Supporters clam that nobody needs body armor unless they are police or first responders. But is that true? Aren't there honest citizens who live/work/travel through areas where they might fear for their lives? Shouldn't they be able to protect themselves? So let's look at my three questions.

What right does the law protect? I can't honestly think of any. You could say it protects the right to life of victims of mass shooters who wear body armor. But we already have laws against mass shootings, so there is no additional protection. What right does it limit? The right to life of citizens. Nobody can claim that a bulletproof vest is anything other than a defense. Is the thing being limited wrong itself? No!

So what about this law makes any sense? It seems to be proposed for the purpose of making it easier for the government to use deadly force on its citizens. And that is wrong.

[image of BMW from A Car Wallpaper, vest from Turtleskin Body Armor press release]

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Joke

It was entertainment night at the Senior Center.

After the community sing-along led by Alice at the piano, it was time for the star of the show - Claude the Hypnotist!

Claude explained that he was going to put the whole audience into a trance.

"Yes, each and every one of you and all at the same time," said Claude.

The excited chatter dropped to silence as Claude carefully withdrew from his waistcoat pocket, a beautiful antique gold pocket watch and chain. "I want you to keep your eyes on this watch," said Claude, holding the watch high for all to see. "It's a very special and valuable watch that has been in my family for six generations," said Claude.

He began to swing the watch gently back and forth while quietly chanting, "Watch the watch --- Watch the watch ---- Watch the watch"

The audience became mesmerized as the watch swayed back and forth. The lights were twinkling as they were reflected from its gleaming surfaces. Fifty pairs of eyes followed the movements of the gently swaying watch. They were hypnotized. And then, suddenly, the chain broke!!! The beautiful watch fell to the stage and burst apart on impact. "CRAP" said Claude.

It took them three days to clean the Senior Center and Claude was never invited again.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

GOP Cowards

Today, on the day of the 42nd March for Life, the Republican party choked, and pulled out of a vote on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would ban abortions of children after 20 weeks of gestation. Currently, late term abortions are illegal in every nation of the world except for the US, China, North Korea and Canada.

The Republicans are abandoning this bill because of two Republican congresswomen who claim that passing it would lose the party votes.

Please write to these women, and/or your own representatives and explain to them how disgusted you are with their refusal to support legislation that will give American children the same right to life they'd have in almost any other nation in the world. You can find them at

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Mythical Assault Rifle

I'm starting a new set of files, like the Opposite files. This new set will be called "Myths and Legends." The firs tin this series is the "assault rifle."

The term "assault rifle" is thrown around by the media and legislators often. But what is an assault rifle? They mean it to refer to a broad class of "scary looking" semi-automatic rifles, like the AR-15 and AR-10. But those are not properly assault rifles. Let's see what Wikipedia has to say:
According to the legend, the name [assault rifle] was chosen personally by Adolf Hitler for propaganda reasons... a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:
  • It must be an individual weapon
  • It must be capable of selective fire [selective fire means the rifle can shoot 2 or 3 shots with a single pull of the trigger]
  • It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle [yes, that's right, an assault rifle fires a bullet less powerful that a standard (e.g. deer hunting) rifle]
  • Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable box magazine
  • And it should at least have an effective range of 300 metres (330 yards)
Rifles that meet most of these criteria, but not all, are technically not assault rifles despite frequently being called such. For example...
  • Semi-automatic-only rifles like variants of the Colt AR-15 are not assault rifles; they do not have select-fire capabilities...
The U.S. Army defines assault rifles as "short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges."
So let's get one thing clear. The AR-15 (and AR-10 even more so) are not assault rifles. In fact there are no civilian assault rifles in the US, because there are no civilian selective fire weapons. Again from Wikipedia:
Selective fire weapons are regulated in the United States under the National Firearms Act of 1934; their importation was prohibited in 1968; their new manufacture for the civilian market was prohibited by the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986.
So when politicians or the media tell you we need to ban assault rifles, they might as well say we need to ban unicorns. What they really means is that the want to ban all civilian gun ownership and it's easiest to start with the "scary looking" rifles like the AR-15.

The "AR" in "AR-15" doesn't stand for "Assault Rifle" by the way; it stands for Armalite, the company that first manufactured them. The correct term for such rifles is "MSR" or "Modern Sporting Rifle". In fact, when the government buys select fire versions of this rifle for use by agencies like the IRS, they call them "PDWs" or "Personal Defense Weapons." Somehow calling on people to ban civilians being allowed to own "personal defense weapons" (with part of their functionality disabled as per federal law) doesn't seem to work well, so the media and politicians make up scarier sounding terms.

Monday Joke

In light of this week's March for Life in Washington D.C. I give you the following joke:

Last Saturday afternoon, in Washington, D.C., an aide to Nancy Pelosi visited the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Washington D.C. He told the the Cardinal that Nancy Pelosi would be attending the next day’s Mass, and he asked if the Cardinal would kindly point out Pelosi to the congregation and say a few words that would include calling Pelosi a saint.

The Cardinal replied, “No. I can't really do that - there are issues of conflict with the Catholic Church's teaching over certain of Pelosi’s views.”

Pelosi’s aide then said, “Look, I’ll write a check here and now for a donation of $100,000 if you’ll just tell the congregation Pelosi is a saint.”

The Cardinal thought about it and said, “Well, the poor can use the money, so I’ll work your request into tomorrow’s sermon.”

As Pelosi’s aide promised, Nancy Pelosi appeared for Sunday mass and seated herself prominently at the forward left side of the center aisle. As promised, at the start of his sermon, the Cardinal pointed out that Ms. Pelosi was present.The Cardinal went on to explain to the congregation, “While Ms. Pelosi’s presence is probably an honor to some, this woman is not numbered among my personal favorite personages. Some of her most egregious views, such as her stance on abortion, are directly contrary to tenets of the Church, and she tends to flip- flop on many other issues.

Nancy Pelosi is a petty, self-absorbed hypocrite. Nancy Pelosi is also a serial liar, a cheat, and a thief. I must say, Nancy Pelosi is the worst example of a Catholic I have ever personally witnessed. She married for money and is using her wealth to lie to the American people. She also has a reputation for shirking her representative obligations both in Washington, and in California. The woman is simply not to be trusted.”

The Cardinal concluded, “But, when compared with President Obama, Ms. Pelosi is a saint.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

Opposite Targets

Monday, January 5, 2015

Monday Joke

One day at the end of class, little Billy’s teacher asked the class to go home and think of a story and then conclude with the moral of that story. The following day the teacher asks for the first volunteer to tell their story.

Little Suzy raises her hand. “My dad owns a farm and every Sunday we load the chicken eggs on the truck and drive into town to sell them at the market. Well, one Sunday we hit a big bump and all the eggs flew out of the basket and onto the road.” The teacher asks for the moral of the story. Suzy replies, “Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.”

Next is little Bobby. “Well, my dad owns a farm too and every weekend we take the chicken eggs and put them in the incubator. Last weekend only 8 of the 12 eggs hatched.” Teacher asks for the moral of the story. Bobby replies, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

Last is little Billy. “My uncle Ted fought in the Vietnam war. His plane was shot down over enemy territory. He jumped out before it crashed with only a case of beer, a machine gun, and a machete. On the way down he drank the case of beer. Unfortunately, he landed right in the middle of 100 Vietnamese soldiers. He shot 70 with his machine gun, but then ran out of bullets, so he pulled out his machete and killed 20 more. The blade on his machete broke, so he killed the last ten with his bare hands.”

Teacher looks in shock at Billy and asks if there is possibly any moral to his story. Billy replies, “Don’t mess with uncle Ted when he’s been drinking.”