Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Quinn has decided that his little sister is pretty cool after all. When she's up and awake, I have to field constant requests for him to "kiss Lyra", and "kiss Lyra again".

Things are settling down...we now average about six hours of sleep a night. If you've noticed any light blogging for the last few days, there's my excuse. I'm usually busy with one or the other.

All you moms out there who raised multiple kids by yourselves, or with no help from your hands-off "baby care is women's work" husbands: you have my deep and heartfelt respect. These two are enough to keep two parents busy all day long.

All you husbands out there who consider yourselves the "working" part of the marriage because you leave in the morning and bring a paycheck home: you have it easy. Going to the office is infinitely easier than juggling the attention requirements of multiple little children. It's not particularly difficult, but there's a constant low-level stress that comes from never being off the clock completely, and the effect is cumulative.

Here are some pics from this morning. Maybe I'll have the time for a gun-related post later today.


This marks the fifth time in recent years where a Texas mother killed all of her children in a gruesome fashion.

For all you Texans out there, what's the deal with mother-perpetrated child homicide in the Lone Star State? It's simply puzzling.

As a parent (and I am by no means claiming to be an authority on the subject of parenting and kids), I believe that anyone who would harm their own offspring has some profoundly faulty wiring in their cranium. It's simply unnatural...just the thought of harming or killing my own kids makes me physically ill.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

how not to treat your heroes.

The Victoria Cross is the highest decoration for valor that can be awarded to members of a Commonwealth military. It's pretty much the British equivalent of the Medal of Honor, with the same "above and beyond" type heroic acts needed to qualify for such an award. Like the Medal of Honor, a significant percentage of Victoria Crosses have been awarded posthumously.

One Mr. Tul Bahadur Pun earned a Victoria Cross while in the service of the Gurkha Regiment in Burma on June 23, 1944. After almost all his comrades were wiped out, he seized a Bren Gun and, firing from the hip and running through ankle-deep mud, ignored Japanese fire to storm machine gun positions.

His official citation read: "His outstanding courage and superb gallantry in the face of odds which meant almost certain death were most inspiring and beyond praise."

Now aged 84, Mr. Pun recently applied for immigration to Britain. His application was turned down "because he has no strong ties with the United Kingdom", and because he couldn't prove that his medical condition would mean a better quality of life in Britain instead of Nepal.

Now, if I were in charge of the British immigration service, I'd arrange for a free transport to the UK via the Queen's Flight, a slot in the UK's finest veteran's hospital, and a new passport hand-delivered by whatever bureaucratic lickspittle made the original decision to deny one of the Commonwealth's bona fide war heroes the request to spend his last days in the country for which he risked his life in such exemplary fashion.

It's more than a little appalling that the UK has no problems with the immigration of young Muslims who not only don't want to have ties with the UK, but who actively oppose the culture of their new home land by way of backpack bombs, but that someone with the service record of Mr. Pun is told that he can't live there because he has "no strong ties" to the place. A Victoria Cross, or its American equivalent, is pretty much the most bulletproof evidence of loyalty one can produce.

"The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten." --Calvin Coolidge

parenting advice.

If you have kids, or are thinking about having kids, here's a piece of advice.

If you have a toddler and a jumbo-sized bottle of baby powder, it is advisable to not leave one within reach of the other outside of immediate parental supervision range.

Two words: winter wonderland.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

i'll take "frivolous lawsuits" for $1000, alex.

A while back, some guy drove his SUV into the back of a tow truck while intoxicated. Apparently, this is a big deal because the guy was a ball player, relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. (Note the past tense here, because the gentleman in question expired in the collision.)

Now his father has filed a lawsuit against the bar that served his son the alcohol, against the tow truck company and the driver of that truck for being in the road assisting another vehicle, and (for good measure) the driver of the disabled vehicle for having the temerity to break down on that particular spot.

Apparently, everyone is to blame for his son's death except his son, who drove the car with a BAC of twice the legal limit, while speeding and yakking on his cell phone, and neglecting to wear a seatbelt.

It boggles the mind, it really does.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ah, sweet lortab.

