Saturday, January 19, 2013

What Mattered This Week?

I'll take an easy and obvious one: the GOP retreat on the debt limit. If you thought that was a sure thing all the time, then you may not think it mattered; I thought it was at least a solid possibility they would run right up to it, and do at least a bit of harm to the economy.

Democrats admitting they'll vote for the president's nominee for Secretary of Defense? No great surprise there, to me. The real ballgame there has always been whether 60 votes would be required, and if so whether Hagel can get five Republicans. As far as I know from the coverage, we don't know that part of it yet.

So that's what I have. What did I miss? What do you think mattered this week?

84 comments:

  1. The White House released some pretty strong gun control proposals, and basically no one outside of the NRA and a few very conservative Republicans panned them.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mali, Algeria, Syria

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have to say you are one very informed person and I have to ask myself why aren't there others like you in the world and since you are a political scientist I'd like to ask you to check my blog and maybe give me your input

    ReplyDelete
  4. http://americamustbesaved.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Manti Te'o story is big. Big, big, big. It signifies..... well, I dunno. But significant! That it is, for sure.

    OK, here's something: An AP story about Te'o's' (?) come-clean interview said that the revelation of the hoax "turned the feel-good story line of the college football season into a dark and strange one." Ah. So, let's review: When it appeared that a young woman had been badly injured, was in a coma, and had then died of leukemia, it was a "feel-good story line." Now that we've been reassured that none of that happened, it's "dark and strange."

    ???????

    Is this the f*cked-up-ness of the world of sports, or the world of news, or what? Maybe some combination of the two?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A decade ago, Jim Carrey's "The Truman Show" was an arty film hit, about reality tv just before that genre came to our shores. The theme of the show-within-the-movie was "How's it Going to End", i.e. when and how will Truman realize his life is a hoax?

      Reality tv came to our shores with the first Survivor, in which Richard Hatch won a million dollars in circumstances that seemed impossible before the fact but obvious after. I guess people are still entertained by reality tv, but if you were really surprised that the mediocre wholesome kid beat Adam Lambert on American Idol, well, shame on you.

      Brings us to Te'o. Is he hiding homesexuality? Or just a dupe? Perhaps we will never know, but odds are that eventually we will. Reality tv has let us down, since Richard Hatch, on Truman's essential criteria for "How's it going to end?"

      But the Te'o thing really hunts.

      Delete
    2. A lot of college applicants make up stories for their essays. Part of it is to get attention, and part of it is to impress the reader with their motivation for a particular field. Te'o just took it a little far, that's all.

      Delete
  6. I think the hostage taking in eastern Algeria matters a lot. Not because that sort of thing doesn't happen often, but rather because of what it might say about the Arab Spring.

    The seized plant is in eastern Algeria, in the desolate waste of the Sahara, very close to the Libyan border and not far from Tunisia. Libya and Tunisia had a hard time controlling those borders before; in the post-revolt era it seems to be nigh impossible.

    We all love democracy. There's not many things we like more. Two such candidates might be: infrastructure and internal controls.

    This week's events in Algeria make you reflect a bit on what's been wrought in the Arab world in the past few years.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The GOP plan to rig the electoral college seems to be spreading.

    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/01/18/1468831/michigan-gop-considering-republican-plan-to-rig-the-presidential-election/

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Aaron Swartz suicide matters, for what it tells us about the behavior of the prosecution in that case.

    Obama seems to have gone all-in on gun control. Not only did he embrace the dreaded “assault weapons ban,” but he’s pursuing a magazine ban that would make most full sized pistols inoperable. Democrats used to assure us that handguns weren’t on the table, so that’s a big deal.

    And if any gun owners needed to be reminded of the slippery slope, this week NY State banned any magazine over seven rounds. The last time a full sized pistol was designed around such a small magazine was over 100 years ago. More symbolically, a seven round limit would not allow one to fully load an M1 Garand, the rifle that liberated Europe, and a piece of history that (as of this writing) the Federal government will still mail to you in exchange for a few hundred dollars.

    Gun control advocates are even demonizing a Democratic Congressman for being proud of the antique revolver his grandfather used to stop a lynching: http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2013/01/robert-farago/coalition-to-stop-gun-violence-ad-beyond-the-pale/

    The only logical end to this is the banning of every firearm that’s practical for self defense. If you’re a liberal who supports the second amendment, NOW is the time to call your elected officials.

    Slippery slope lesson #2 - Stealth. The NY bill was passed unusually quickly, with the express purpose being to prevent gun owners from responding. The same legislation is being proposed by the MA Governor -- but since the bill’s press release didn’t mention the magazine/gun ban buried inside, not a single news outlet has reported on it.

    But MA gun owners have woken up: http://www.northeastshooters.com/vbulletin/threads/187142-MA-SEVEN-ROUND-MAG-BAN!-This-is-not-a-joke

    ...and assembled on the Common, for the first time in a long time: http://itstime2a.org/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, Couves, I have a theory about why the NRA is against background checks on private gun deals. My theory is that at least 50%, and probably closer to 80%, of assault rifles sold in the US are promptly re-sold to foreign nationals, who then take them home to shoot other foreign nationals.

      Think about it: if you're an arms dealer, wouldn't you rather sell your guns legally, with full US government protection, then have to truck them down to Mexico and sell them in violation of Mexican law? It's a no-brainer to me.

      It's likely a huge revenue stream for the guys who own Bushmaster, and coincidentally I'm sure, also run the NRA. I'm sure all the dead Mexican police are just a bonus in their book.

