The Last Jedi isn't the Star Wars film we wanted, but it's the one we need.

December 18th, 2017

The Last Jedi has more than its share of plot twists. There's almost no way to discuss the movie without spoiling them. If you haven't seen it yet, please do so before reading on.

Remember the last scene of The Force Awakens? Rey has tracked Luke Skywalker across the galaxy. She seeks training, and the Resistance needs his help. She shows up on his doorstep and presents him with a lightsaber. The movie ends with that shot. Rey's face is filled with expectation. Luke's expression is hard to gauge.

It's not just any lightsaber. It was Luke's first, the one that belonged to his father, Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One who was prophesied to bring balance to the Force, trained by Jedi Master Kenobi…oh, for $%^&# sake.

It was with no small amount of relief that I laughed aloud when Luke's first act in the new film is to take the saber, examine it, and throw it over his shoulder. He isn't going to train Rey to lead the next generation of Jedi. He's done with all that.

And really, so are we. That's the whole point of The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson has done something unexpected and wonderful with the franchise: he's reinvented it.

The first Star Wars movie introduced us to Luke and the concept of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker was a simple everyman, a farm boy living a dead-end life in the desert. A wise mentor entered the scene and offered Luke a chance to become something greater.

As of the first movie, any of us could have been Luke. That was the point. Then came the Empire Strikes Back and that big revelation. Luke wasn't just anybody. He was the son of Darth Vader. His sister was a princess.

From that point forward, Luke was royalty, a prophet endowed with supernatural powers. Things only got worse with the Prequels, in which we're told Luke's father was the product of immaculate conception and his mother was a queen.

Sorry, kids. Turns out not just anybody gets to be a Jedi. That honor is reserved to a few privileged winners of a genetic lottery. Star Wars became a mythology driven not by heroes, but by legends and icons.

Those people are often woefully inadequate in their roles. That's the lesson of The Last Jedi, and it's one that's long overdue.

Luke failed. That's not something gilded royalty are supposed to do, and he doesn't know how to deal with it. He's retired to an abandoned island to wallow in self-pity, and he's not much help to Rey as a mentor.

Instead, it's up to Rey to follow her own path. There have been innumerable fan theories as to her heritage, and I'm glad Johnson cleared it up in this film. Rey is nothing special. She's a poor kid from the desert whose parents went to the liquor store one day for cigarettes and never came back.

She's a nobody, and that's precisely why she's important. Rey gets to determine her own life. She gets to make her own choices and mistakes without having the weight of prophecy on her back. In short, she can be any of us.  As Yoda tells Luke, "we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters."

I'm not the least bit sad to see the Jedi Order and its beaurocracy go. The Force belongs to everybody, and Johnson has given it back.

The One about the CDC and Guns

October 17th, 2017

One of the canards we keep hearing from gun-control advocates is that the CDC is somehow banned from doing research on gun violence, and that this is a contributing factor to the problem. President Obama used it, Secretary Clinton used it, and the media has latched on to it since Newtown.

The problem is, it's an absolute lie. The CDC can do all the studies they want. However, if they want to do advocacy, they don't get federal funding to do so.

Their crusade against guns (particularly handguns) started in the 1970's, but things reached a head in 1993 with the publication of Arthur Kellerman's “Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home” study, which despite being easily and soundly debunked, was published and repeated like crazy among the media and gun-control advocates. Any time you hear "you're X times more likely to get shot if you own a gun," it's a reference to this study.

And Kellerman wasn't alone. Just about every article on the matter published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association in from 1985 to 1995 was obviously written to advocate for the banning or reduction of handguns, even when data didn't line up with that conclusion.

In 1994, Dr. Katherine Christoffel, a member of the CDC-funded Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan was quoted as saying, “guns are a virus that must be eradicated… They are causing an epidemic of death by gunshot, which should be treated like any epidemic…you get rid of the virus…get rid of the guns, get rid of the bullets, and you get rid of deaths.”

Later that year, CDC head Mark Rosenberg told the Washington Post, “we need to revolutionize the way we look at guns, like we did with cigarettes. Now it is dirty, deadly and banned.” He also published an article in one journal entitled "The Bullet as Pathogen."

This was pretty much the height of the gun-control movement in America. They had the sympathetic, unquestioning ear of the pre-internet, three-channel media. They had an administration in the White House who was willing to sign off on any legislation they could get through congress.

Then the Republicans took control of Congress, and in 1996, the Dickey Amendment was inserted into an omnibus spending bill. It stated, "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control." The $2.6 million that had been allotted for gun research was reallocated to the study of brain injuries.

At no point was any money actually cut from the CDC budget. In no way is the CDC prohibited from doing gun research. The only thing the Dickey Amendment does is deny funding for advocacy.  In fact, the Obama administration gave them $10 million in 2013 to do a study on gun violence. The Atlantic called it, "the “Executive Order the NRA Should Fear the Most."

Then the CDC did their study. The results (which the administration so wanted to be politicized their way) weren't what they wanted. Here are a few quotes:

Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was ‘used’ by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.

Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year…in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008.