Yesterday afternoon I had an appointment to, ah, get my wires clipped. I regretfully had to pass on the Valium they offer just before the procedure because I had to drive myself home, but the whole thing wasn't a terribly big deal anyway...I've had more discomfort from a toothache.

Today I'm just feeling some sort of low-level discomfort, but the urologist prescribed some Lortab for the aftermath, so I'm actually doing pretty good right now. Hooray for Schedule III drugs, I say.

When I was under the knife, so to speak, I remembered the Gary Larson cartoon where this dog hangs out of the window of the family car as they drive by a yard where another dog is playing. The dog in the car yells out of the window, "Ha ha, Biff! Guess what? We're going to the store, and then I'm going to the vet to get tutored!"

Monday, May 21, 2007

notes from a quiet monday.

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I am typing this in our backyard, which is a fenced-in 75'x75' patch of grass barely deserving of such a lofty label. Quinn is discovering the ballistic properties of various objects such as balls and rocks, and my supervisory role is to warn him when there are breakable or living objects in the direction of his trajectory. Lyra is asleep in her bassinet inside, and Robin is preparing dinner for the lot of us.

I've had a few people ask about the origin of Lyra's name, so I'll divulge our inspiration for it. Lyra, the lyre, is a star constellation centered around Vega, the second-brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere. It's also the first name of the protagonist in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra Belacqua. We like celestial things, and we both love the books, so the name kind of sounded right when one of us first proposed it. (I honestly can't remember who came up with it first.)

My brother and his wife are expecting kid number three, and they gave each other lists of potential names, with instructions for the other to cross out unacceptable candidates. When they returned their respective lists to each other, every name on either list was crossed out.

Ah, kids and family. I need to come up with some more blog entries about guns, politics, and philosophy, lest this blog live up to its name and turn into a pure parenting blog, but on days like this, it's hard not to bore the blogosphere with seemingly inconsequential minutae from the family front. Marriage and parenting have their ups and downs, but even on the worst of days, I wouldn't trade this to anyone for any amount of money.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

more pictures.

Here are some more pictures of the nooblet. Right now we're working to level up her sleeping and eating skills.

Quinn is very much torn between fascination and jealousy, but I think the fascination is slowly winning out. In any case, he'll have to adjust to's not like we can return her for a refund or anything.

I haven't shaved in five days, and last night I got about three hours of sleep. The little tyke snoozes peacefully through the entire day (between feeding breaks, anyway), but at night, she seems to be physically incapable of peaceful sleep unless she's curled up on my chest to hear a heartbeat.

This phase shall pass, with the help of my pals Bourbon and Ginger.

Friday, May 18, 2007


There will be a time in the future when most Congressional Republicans will once again do more than pay lip service to conservative principles of fiscal responsibility and small government. They will start to viciously defend the Separation of Powers, question every warrantless wiretap and every executive violation of habeas corpus. They'll look for--and point out to everyone--every instance of cronyism and incompetence at all levels of government. They'll rage against every use of a Presidential signing statement, and they'll scream "impeachment" every time the President so much as sticks a toe outside his Constitutionally defined authorities.

Unfortunately, that time will be right after the next Democrat President finishes his Oath of Office.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Our advanced bribery and negotiation skills got us an early discharge from the hospital, and we've been settling in since yesterday afternoon. Robin is doing great--you wouldn't know she's given birth a little over 48 hours ago just by looking at her.

Quinn is somewhat intrigued by the baby, but decidedly lukewarm on the whole "sharing mommy and daddy" thing. He'll adjust, no doubt, because he's a good-natured and easygoing kid.

Here's what a baby monitor looks like in a geek house:

That's our living room TV, broadcasting the picture and audio pickup from the wireless infrared camera mounted on a shelf about ten inches behind the head end of Miss Lyra's bassinet. Thanks to the built-in IR lamps, it picks up an image even in complete darkness, and the audio is good enough to hear her breathe.

There's another pair in various locations in Quinn's room, and a pair of receivers hooked up to both of the house's TV sets can be dialed in to view the feed from any of the cameras (or cycle through them in two-second intervals.) For a baby monitor system, those cameras are unbeatable. As you can see, there's no guesswork involved as to how the baby is doing.