      Delete
    2. Anon, straw purchasers already break the law when funneling arms to Mexico. The fact that they'd be breaking one more law won't matter to them at all.

      In any case, the violence is caused by the war on drugs. When Calderon cracked-down on the cartels, that's when the violence really exploded down there. If we wanted to end the bloodshed we would legalize drugs.

      Delete
    3. an M1 Garand, the rifle that liberated Europe.....

      If I were pro-gun I'd be careful about that kind of formulation. Guns don't kill people, people kill people; therefore, guns don't liberate Europe, people liberate Europe. Conversely, "an M1 Garand, the rifle that liberated Europe" => "a Bushmaster .223, the rifle that mowed down kindergarten children without mercy." Either guns have agency or they don't, yes?

      Delete
    4. Pretty weak, Jeff. They're banning 150 year old lever-action rifles and the best you can do is ridicule people who actually care about their freedom.

      Delete
    5. Boy, Couves, you sure live in the nineties. The Republican Congress with President George W. Bush made it completely legal for any individual who has legally purchased any weapon to re-sell it to another individual. No limitations at all. And the ATF is specifically prohibited from keeping any records, or doing any investigations at all about these transactions. The first law the Mexican gangsters or any of their allies break is when they take the guns into Mexico.

      Talk about Hispanic outreach!

      As President Obama has proposed changes in these laws, the Republicans have sworn to impeach him. So that's freedom for you.

      Delete
    6. I'm sorry, where's the ridicule? Questions of causation and agency are central to this whole issue.

      Delete
    7. Couves is also overlooking the fact that the Supreme Court for the first time has recognized gun ownership as an individual right, although one that can be regulated, which some see as a brake on the slippery slope.

      Speaking of events that happened this week, yesterday National Gun Appreciation Day was celebrated at gunshows throughout the nation. In the process, five people were accidentally shot in three separate incidents. (So one or two incidents somehow involved multiple accidental shootings.) So here's to the people who actually care about their freedom to shoot themselves and others, accidentally or on purpose.

      Delete
    8. I'm a different Anon than the first guy but I want to take it back to his/her point, because he's right and Couves is wrong. If assault weapons were illegal they wouldn't be manufactured in the US (or would be manufactured illegally less often and for more money). That would lower the number of weapons in the consumer market and would dramatically raise the cost of the weapons on the market. Since the Mexican drug gangs get their weapons from the US that would mean that they would have way less and would have to spend way more on them. Hard to see them waging an all out war if they can't match police firepower... Of course they'd keep fighting, but the violence would've more limited

      Delete
    9. Anon #1 - I understand that private sales are exempt from reporting requirements. My point is that the straw purchasers are obviously not going to follow the reporting requirement when selling to drug cartels because straw purchases are already very illegal.

      Anon #2 - The Mexican drug cartels are some of the most well-heeled private buyers in the world. They’ll never have difficulty getting whatever they need to kill many people.

      “Couves is also overlooking the fact that the Supreme Court for the first time has recognized gun ownership as an individual right, although one that can be regulated, which some see as a brake on the slippery slope.”

      Scott, I’d say the lawmakers passing these laws are the ones who have overlooked it.

      “So here's to the people who actually care about their freedom to shoot themselves and others, accidentally or on purpose.”

      How many people do you think were injured or killed by drunk drivers? Drunk drivers kill more people each year than are killed in gun homicides. If this were really about protecting innocent life, liberals would be pushing for more regulation on the public consumption of alcohol. Just as anyone who really cared about lessening the violence in Mexico would want to consider alternatives to the current war on drugs.

      Jeff, how stupid do you think I am? Obviously, no one thinks that a rifle, without human agency, won WWII, or “won the west.” Since you can’t argue the issues, you’re playing stupid games.

      Delete
    10. Couves, I did not invent the slogan, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." I am still unclear on why you choose to undercut it. But pointing out that you're doing so is not a "stupd game," it's quite serious.

      Delete
    11. Jeff, it's called personification. Stop wasting my time.

      Delete
    12. Personification??

      ?????

      Delete
    13. "an M1 Garand, the rifle that liberated Europe..."

      Delete
    14. Anon #2 again. The hole in the logic here is immense. If assault rifles aren't built in the US for the consumer market then the drug gangs can't get them cheap and plentiful. They still get some, but only a fraction of what they get now. Explain how they get cheap assault rifles in a world where the US doesn't have a consumer market fueling mass production of them.

      Delete
    15. Anon #2 - The Soviet empire produced a hundred million AK-47's that will be killing people long after you and I have left this planet. The cartels are already showing up with much heavier and more modern soviet weapons. They have the money, the means and the connections to get whatever they want. Demand finds the supply, especially where money is no object.

      Delete
    16. Couves, I am not denying you your rhetorical figures of speech. Personification, as you call it, though, works both ways, which is why the gun-rights people have spent decades trying to undo the personifying of guns used in crime. That's what the slogan "Guns don't kill people....." is all about. All those bumper stickers suggest to me that some people don't see the way guns are characterized in speech as a stupid game at all.

      Delete
    17. Jeff, what the NRA objects to is the personification of firearms as the agents of murder and mayhem. The group represents gun owners, who are obviously offended by the suggestion that their gun is an instrument of evil, because they (as a person) would never use it that way. So they respond with a slogan that focuses on the literal, to suggest that the figurative point being made is tendentious and wrong -- to remind the public that not every gun owner is a potential murderer, as the figurative speech would suggest.

      The NRA is objecting to this specific use of figurative speech, not to the use of figurative speech in general (whether a statement is right or wrong does not depend on it being literal or figurative). As an illustration of this fact, I offer my own personification of the M1 Garand as the agent of European liberation -- a message that any NRA member would gladly embrace.