Yesterday at the hospital, I walked around with Lyra and snuggled with her just like I did ( and still do) with Quinn, having her nestled into the crook of my neck, when I found myself thinking for just a moment that I wouldn't mind having a third one after all. (Robin, however, yanked me right back into reality by grinning and saying "You'll have to find someone else for that.")

Do I like being a parent? Hell, no. Those kids come wrapped in worry, and that's the one word that I would choose to describe what it's like to be a parent. You worry about them all the time. Parenting is not all that much fun. There are the sleepless nights, the stress, the loss of personal freedom and flexibility, and a myriad of other inconveniences. I don't like being a parent.

I do, however, love these two children, and it's such an all-encompassing and overwhelming love that I would put up with anything to make sure they grow up in safety and happiness.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

ah, that new baby smell.

This is Lyra. She is tEh nOoB.

Born at 4:44am this morning in what can only be termed a lightning delivery. Mom and baby are doing fine, and we're looking forward to taking her home on Thursday morning. Soon, her brother will teach her all about doggies, marshmallow cereal, and the power of the word "no".

More later...gotta dash back to the hospital.

Monday, May 14, 2007

from the mouths of babes.

Breakfast time at Casa Munchkin Wrangler. Quinn is eating his toast while reading his book. This morning, it's a Mickey Mouse story from their Early Readers library.

Quinn (pointing to the pages): "Money Mouse! Money Mouse!"

Robin: "That's 'Mickey Mouse', sweetie. 'Mickey Mouse'."

Marko: "No, I think he got it right."

"only cops and military should have guns."

Once upon a time, I worked for a local cop shop. They were (and still are) one of the largest law enforcement distributors in the Southeast, and if you see a cop in TN, MS or AL with a Glock in his holster, he got it through that particular shop.

Now, as a Glock distributor, we routinely sent T&E guns to police departments in the region. One day, I'm behind the counter when the FedEx guy comes in with a T&E return from the TN Law Enforcement Training Academy in Nashville. I take the Glock box out of the FedEx sleeve, drag the firearms log from its place underneath the counter, and prepare to check the gun back into our inventory.

I open the box...hmm, Glock 23. That's the most common compact cop gun in the country. Wonder why'd they want to T&E one of those? Anyway...I drop the magazine and put it down on the foam padding of the box. I rack the slide...and out of the ejection port sails a live round. I catch it just before it can bounce onto the glass counter (an amazing feat considering my usual lack of dexterity), and examine it.

Yep, one primed, unfired, ready-to-go round of .40S&W Remington Golden Saber, 155 grain bonded core brass-jacketed hollow point.

The magazine was empty, but whoever T&E'd the gun just plain forgot that he had chambered a live round, and they sent the gun back to our shop in ready-to-go-boom condition.

I did shudder a little at the thought that this gun came from a place that teaches cops about guns, and the next time someone told me that "only the police are trained enough to carry handguns", I had a new anecdote ready.

Gun safety, folks. It's very easy to get complacent about it, and that goes especially for folks who shoot and handle guns every day, much in the same way that a good percentage of traffic accidents on longer trips happens when you're almost home. Familiarity breeds overconfidence.

Take it from a guy who has a confirmed kill on a bedroom window and its attendant vinyl blinds because a few years back he practiced dry-firing his Savage with live ammo nearby. A .30-06 going off in a closed room is very loud, especially when you expected a "click" rather than a "boom".

Check the chamber, check the chamber, and then check the chamber again. Every time the gun leaves your hand, or comes back into your hand. In fact, smack everyone upside the head who tries to hand you a firearm with the action closed, and smack yourself upside the head every time you catch yourself starting to hand a gun to someone in that condition.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

the tubes are broken.

Don't you hate it when you want to use the Google, and then the Internets are down at your house all day long?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

oh, the humanity.

My opinion on humanity, this great and varied species of ours, is largely dependent on my mood of the moment. I guess the defining characteristic of h.sapiens sapiens is his astonishing range of potential for both good and evil.

We're the species that has harnessed the power of the atom, that fights back death and disease and age every year with the power of intellect, and that has produced individuals like Beethoven, Shakespeare, Einstein, and Thomas Jefferson. We are not the strongest species on this dirtball, but we have that effective combination of intelligence, dexterity, and ability to learn that makes us the undisputed masters of this particular domain.

Yet we are also the species that has mastered the art of exterminating each other. For every genius, for every monumental triumph of science, for every enduring work of art, humans have also produced an Auschwitz, a Wounded Knee, a Battle of the Somme, a Srebrenica, or a Kristallnacht. We are not the only species on this planet that routinely kills each other, but we're the only species that routinely kills each other for sport, for pleasure, for profit, or for purity of theology.

I am still undecided on whether we're too intelligent, or too dumb for our own good. I mean, we have the brainpower to split atoms and make footprints on the moon, but at the same time we fall prey to mysticism--which, in its mild forms, manifests itself in harmless things like mood crystals or prayer clubs, but which in large doses makes people strap nail bombs to themselves and entire countries slaughter each other with dedication.

It is said that the oldest profession in the world is the prostitute. If that's the case, then the second oldest profession in the world is the shaman, the Mog-Ur, the priest, the cleric, or whatever you want to call his particular sort. He's the guy who tries to help people make sense of the world around them, and who attempts to make the unknown knowable. He's the guy who understands that his job is a way to social status and power, and he's the guy who collects the sacrifices on behalf of God, or Allah, or Odin, or Ahuramazda. He's also the guy who makes sure the young ones learn all about the importance of the thunder god early, so that the shaman's job may be secure for another generation to come. Lastly, he's the one who tells the young men of the tribe to paint their faces and prepare to punish the unbelievers.

Why are we as a species so susceptible to having our emotions override our reason? What biological circumstance can make a mild-mannered accountant put on a uniform and kick the gold teeth out of his neighbor's mouth? What kind of faulty wiring can enable a person to write a poem or play the violin in the morning, and then in the evening hang another man from a tree or shoot him in the head in front of his children?

I think part of the reason for our astounding capacity for cruelty lies in the way we form social bonds. We can communicate with each other at the speed of light and across this planet, but our brains are still hardwired into the social patterns of the neolithic campfire. We have a need to identify with a tribe, so we define our own tribes, even in the twenty-first century. Of course, the second thing after identifying your tribal allegiance is to identify "the others", those who are not of the tribe. It doesn't matter what one takes to be his tribe--nationality, skin color, profession, sports team allegiance, language group, religion--once you have established the "us", you proceed to establish the "them", and the most natural instinct in the world seems to be to defend the "us" from the "them" by any means at one's disposal.

Take professional and college sports as an example. Here's a tribal allegiance that is as close to its neolithic template as possible. You have two tribes that engage in a ritual battle with each other. You have easy identifiers: face paint, clothing of a specific color, battle songs, and banners. You have a supportive population which cheers you on, and which promises increased social status and recognition for victory in battle. Finally, you have a clearly defined battlefield, an elaborate ritual, and a contest of strength and skill before the eyes of your friends and loved ones. How much more warlike and emotionally satisfying can it get? It appeals to our deepest instincts of security, survival, and social standing within our own tribe. (That's why we have hooliganism and violent excesses at soccer games or college football events--once you stroke that lizard part of your brain with the right stimulants, it's easy to temporarily forget that you're not fighting an actual war.)

It looks like the way to get that mild-mannered accountant to willingly become a concentration camp guard is to promise him increased social status, and to grant him moral absolution for his actions. The human need to belong and be recognized is a strong one, maybe the strongest motivator there is, and any reward system that taps into it has the potential to become nearly irresistible. Witness the willingness of the world's young men to not just kill each other over tickets to the afterlife, but the willingness of many to kill themselves in the process as well.

So what's the solution to this particular problem? I don't think there is one, to be realistic. It's easy (and especially tempting for a nonbeliever like me) to implicate religion, for example, as the main source of strife in the world, but religion--every religion-- is afflicted with the same duality as the species that practices it. At its best, it fosters and encourages love and kindness and charity...and at its worst, it brings us pogroms and sectarian killings and decades or centuries of warfare over whose invisible friend is the most powerful. (Those who wish to blame our current problems on a particular religion only succumb to the pitfalls of tribal thinking--the emotional satisfaction of seeking a simple answer to a complex problem, one where the enemy can be easily identified by a common and obvious characteristic, so we may know which people are of not of our tribe.)