      Frankly, I think you’re smart enough to know all this, yet you continue to focus on a stupid distraction from the actual issue.

      Delete
    18. "The NRA is objecting to this specific use of figurative speech, not to the use of figurative speech in general....."

      I understand that. I'm just pointing out that personifying guns yourself makes it harder to win the public debate against others who are doing the same. If you want to de-legitimize the other side's rhetoric, it helps not to be engaged in the same rhetoric yourself.

      Delete
    19. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    20. Lol, I somehow doubt that, but thanks for the advice.

      Delete
  9. The House passing Sandy relief and the Republican surrender on the debt limit are what mattered. Together they suggest that the next 2 (4) years may not be as unproductive as at first glance they appeared.

    ReplyDelete
  10. For Couves (or others in the pro-gun crowd): I see you are afraid of a "slippery slope" to banning all guns, but I'm just curious, what is it that makes a ban on semi-automatics or a limit on magazines unacceptable, but a ban on machine guns (or other high-powered arms) acceptable?

    Is the current mix of laws on the books regulating guns the "sweet spot," or do you think people should have the freedom to own fully automatic weapons and other military-grade weapons? (Not looking to attack here, but just to understand what limits on the right to bear arms are deemed acceptable by the pro-gun crowd)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Semi-automatic firearms are the most modern and effective firearms for personal defense, which is why they’re usually the first choice of police and other civilians who choose to defend themselves and others. Fully-automatic firearms are not generally desired by civilians, because they are very difficult to shoot accurately, even for a very competent shooter. I think this video demonstrates that: http://youtu.be/w2PFY8MNVuY

      The semi-auto AR-15, on the other hand, is not only easier to shoot than an automatic M-4, but for many it’s even easier to use than either pistols or shotguns. The police themselves will tell you this: http://www.mlefiaa.org/files/MPTC_NEWS/Patrol_Rifle_Student_Manual_2010.pdf

      According to Massachusetts municipal police, “most” of their officers can’t hit a target at ten yards with their service pistol… and the inaccuracy increases in a stressful situation. The shotgun is more accurate, but even some police officers have difficulty handling the recoil. If these are issues for trained police officers, then it would surely be the case for many civilians as well. Being more controllable and with less recoil, the AR-15 is simply easier for many people to shoot. And it’s so much more accurate, even at very close range, that Massachusetts police have concluded that it “decreases the liability to the department.” It’s also noted that .223 bullets are less likely to penetrate walls than either pistol or shotgun rounds, further increasing the safety to innocent bystanders.

      FYI, Rifles of all types account for only 3% of all murders in the US. Most are by handguns.

      Of course your question also includes semi-automatic pistols, which are carried by every police force for a reason -- because they’re more effective at defeating violent people than are revolvers. And the new laws being passed don't stop with making pistols effictively unusable -- many lever-action rifles and even some revolvers would be banned as well. Of course we know from past experience that these laws won’t work… so the next step after outlawing the best firearms for self defense would be to outlaw ALL firearms that could conceivably be used in self defense, just as the UK has done. Advocates of gun control have left little doubt that this is their ultimate aim.

      So to answer your question, one could say that the M-4 carried by our national guard is exactly the kind of firearm that our second amendment was supposed to protect. But the reality is that it offers no advantages to the vast majority of gun owners over the AR-15, which is already legal.

      Delete
    2. Couves, let's talk about straw buyers some more. You were very dismissive of them earlier, commenting that individuals who break the law, well, break the law. But let's pretend that we changed the law to require automatic reporting of gun sales in the US for registered weapons dealers. In addition, private sales had to be reported prior to completion, so that people could get background checks. You could make the penalty an increasing fine for each unreported sale - say, $1000 for the first (make it an infraction), up to time in prison for ten or more (now it's a felony.)

      Now our straw purchaser in Tucson has a quandary. After a certain number, he's in trouble. Remember that these guys have to keep a squeaky clean record if they're going to be useful, and the Feds will know automatically after he buys 10 assault rifles.

      Note that this in no way infringes your right to the Bushmaster man card.

      Delete
    3. As long as confiscation is being seriously talked about, I don't think the Federal government should collect information about gun buyers. In any case, the most you would accomplish is to drive up the price, which drug cartels can surely afford.

      The root cause of cartel money and power is, in fact, black markets -- particularly the black market in drugs. Even just de-escalating the war on drugs might result in less violence. It seems the gun control crowd is curiously silent about taking measures that strike at the real problem.

      Delete
    4. Curiously silent? There's massive opposition on the left to the war on drugs. I think you'd find lots of overlap between the groups that want more gun control and the groups that want to liberalize drug laws. They just don't see this as either/or the way you seem to.

      Delete
    5. Massive opposition? I wish. As to the overlap, I find it hard to imagine that anyone who understands the root cause of the violence in Mexico would see a War on Guns as a viable solution.

      Delete
    6. MoveOn opposes the war on drugs. It is regularly attacked on Daily Kos, TomDispatch, Salon and other left-liberal sites. You don't help your cause by sneering at allies.

      Delete
    7. MoveOn is attacked for opposing the war on drugs? Why would that be the case if there were massive opposition to it on the left?

      Delete
    8. Sorry, pronoun trouble. (I didn't build that! Or something.) The war on drugs, not MoveOn, is regularly attacked on those sites and in left-liberal publications.

      Delete
    9. Oh, sorry, that's obvious now that I read it again.