In the end, I think I prefer to think of our species as the race that produced Galileo and Da Vinci, and think of the Mengeles and Torquemadas of history as aberrations, victims of overdoses of nationalism or religion or power, overdoses that short-circuited the reason and logic parts of their brains. Maybe that's what makes the heights and triumphs of our species even more impressive--the fact that our species as a whole, and each member of it individually, has a choice between luminescence and savagery every day, and that our high marks were achieved despite our ever-present tendency to let the beast off the leash. After all, someone incapable of doing violence cannot claim credit for peacefulness anymore than a eunuch can claim chastity as a virtue.

Maybe one day, when our species has "clawed its way out of the mud and spread itself among the stars" (to speak with Heinlein), our brains will evolve to the point where we have the ability to define our tribe as "humanity", and where killing someone else over nationality, skin color, religious beliefs, or dietary habits will be regarded as ridiculous as throwing a virgin into a volcano to placate it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


People who refer to themselves as something-Americans really make me want to knock them upside the head.

Drag out your passport, if you have one. Check the front of it. If it says "United States of America", you're an American--period, full stop, end of story. It doesn't matter what your skin color, when your grandfather hopped off the boat at Ellis Island, what country he hailed from before he hopped on that boat, which language he spoke before he came here, or even if he came here from somewhere else at all. You are an American. No hyphens, no qualifications, no prefix, no nothing.

You're not an Italian just because your great-grandfather was born in Genoa, and because you know how to cook gnocchi. You're not Irish because your name starts with Mac or O', or because you like to swill Guinness or wear a shamrock in your lapel. Be proud of your family history all you want, honor your ancestors, cook spaghetti or haggis or sauerkraut at home, but for all that's good and proper, don't call yourself anything but American.

There's plenty of balkanization out in the world, especially since the end of the Cold War. Every village in the former Soviet Union or Yugoslavia wants to have statehood now, and all that it does is create a multitude of warring little tribes, jealously guarding their little patches of ground against encroachment by "the others", whether those others are defined by clothing, language, face paint, diet, hygiene habits, or whatever name they choose to call their deity.

We don't need that kind of petty shit in America. It's divisive and destructive, and it does nothing but perpetuate neolithic tribal warfare. Here in the United States, most good and decent folks don't give a hoot whether their neighbor is black, white, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or Great Pumpkin worshiper, as long as he minds his own business and keeps his hands to himself. America is not a funny outfit, or a chant, or a collective of ancestors. America isn't a religion, or a skin color, or a language, or a way of cooking, and anyone who claims such a thing deserves a swift kick in the ass and a ticket to whatever homogeneous country best suits their personal desires for uniformity of pigmentation or religion or diet or what-the-fuck-ever.

Speak English, speak Spanish, speak Farsi, drink green beer, play a bagpipe, wear a beret, smoke filterless Gaulois, ride your Harley with a pickelhaube, or build a Shinto shrine in your backyard if you want, but don't call yourself anything but American.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

hark, the boy genius speaks.

One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

This morning, I read an op-ed about John Edwards, the former junior senator from North Carolina, and one of the Presidential hopefuls for 2008. He recently visited New Orleans' Ninth Ward, where he gave a speech for the locals, promising everyone a gold house and a rocket car if he gets elected.

Well, maybe not exactly a gold house and a rocket car, but close enough. He wants to create 50,000 "stepping stone jobs" in parks, recreation facilities, and community projects, for those New Orleans residents who haven't been able to find any other jobs since the storm. He also said that "we're going to have to rebuild those levees." (By "we", he means "the taxpayers of the United States", of course, not his actual own physical person.)

In addition, he pledged to "push hard for a 'significant' increase in the minimum wage, expand the earned income tax credit, insist on making it easier for workers to organize, and focus a substantial portion of his administration’s energy on achieving concrete improvements in education, housing and health care."

Since Lyndon Johnson kicked off the social programs of the Great Society in 1965, this country has spent trillions of taxpayer dollars to "end poverty". This is where we got Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs that now make up more than a third of the federal budget. This is also where HUD was created with the explicit goal of solving urban problems through means of public housing and urban development. (Forty years later, HUD-created and -administered public housing is among the cleanest, safest, and most desirable real estate in the country. Heh.)

Were the programs of the Great Society a success? That's questionable. While the poverty rate for blacks, for example, fell from 55% in 1960 to 27% in 1968, it had also fallen dramatically in the twenty years prior (from 87% in 1940 to 55% in 1960), which suggests that it would have fallen to its 1968 levels even without Johnson's program. What that program did do without a doubt was to create a massive entitlement juggernaut that is gobbling up the federal budget at an ever-increasing rate. Medicare and Medicaid alone will soon make up almost half of federal expenditures, and the ratio is increasing as the baby boomers are starting to retire en masse.

The War on Poverty has been just as much of a rousing success as the War on Drugs, the War on Booze, and just about every other War on a Noun ever declared by the government. It seems that if you want to have more of something, the most surefire way to achieve that goal is to have the government declare a war on it and devote trillions of dollars of the next generation's paychecks to it.

One of the reasons for that is the fact that the creation of an agency to wage a war on X leads to hundreds of thousands of federal employees making a paycheck fighting X, and therefore drastically reducing the agency's incentive to eradicate X. Who, after all, wants to eliminate the very thing that provides their livelihood?

Now some Boy Genius comes along and tells the downtrodden masses that the only reason such programs haven't worked yet is because people like him haven't been in charge yet. The downtrodden masses, by and at large, don't care nearly as much about the nation's poverty rate or entitlement expenditures as they do about who's going to send the check, and when. People like Edwards know this, of course, and thus every election becomes a contest of "Who can promise the most free stuff to the greatest number of people?"

I'm starting to think that "None of the above is acceptable" is a suitable choice for my 2008 ballot entry. I mean, who's going to die if we have the Oval Office standing empty for four years?

That won't fly, of course...if people saw that the world didn't end without a Chief Executive running the show for four years, they'd start thinking that it won't end if the White House was converted to a library or some other useful place.

Monday, May 7, 2007

the burden of responsibility.

This is what I carry on my person every time I leave the house. (Actually, the cell phone is missing from the lineup, and sometimes I tote around a Palm handheld as well.)

There's the carry gun (a S&W Model 13), the holster (DeSantis Speed Scabbard), speedloader in its pouch (DeSantis Second Six), two speed strips for the right front pocket, slimline wallet for the left front pocket, and a red Kershaw Blur in the corner of the right back pocket.

Carrying a weapon is a pain on the best of days. The gun is made of two pounds of steel, and the spare ammo and carry leather add another pound or so. This gear has to ride on the belt, in a manner that's bearable for an entire day if necessary, and it has to be concealed from view at all times. You have to dress around the gun, move and bend over with the gun in mind, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. You have to anticipate and deal with people bumping into you, friends or relatives giving you an unintended patdown via hug, or your cover garment riding up when you pick up your toddler on the playground. Yes, carrying a weapon is a big pain in the ass on the best of days, and it's a downright burden when the temperature outside tops a hundred degrees.

Still, it wouldn't occur to me to leave the house without all that gear any more than it would to ride a motorcycle without helmet and armor, or to drive the car without using a seatbelt. It has nothing to do with machismo, or paranoia--it's just another piece of safety gear. There's a fire extinguisher under our kitchen counter, there's an airbag in my steering wheel, and there's a revolver on my belt. It's as simple as that.

Some people say that the likelihood of an incident requiring the use of a gun is so small as to be insignificant. My answer to that is usually that it's not the odds that bother me, it's what's at stake. If I make it to old age without ever having to clear leather in self-defense, I'll die a happy man--but that doesn't mean I'm willing to place a wager in that particular game of chance.

There are others who say that the gun is evidence of a "violent mindset", and that carrying one means you're out looking to shoot someone. That's a load of crap, of course--does having a fire extinguisher in your house mean that you're looking to have a fire?

Friday, May 4, 2007

on the subject of taxes.