      Unfortunately, those who are pushing for gun control now aren't nearly so interested in ending the war on drugs. My impression is that there are very few people who see both as a priority. But if your concern is really mexican violence, I don't know how you can focus on the guns and not the underlying socio-economic cause. Call me cynical, but I don't think anyone here really cares about Mexico.

      Delete
  11. From "Fox News Sunday," July 29, 2012

    WALLACE: Let's turn to an issue that is the news right now with the massacre in Colorado. And that is gun control.

    You wrote in 2008, the opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, the majority opinion that said the Second Amendment means what it says, people have a right to bear arms. Question: how far does that constitutional right go? Can a legislature ban semiautomatic weapons or can it ban magazines that carry 100 rounds without violating an individual's constitutional right to bear arms?

    SCALIA: What the opinion Heller said is that it will have to be decided in future cases. What limitations upon the right to bear arms are permissible. Some undoubtedly are, because there were some that were acknowledged at the time. For example, there was a tort called affrighting, which if you carried around a really horrible weapon just to scare people, like a head ax or something, that was I believe a misdemeanor.

    So yes, there are some limitations that can be imposed. What they are will depend on what the society understood was reasonable limitation. There were certainly location limitations where --

    WALLACE: But what about these technological limitations? Obviously, we're not talking about a handgun or a musket. We're talking about a weapon that can fire a hundred shots in a minute.

    SCALIA: We'll see. I mean, obviously, the amendment does not apply to arms that cannot be hand-carried. It's to keep and bear. So, it doesn't apply to cannons. But I suppose there are handheld rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes that will have to be -- it will have to be decided.

    WALLACE: So, how do you decide if you're a textualist?

    SCALIA: Very carefully. My starting point and ending point probably will be what limitations are within the understood limitations that the society had at the time. They had some limitation on the nature of arms that could be born. So, we'll see what those limitations are as applied to modern weapons.

    http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/fox-news-sunday/2012/07/29/justice-antonin-scalia-issues-facing-scotus-and-country#p//v/1760654457001

    Even Antonin Scalia, who isn't necessarily going to have the last word on the matter, is open to some flexibility in the control of guns.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think any supporter of second amendment is prepared to let the courts decide this for us.

      Don't get me wrong, I'll take every good decision we can get, but it's far preferable to settle things at the ballot box.

      Delete
    2. "They had some limitation on the nature of arms that could be born." Talk about personification!

      (I think he said "borne," Mr. Transcriber.)

      That aside, this is a startling interview. (Scott, thanks for posting.) Scalia clearly does not think that the original intent was to arm the populace against an overreaching government. In the interest of legalizing handguns, he reads the text as "obviously" not applying to weapons too large to carry by hand!

      So, gun guys, be warned: When the Obama-UN conspiracy finally gets its act together, and you respond by mobilizing your Citizens' Militia in defense of American Freedom, and you decide you'd like something more than your AR-15 against fleets of black helicopters, Antonin Scalia will not have your back.

      Delete
    3. Jeff, he doesn't comment on the purpose of the second amendment, just the nature of its limitations (none of which I disagree with). I don't think anyone disagrees with Scalia about arms too large to carry by hand. The more astonishing thing to me is that he hesitates to categorically rule out "handheld rocket launchers."

      Delete
    4. Scalia discusses the amendment's purpose, in those words, in Heller and, I'm guessing, elsewhere. His comments on limitations presuppose an understanding of its purpose. That's why it matters to him what was understood at the time. What surprises me is that he even considers ruling out handheld rocket launchers.

      Delete
    5. Apart from hesitating to rule out handheld rocket launchers, he responds with "that will have to be decided in future cases" to a question that explicitly refers to bans on semiautomatic weapons and large-capacity magazines. Now, maybe he's being coy; maybe he knows how he'd vote. Still, he's leaving the issue open.

      Delete
    6. And here's to Jeff.

      Few are the bloggers who know the difference between "born" and "borne."

      Delete
    7. And here's a question. Do you suppose the laws of the 24th century will be determined by our norms and practices in the same way that our laws are to be set "within the understood limitations that the society had" in the 18th century?

      Delete
    8. "What surprises me is that he even considers ruling out handheld rocket launchers."

      I'll be honest, I've never heard anyone say they had a right to a rocket launcher.

      Scott, understanding the limitations of society in the 18th century helps us to understand what sort of exceptions we can allow for what otherwise seems like a categorical right.

      Delete
    9. Why? He's not talking about the plain text of the Constitution. He's not talking about the original intent of the Founders (as if they all had the same intent). He's not even talking about ad hoc compromises agreed to by the Founders so that they could get something down in writing. He talking, it appears, about the prevailing norms and practices of any earlier age. How does that differ from Earl Warren, other than that Earl Warren would consider the prevailing norms and practices of the age in question? Why should we be tied to Antonin Scalia's after-the-fact reconstruction of what the Founders might have had in mind while writing something else?

      Delete
    10. Scott, it seems pretty clear to me he's trying to discover original meaning of the text.

      Delete
    11. Couves, here ya go:

      http://forums.1911forum.com/showthread.php?t=397398

      This example happened to leap out of the Google, but I've heard this argument many a time. Note that these guys have got their sources all lined up and everything. I'm not sure they're wrong, either. If the point of the Second Amendment is "the security of a free state," not home defense and the like, then it seems like the original intent was to make clear that citizens had a right to organize against an army, which would logically entail arming themselves against an army.

      Delete
    12. Jeff, you're right, it's not a bad argument. It's just not one I've ever heard befor. You hear this a lot... do you frequent gun online forums?