I've had a lot of debates with a lot of different people over the years on the topic of taxation. My opinion, the only one that is consistent with the Non-Aggression Principle, is that taxation is theft.

That position is apparently too radical to stomach for many people. Advance this position in a debate, and people will call you a "pie in the sky libertarian", a radical, a utopist, and other (less flattering) things. Sure, they all agree that we pay too much in taxes, or that the wrong people are paying too much or too little, or that taxes are spent on the wrong things, but it's common opinion that we need some taxation, because it serves the public good, or society, or whatever else you choose to call the group of folks making up your neighborhood. People will argue until they're blue in the face that no, taxation isn't theft, because of implied consent and majority rule and fairness and all kinds of reasons that are supposed to be mitigating factors--good reasons why it's right and proper for the government to come knock at your door, hold a gun to your head, and demand that you hand over part of your paycheck under pain of death.

Now, it's illegal and immoral for you to walk over to your neighbor's house and demand money at gunpoint. It remains illegal and immoral even if the entire street decides to stop by at your neighbor's house to do the same, and there's absolutely no mitigating factor that would excuse such an act. It doesn't matter how much money your neighbor makes, how little you make, how noble the intended use of that stolen money, or how many children go hungry in your own house--the second you show up at his door and threaten or employ force to get at your neighbor's wallet, it becomes an immoral and illegal act of coercion.

At what point, then, does it become moral and legal to do the same on a larger scale? Is it just the number of people showing up at your neighbor's doorstep? Where's the magical threshold where a coercive act becomes right and legal and moral? Ten people? A hundred? A thousand? A million?

Now, there are plenty of folks who will defend taxation, even minimal taxation, with all kinds of arguments. They'll talk about "implied consent", "social contracts", and other imaginary moral constructs that are supposed to turn strong-arm robbery into a transaction of mutual consent. All those arguments, however, do not negate the fact that all taxation involves the involuntary transfer of property under threat of force.

(There are those, of course, who defend the morality of taxation with the argument that they pay their taxes voluntarily because they see the need for the expenditure. That's baloney, of course--you cannot give consent to being robbed, or raped, and have the robbery or rape magically turn into charity giving or consensual sex. It would only be a true choice if there was no coercion involved, no threat of violence in case of non-compliance.)

The "social contract" is another one of those non-existing constructs that mainly serve to make the robbers feel morally justified, and the robbed feel less violated. You cannot be a party to a contract which you never signed, and the fact that you were born into a society does not constitute consent to anything (and definitely not consent to the confiscation of half your productive output for the duration of your life.)

True, there are services that are desirable. National defense, fire protection, garbage collection, libraries...those are all nice things to have, for sure. None of them excuse robbery, however, and if your idea fails to get enough enthusiasm from the community to get enough folks to toss money into the hat voluntarily, then that's too bad. Besides, there are very few (if any) items on that list of desirable services which cannot be handled by private contract and the open market.

A while back, I had a discussion with someone who likened taxation to a contract with a homeowner's association, or maybe the boy who comes and cuts your lawn. I told him that the analogy was faulty, and presented him with a more accurate version.

I agree that you mow my lawn every week, in exchange for $20 per week, payable every year. You start doing the job, and we're both happy for a little while.

Then you take it upon yourself to prune the trees on my property. You also clean my pool, paint the outside of my house, and re-pave my driveway. The problem is that not only did I not ask you to perform the work, but you're doing a horrible job at it: the trees are cut way more than necessary, you don't remove the branches from the lawn, your "pool cleaning" consists of dumping a bottle of shampoo into the pool, and your paving job is merely a coat of paint that runs down the driveway at the first rain. You've only painted one side of the house, and it's a color I can't stand.

At the end of the year, you present me with a bill. Your original $20 per week have been increased to $ say it's more difficult to mow the lawn because of all the tree branches. You've charged me $400 for a pool cleaning, including $150 for a bottle of "pool cleaning agent". Your driveway "paving job" comes to $2000, and the house paint job is listed at $2000 as well. Instead of the originally agreed $1040 for a year of weekly mowing, I am looking at $10,640 for "property maintenance".

There's also a $1,040 item on the bill described as "Fairness Tariff". When I ask you what that is, you say that this money will pay your maintenance of your brother's lawn. (Your brother's lawnmower is broken, and he hasn't gotten around to fixing it). I protest this item, and you say that it's only fair that I "pay my share" to keep up the neighborhood.

I point out that I never agreed to let you do all those other things, and you break out the contract. At the end, you've unilaterally appended the following sentence: "All property maintenance shall be performed by the lawnmower operator; rates shall be determined by said operator after services are rendered. Scope of property maintenance shall also be determined by lawnmower operator."

When I protest and say that I never agreed to that clause, you point out that I gave my "implied consent" by signing the original contract, and that all the other services rendered are related to lawn care anyway. Besides, you say that I have the right to negotiate a new contract or shop for a different one every four years...the only problem is that you and your cousin Bill are the only lawnmower guys in town, since you beat up the other kids who try to break into the business. I've tried to buy my own lawnmower, but the city council (mostly made up of your family members) has outlawed unlicensed private ownership of motor-powered mowers, for safety and noise pollution reasons. (They also determine who gets a license.)

I refuse to pay the bill, and you drag me into court, where the judges are all related to you. When I protest this extortion racket, the judge tells me, "You should have known how things work around here. The whole town knows how the lawnmowing business works in this neighborhood. You always had the option not to move here."

Thursday, May 3, 2007

this is my rifle.

This is my rifle.

Note the choice of words--not "one of my rifles" (which is also true), but "my rifle"--the one that was made for my shoulder, even though it left the factory the year before my father was born.

It's nothing rare, or valuable. It's a No.4 Mk.I* Enfield, made in Canada at the Long Branch arsenal in 1943, when my grandfather was driving a train in the employment of the Wehrmacht somewhere on the Russian front. They made hundreds of thousands of them, and this one doesn't even have any collector's value, because at some point in its life it was shortened by four inches and sold as a "Tanker Enfield".

The finish is sub-par; they used up whatever black spray-on paint they had rolling around over at Navy Arms after they did the chop-job conversion.

I bought this rifle for a hundred and change in Lawrenceville, Georgia, at a place called Bullseye Sports. It has seen much ammo through the barrel since I brought it home, and most of it has been corrosively-primed Canadian surplus. It's not much to look at, worthless to a collector, and completely devoid of flash and glitz and tacticality. It has no optics, just aperture iron sights. It has no accessory rails, vertical foregrip, fancy sling swivels, laser, or flashlight. Its only accessory is an eight-dollar leather sling.


I can put ten rounds into a target the size of a shoebox at a hundred yards as fast as I can work the bolt, and perforate the same target at two hundred with more deliberate aim all day long. It puts the bullets exactly where I want them to go, and the bolt works so smoothly that it almost loads itself when you work that bolt handle. It has the short stock on it, and by all rights should be kicking like a mule, but it has the lowest recoil of any .30-caliber battle rifle I've ever shot. Something about this rifle makes it work exceptionally well with my shoulder, and hands, and arms, and eyes, to the point where putting bullets on target feels as natural as breathing and walking.

This is the rifle I'll grab if I ever have need of a longarm in a place other than a rifle range. This is the rifle that stands by to defend me and mine if necessary. This is the rifle that marks my personal line in the sand, the line that none who come looking for trouble shall pass with impunity. This is the rifle that will never be traded, or sold, or surrendered, to anyone, at any price, for any reason.

This is my rifle.

And the only way it will ever leave my possession is when I pass it down to my children.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

of all the reasons...

You know, there are a few, select scenarios where I would accept having to spend the rest of my life in jail for my actions.

This, however, is not one of them.

Guy gets annoyed at an ATV driver buzzing by his abode repeatedly. Guy walks out into the road, confronts ATV driver, and gets into an argument. Both men go home to fetch weapons, return to the spot of the original argument, and duel each other, old school.

End result: ATV driver dead, noise hater arrested and charged with the equivalent of Murder One.

That's what happens when you let yourself be ruled completely by your emotions. I mean, there's nothing wrong with emotions, but a feeling is never a good substitute for rational thought when it comes to problem-solving skills.