      Delete
    13. I used to participate in a forum that drew a politically diverse group, back before the 'net fragmented into a bunch of closed-information loops. Libertarians were well represented, perhaps because a lot of "early adopters" were software guys who find that philosophy appealing. There was much discussion of the Second Amendment, and like the guys in the forum I linked you to, opinion among gun-rights people divided over the question of military-grade weapons.

      At the risk of coming down to the right of Antonin Scalia, I have trouble reading the the 2nd as limited to weapons you can literally carry around by hand. "Bear arms" undeniably meant soldiering, and the 18th-century "profession of arms" I'm pretty sure included artillerymen. I think our Tony is chopping logic here, wrongly construing "bear" to mean "carry around," not because he's against personal rocket launchers himself, but because he figures (correctly) that the best way to destroy the Second Amendment would be to announce that it lets any idiot out there own the same weapons as the US Marines. That's not an interpretation the larger public would tolerate, even if it's the best account of the original intent.

      Delete
    14. At the time, militiamen kept their rifles and muskets at home. I don't know if militia ever had artillery, but if they did I imagine that they were issued by the crown, colonies or states and kept at an armory. A handheld rocket launcher is basically analogous to artillery -- it propels an explosive charge at long range at hardened targets.

      Is the plan to convince everyone that the Constitution allows people to have rocket launchers, so who'd want to follow that crazy document anyway?

      Delete
    15. No plan. I'm just looking at the logic of the thing. How do you preserve "the security of a free state" with just handheld guns? And if we say, well, "a well-regulated militia" is one run by the government, then aren't we begging the question of what happens if the government goes bad? Why would there be an amendment saying, "The right of the people to have the government run a militia shall not be infringed"? Doesn't make sense.

      There are probably coherent ways of construing the amendment. I don't see how Scalia's is one of them, though.

      Delete
    16. To be more precise, this is what Scalia's construction of the amendment seems to amount to, as I read his reasoning in Heller:

      "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear anything BUT militia weapons shall not be infringed." ???

      Delete
    17. Heller establishes the individual right to keep and bear such arms that are in common use for lawful purposes. Those household arms were the militia weapons of 1776, so that's what's being protected today. That would seem to extend protection to the AR-15, but not to the M4. The M4 isn't excluded from protection because it's a military weapon, but because it's not in common use by civilians. The Beretta 92 would seem to be protected, in spite of being a military firearm, because it's in common civilian use.

      The distinction doesn't turn on military use vs. not military use but on common use vs. not common use.

      Delete
    18. Yes, but that's Scalia's sophistry. It begs the question of "the security of a free state." How are the "household arms" of 1776 (or 1791, I think it was) going to protect freedom in the 21st century?

      Another way to put this, maybe, is that what we're seeing here is the intellectual incoherence of "original intent." What was the original intent of the 2nd? To protect muskets? Or to protect the people's right to arm themselves against tyranny? At the time, you could say "both," because people armed themselves against tyranny with the weapons in common household use. But today, technology has made those two different goals: household arms are no longer adequate to a fight against tyranny.

      It's as if Scalia interpreted "freedom of the press" to mean, literally, the freedom to print pamphlets on a big wooden handpress (because that's what was then in "common use"), or maybe its direct descendent (a high-speed modern power press), but not freedom for the information technologies that are actually needed nowadays if you want to spread political ideas with maximum effectiveness. Makes no sense.

      Delete
    19. .....and before you point out to me that Scalia's opinion acknowledges the issue of changing technologies, let me just add that I read that part too. Yeah, he acknowledges the principle, then doesn't follow it. The original intent of the 2nd, he says, included making clear that the government couldn't disarm a citizens' militia by taking away its weapons. Well, if a modern citizens' militia would need tanks, mortars, attack helicopters, etc. in order to be effective, and if the government can ban private ownership of tanks, mortars, attack helicopters etc. (as he says it "obviously" can), then isn't he saying that, today, the amendment allows exactly what its framers meant to prevent? Yet I guess gun owners mostly didn't notice this because he cleverly distracted them by dangling a shiny object -- i.e. the little non-military gun that he was so agreeably allowing them to keep in their homes.

      Delete
    20. "It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks." (Heller, section III.) Logically, the next sentence should be, "Therefore, to preserve its original intent, the amendment must include the right to keep and bear non-small arms highly unusual in society at large."

      Instead it's this: "But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right." And that's how you get to be a Supreme Court judge.

      Delete
    21. The limitations of originalism are glaring in these cases where society and technology have changed the most.

      I agree that the decision might be more coherent if the right to keep and bear arms was said to included true military-grade firearms. But the practical effect of all this is nil. If there were a need for a second revolution, the civilian population would be just as under-gunned with M-4 carbines as they would be with AR-15’s. And it seems reasonable to conclude that AR-15’s are protected by the Heller standard.

      The “tanks, mortars, attack helicopters” you mention are heavy weapons, just like the handheld rocket launcher we already talked about. These weapons are most analogous to the artillery of the Revolutionary era, which was clearly beyond what a militiaman was expected to own and maintain as part of his service obligation.

      Delete
    22. Again at the risk of sounding like one of the guys in those gun forums: Surely the paradigmatic case of what the 2nd Amendment protects is the uprising against tyranny that occurred in 1775-81 (aka the "American Revolution"). The famous first shots were fired at Lexington / Concord in defense of an armory maintained by the Revolutionary Provincial Congress of Massachusetts. Most of the weapons were dispersed, but the British troops managed to find and destroy a few (very-non-handheld) cannons, while taking heavy casualties in the engagement overall.

      So, the equivalent today would not be a civilian population settling for AR-15s just because Tony Scalia didn't allow them anything better. It would be some kind of Provincial Revolutionary Tea Party Congress drawing on stockpiles of military-grade weapons, including whatever tanks, mortars and attack choppers they could get their hands on (from smuggling, from illegal sales of army surplus, from unit commanders defecting to the Patriots' side with their equipment, maybe from defense manufacturers friendly to the cause). A suitcase nuke or two would come in handy as well if they could get them.

      No, this heavier materiel wouldn't be stored in the homes of our stalwart heroes. It would be stored in armories unapproved by the government -- hopefully under some kind of organized control, like that of the Provincial Congress as in 1775, but in any case against the now-tyrannical government's wishes.

      Of course the tyrannical government would have nullified the 2nd Amendment. But that's why you need to be building up your armories NOW while it's still in force. Hey, I'm personally glad that people aren't doing this. But it baffles me that Scalia thinks the 2nd Amendment somehow "obviously" doesn't authorize it. So, if it had been in place in the 1770s, it wouldn't have protected what those Patriots were doing either? Tony Scalia, in a powdered wig, would have said to General Gage, "Yeah, go ahead and seize the Concord armory -- those rascally colonists can have their muskets, but they have no right to cannons, after all!" Really?! That seems to be the clear implication.

      Delete
    23. Jeff, you're talking about heavy weapons owned and maintained by a revolutionary government, which was legitimately exercising the people's collective right to self government.

      That's very different than the individual militiamen exercising their personal right to keep and bear arms.

      Delete
    24. But the revolutionary "government" of MA didn't start out as legitimate, or even as a government. It started out as just a bunch of guys who saw a threat coming, started organizing against it (back then in Committees of Correspondence; today it would be online forums), and started building up stockpiles of weapons in case the threat got worse. At some point they started calling themselves a "Congress," but presumably only after they already had enough weapons on hand to think they could make this stick. And even then, they were not universally hailed as legitimate governors or patriots; they were acting over the intense opposition of other citizens who thought they were being paranoid, or who believed in settling disputes nonviolently, or who continued to admire the official government and strongly opposed resisting it. Once the whole thing had played out, the old government was gone and they were, in fact, the legitimate new government, they adopted the Second Amendment to protect the rights of people like them who might need to do the same things at some time in the future.

      The equivalent of those revolutionaries today are the guys in the gun forums. They think the American government is tipping over into tyranny, fascism, anti-American UN socialism, etc., and that they speak for the "legitimate" principles of the Founding. They think it's (politically) 1771 or thereabouts, and that armed resistance may soon be needed. They value the Second Amendment for the protection that it gives to their early-stage organizing. Which it seems to me clearly was its intent -- to empower today's equivalent of the Patriots of the 1770s -- if it means anything.

      Scalia backhandedly acknowledges that history and that intent, then finds that the amendment "obviously" doesn't protect the most effective weapons for carrying it out! He tells the Sam Adamses and John Hancocks of today to go hang. He authorizes the very government that might become tyrannical, that they think IS becoming (or has become) tyrannical, to (effectively) disarm the embryonic citizens' militia -- exactly what Scalia himself says the amendment was meant to prevent.

      I am interested in this because I would like to know the intellectual justification. If Scalia had written that the 2nd wasn't really about resisting tyranny, then maybe it would make sense. But he's emphatic that that was a key part of its original intent. Then, Mr. Originalist just nullifies it. It seems to me, at minimum, that anyone who thinks that's all just fine has precious little ground left on which to criticize other judges for reading constitutional provisions to mean whatever they find to their liking.

      Delete
    25. Just wanted to jump in and say that Jeff makes a great point I hadn't previously considered: Heller supports the 2nd Amendment based on the right to "resistance to...the depredations of a tyrannical government". Jeff evoked the suitcase nuke example, which reminded me of the nuclear debates in the 80s, when the Doomsday clock was something folks paid attention to.

      There would be debates, frequently, about Fat Man and Little Boy (even on talk shows like Morton Downey), with the supporters arguing that it would have taken a couple years, and lots more carnage, for the US to win the war in the Pacific conventionally.

      Even as a young person, I'd be amazed at the argument. A couple of years? Heck, Hirohito was still in power in the mid-80s. We might still have been fighting, 40 years later! The war in Japan would have surely been the dreadful real-life equivalent of the Black Knight in the Holy Grail. Obviously, Americans don't feel about their leaders the way the Japanese did about Hirohito, but private citizens fighting the perceived "depredations of tyrannical government", when the government is as entrenched and established as the US, is no minor thing. Just ask Terry Nichols or Timothy McVeigh.

      Which all gets to an interesting question for Couves. Couves has identified himself as a resident of Massachusetts on several occasions. Recalling that Lanza was a resident of Northern Connecticut, do you, honestly, support Adam Lanza's right to arm himself at a level necessary (per Heller) to realistically do something about what he perceives as the "depradations of a tyrannical government"?

      Of course you don't. The kind of materiel necessary is obviously detrimental to your personal well-being.

      Delete
    26. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    27. Here is my own Part 2 to CSH's hypothetical: Suppose Adam Lanza is stockpiling his big guns and hasn't yet committed any (other) crime -- never shot a one of them yet, as far as we know. But when he's questioned by authorities, he says he's part of a Patriot movement that is presently organizing itself as the Provisional Revolutionary Government of Restored Connecticut, and that the reason he's got heavy weapons is that the other guys in the group appointed him the PRGRC's official Master of the Armory. He's got printouts from his online Patriot forum attesting to this, and his stockpile includes military-grade weapons (clearly not "household" or "common-use" arms) that were recently used in a successful revolt against tyranny someplace else -- the toppling of Quaddafi or some such. So there's empirical evidence that they can be effective for this purpose. Also, as a diligent Master of the Armory, Lanza has found an old cabin or something, fairly remote, where the weapons can be stored securely without endangering a populated neighborhood.

      He and his fellow Patriots explicitly invoke the 1775 precedent. Even given all this, their weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment?

      Delete
    28. Jeff, I’ll begin by stipulating that I have no idea when the colonists first obtained the sorts of heavy weapons we’re talking about. I do know that we at least didn’t have them in any great number until the surrender of Ft. Ticonderoga. I’d be surprised if the Committees of Correspondence had stockpiled them, but if you have some information to this effect, I’d be interested to see it.

      The Revolution wasn’t just about depredations against individual liberty, but the fact that we weren’t allowed our right to democratically alter these policies. So while the world may have seen our Revolutionary committees as illegitimate, I’d still argue that they were very much exercising our legitimate right to collective action. Just as with personal freedom, democratic freedom doesn’t cease to exist just because it’s denied by an external power.

      So there’s no possibility of a modern analogue to 1776 as long as our democratic institutions are intact.

      Delete
    29. CSH, you’re fundamentally misreading the decision (looking back at Jeff's description, he is too). The right of the people to keep and bear arms is based on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” It’s as simple as that. The right is not conditional on the “prefatory clause,” but this clause does give the originalist some idea of what sort of arms are meant to be protected. Scalia concludes that it’s common household arms in common use, since that’s what you would have brought with you to the militia back in the day. I’m agreeing with Jeff that a slightly more coherent interpretation _might_ be to say we have a right to possess exactly what a national guardsman carries (an M4 carbine). There’s really no right or wrong answer here -- since there was no distinction between personal and military arms at the time, it’s impossible for there to be original intent to even be discovered. But I do think it is beyond doubt that the Framers were not guaranteeing an individual right to possess heavy weapons.

      Delete
    30. Well, I agree, the key issue is whether democratic legitimacy is still operating, which is what our friends in the current Patriot / militia movements don't understand. Then again, they would say there's all kinds of evidence that it's no longer operating -- black guys are winning elections, hard-working job creators aer being forced to pay into a national health-care system, Mexicans are overrunning the southern borders and the government isn't seriously responding, etc. I literally could not count how many variants of "America is over" and "Freedom is gone" I saw on righty websites just two months or so ago (seems like some event then kind of provoked them, I forget what), and that was at places like National Review, not the really hard-core stuff.

      And then there's the converse fact that in 1775, the "tyrannical" government wasn't Hitler's, it was Great Britain's, which everyone from Motesquieu to Alexander Hamilton agreed was a relatively enlightened regime and a model for rest of the world (which is why major features of it were copied into the US Constitution). Yeah, it had cracked down on tax resisters, but there were lots of Americans still loyal to it, there was a fair bit of sympathy for American grievances even in Britain, and there was a theory -- controversial, but not obviously wrong in the terms of the time -- that Americans WERE "virtually" represented in the British parliament. (Also, they had agents like Ben Franklin in London directly and actively lobbying British officials.)

      In short: It's not clear why the Patriots of 1775 were right that it was legitimate at that point to resort to arms, or at least stockpile them, and the self-styled "Patriots" of today are wrong about that. Scalia just assumes it, he gives no principled reason for thinking so. Which may just mean that "it's turtles all the way down."

      Delete
    31. Jeff, the British position was reasonable, but wrong. People have a right to democratic representation. If today’s “patriots” have a grievance, then there’s abundant opportunity for them change the policy through their democratically elected representatives. That option wasn’t available in 1776 -- that’s the difference.

      If you’re serious about questioning the right to representative government, then I guess we’ll just have to disagree on that.

      The idea that the British were right and the colonial patriots were crazy is not a new idea in academic circles, but I have noticed that liberals are increasingly embracing this point of view. It seems to be a bizarre reaction to the tea party (“oh yea, well the original tea party wasn’t so great either”). In any case, it makes me sad to see them question the very democratic principles this country is founded on.

      Delete
    32. I don't think the British were right; I think it's pretty clear that America had a right to control its own trade, which was the major point at issue (although it would be nice if that hadn't included a slave trade, which Britain was quicker to abolish). I'm also not down with the gun-crazy "Patriots" of today. That said, when people question whether there's really "abundant opportunity" in our corporatist system to change policy democratically, I do think they have a point, even if they're coming at it from a different angle than I do.

      Delete
  12. This is a fascinating conversation, since we have gone back and forth at great length about whether the proposed efforts would crimp Couves' gun hobby, and how they would affect Mexican gun cartels and the 2nd amendment...and who cares about any of that?

    Suppose putting onerous restrictions on Nancy Lanza's (and by extention, Couves') access to multiple Bushmaster-type automatic weapons has the following effects: a) severely crimps Couves' gun hobby, b) opens new markets for Soviet arms dealers in Mexico, c) creates a new weekly show on Fox called "What sacred constitutional cow will liberals kill next?" and d) makes it far less likely that a roomful of innocent 6-year-olds can be mowed down, execution-style....

    ...I'm okay with that. Sorry, Couves. Your point about the drunk drivers killing children? We'll work on that too. But the Adam-Lanza-having-easy-access-to-automatic-weapons threat to children should be pretty easy to solve.

    If that imposes a negative externality on you, I think I speak for everyone in saying thanks in advance for taking one for the team.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CSH, does it matter to you that the DOJ studied the effects of the previous AWB/Mag Ban and determined that it had little or no effect on crime and that the same would be true going forward?

      As I've tried to make clear, we're now effectively banning handguns, not just AR-15's (which aren't automatic, btw). That's because handguns can be just as lethal as the much-maligned rifles. At Virginia Tech, the deadliest shooting in US history, 33 people were killed with a 9mm and a .22 pistol.

      “Your point about the drunk drivers killing children? We'll work on that too.”

      I doubt it. I’m not aware of any national campaign to ban the sale of alcohol at bars and restaurants. Of course such a law, unlike a ban on handguns, would be unthinkable. That’s because liberals personally value social drinking more than they do responsible gun use. The first they participate in, the second they do not. This debate is about liberals’ fear of guns, not reality.

      Delete
    2. We're not, really, talking about crime. We're not, really, concerned about Mexican gangs. We're certainly not talking about liberals' fear of guns.

      Quite simply, we're attempting to weigh your sporting (and, minimally, self-protecting) interest in sophisticated weaponry with the interest of classrooms of six-year-olds (and to a lesser-but-not-insignificant extent, movie theaters of young people) in not getting shot all to hell by a disturbed maniac.

      Your interests in not having your hobby restricted transparently obviously do not trump the interest of six-year-olds not to be executed en masse. You know this, the NRA knows this, Ben Shapiro knew this in that interview where Piers Morgan revealed himself to be the biggest idiot in history.

      Its interesting that you employ the canard, also common among the NRA set, that the only problem with Bushmasters is "bad people" getting them, as if the NRA or its supporters have a reliable method of separating the wheat from the chaff. Nancy Lanza passed your test, but we know (at least) from the barber shop story that Nancy Lanza enabled profoundly troubling behavior in her son. Maybe the good people are often not the good people, after all. More likely, as is the case with all of us, they're sometimes good and occasionally dreadful, rendering the proposed internal controls from the NRA as obviously useless as those at the US mission in Benghazi.

      That's what we're talking about.

      Delete
    3. "CSH, does it matter to you that the DOJ studied the effects of the previous AWB/Mag Ban and determined that it had little or no effect on crime and that the same would be true going forward?"

      It does appear that the imposition of the ban had no impact on the number of mass killings in the United States: 1982-1994 = roughly 1.5 per year; 1994-2004, roughly 1.5 per year. Curiously, the expiration of the ban may be a different story: since 2004 = 3.5 per year.

      http://www.tcf.org/blog/detail/the-assault-weapons-ban-did-it-curtail-mass-shootings

      Delete
    4. Ok CSH, so we'll ban handguns. Next will be pump-action shotguns. Of course the UK example tells us that none of this will stop these massacres from occuring. And with the US having almost as many guns as people, the idea that any of this will save a single child is farcical.

      Gun crime doesn't matter?

      The interest in self protection is "minimal"? Tell that to someone who's 30 minutes away from the nearest police response. Tell that to a woman being stalked by her ex-boyfriend.

      Scott, the frequency of these events seems pretty random:

      http://boston.com/community/blogs/crime_punishment/2012/08/no_increase_in_mass_shootings.html

      Delete
  13. First Anon, here again. CSH, thanks for the re-direct. My purpose, which would have been clearer if I were a better essayist, was in the spirit of the old adage, "Follow the money." Couves and his fellow hobbyists may blow all the cash they can afford on nice weapondry, but it's peanuts compared to the international market. I'm arguing that the way Republicans changed gun laws during the Bush years, which have led directly to maniacs having access to military-style weapons, are fueled by this economic concern. To enable this opportunity to make money, the NRA has concomitantly pushed gun fetishism, which is why our dear Couves values his hobbies so tenaciously. Over the lives of a roomful of kindergarteners, and Trayvon Martin, and many other young people.

    If I were queen, I'd push for the de-militarization of America - no more Patriot Act, no more assault weapons, and eliminate funding for the super-SWAT teams that occasionally end up on the doorstep of my law-abiding friends in cities like Anaheim. If I could rope in libertarians like Couves, I'd be happy to toss in the legalization of marijuana.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not about drugs and guns -- it's about peace and freedom. I don't think it's a re-direct to point out that:

      1) The cartel violence is a product of the war on drugs, not the gun industry.
      2) No matter what we do, we're not going to keep the cartels from getting guns.
      3) The only way to prevent violence is to address the underlying cause.

      Delete
    2. Guys, am I a poor essayist, or is Couves ignoring my point?

      Delete
    3. Anon, your point is backwards and wrong. The NRA's advocacy, as well as the firearms industry itself, follows the demand of the gun owning public.

      Once upon a time, the NRA was composed of good ol' boys and blue bloods, who just liked to hunt and shoot. They not only shied away from upfront political involvement, but they actually supported every piece of gun control legislation to come along. In 1977 there was a grassroots takeover by people who wanted the organization to take an active role in defending their rights. By defending the second amendment, the NRA continues to represent the will of its membership. The main competitor to the NRA is even more uncompromising in its defense of the second amendment.

      Delete
  14. Entirely separate topic, but in the spirit of the great "stuff is impossible, until it happens, then its second nature" thread, here are two things your favorite NFL team must never ever do if it wishes to win a championship:

    1) Fire its offensive coordinator (/play caller, /offensive architect) 2/3 of the way through the season, in the process changing much of what they do.

    2) Fire its competent, above-average, game-managing QB in favor of a second-year player with virtually no game experience.

    Do either one of those things and your otherwise good team will have absolutely, positively, no chance of winning a championship.

    Course, in two weeks there will be one less such thing.

    And no one will ever mention it again!

    ReplyDelete

Who links to my website?