The number of public mass shootings of the type that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School accounted for a very small fraction of all firearm-related deaths. Since 1983 there have been 78 events in which 4 or more individuals were killed by a single perpetrator in 1 day in the United States, resulting in 547 victims and 476 injured persons.  [Remember this one when they tell you there's a mass shooting every day in this country.]

Unintentional firearm-related deaths have steadily declined during the past century. The number of unintentional deaths due to firearm-related incidents accounted for less than 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in 2010.

There is empirical evidence that gun turn in programs are ineffective, as noted in the 2005 NRC study Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review. For example, in 2009, an estimated 310 million guns were available to civilians in the United States (Krouse, 2012), but gun buy-back programs typically recover less than 1,000 guns (NRC, 2005). On the local level, buy-backs may increase awareness of firearm violence. However, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for example, guns recovered in the buy-back were not the same guns as those most often used in homicides and suicides (Kuhn et al., 2002).

Whether gun restrictions reduce firearm-related violence is an unresolved issue.


The administration promptly buried it, which is why most people are unaware of it. In fact, they were given money, they did their survey, and it just didn't meet the a priori conclusions gun-control advocates wanted.

Whenever you hear a politician, news anchor, or Twitter celebrity tell you the CDC is banned from doing gun research, they are plainly and simply lying.

But they're not coming for your guns…

October 16th, 2017

Another mass shooting, another opportunity to politicians ignore the root causes and just exploit it for pet legislation.  Here's the rundown of what has been proposed on the federal level so far.

HR 3998: the Protect America Act of 2017.  What an inspiring name! This one claims its purpose is to deny firearms sales to "known or suspected terrorists."  So, if you're on a vague, unconstitutional list with no notification or due process, you can be denied the right to own a gun.  This has nothing to do with the Las Vegas shooter.

HR 3999: the "bump stock" bill.  This would outlaw "bump fire" stocks, as well as "any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but does not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun."  That language is vague enough to include any replacement trigger, even one that simply makes a hunting rifle more accurate or a pistol easier to shoot for someone with weak hands.  While it might seem to be relevant to the shooting, bump fire can be performed without the silly stock, and the language about triggers is vague enough to snare innocent people in a statutory trap.  And that's exactly the idea.

HR 4018: a 3-day waiting period for handguns.  Waiting periods have never been proven to do anything, and several states have repealed them.  Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Las Vegas shooting.

HR 4025: Multiple Firearm Sales Reporting Modernization Act of 2017.  Currently, licensed dealers are required to report multiple handgun sales in a 5-day period to a single person.  This act would apply that requirement to all firearms.  I've seen no indication that the Las Vegas shooter bought multiple guns at once, so this is pretty much more burdensome paperwork for dealers and nothing more.

HR 4052: a ban on transfer or possession of "high capacity" magazines.  This one outlaws all magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of centerfire ammunition.  Notice it bans possession.  That means all magazines currently lawfully owned would have to be turned in or destroyed.

S 1945 is basically the Senate version, charmingly titled the Keep Americans Safe Act.

S 1923: Background Check Completion Act of 2017.  This outlaws what Hillary Clinton referred to as the "Charleston loophole."  Currently, the FBI has three business days to conduct a background check and determine if a buyer is prohibited from taking possession of a firearm.  If they can't provide a result within that period, the buyer is assumed to be legal and the dealer can transfer the gun.  This bill would make it so the buyer cannot take possession until the dealer receives a definitive "proceed" result from the FBI, a process that can sometimes take months, and sometimes never happens.  This one's easy:  simply shut down the NICS system, and nobody gets a gun.  Again, this has no connection to the Las Vegas shooting.

HR 3962: Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2017.  This one's fairly obvious, and like the others, does not seem to have anything to do with the Las Vegas shooting.  What it does do is make it very diffivult for people in areas without nearby gun shops to get ammunition.

HR 3987: Protecting Americans from Gun Violence Act of 2017.  Oh, this one is great.  It stipulates a fee on background checks (which we were promised was never going to happen as a condition of getting the Brady Act passed in the first place), the funds from which will go to funding CDC research into "gun violence."  It also requires lost or stolen firearms to be reported to the police within 48 hours.  Failure to do so is punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to a year in prison for each firearm.  Again, this has nothing to do with…well, you get the point.

Something needs to be clarified about "bump stocks" at this point.  They've been around for quite some time.  In 1996, the ATF grudgingly ruled that the Akins Accelerator was not a "machine gun."  They were technically correct.  The National Firearms Act has a very specific definition, to wit:

Any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

With bump stocks, the trigger is being cycled rapidly, but it is still only firing one shot per pull.  Therefore, it's not a machine gun, and the ATF can't classify it as such.

Lately, we've been hearing that the Obama administration is somehow to blame for this because the ATF offered similar approval to the Slide Fire stock in 2010.  This had nothing to do with politics; it's a matter of technology.  The ATF cannot change the definition under the law.  That's the job of the legislature.

And therein lies the problem.  There are several different mechanisms to allow bump fire, and outlawing them all is going to require specific wording.  HR 3999 gets around that by being so vague as to be dangerous.  Furthermore, you don't need to buy an aftermarket product to bump fire a gun.  French revolutionaries rigged guns with wire to do so in World War II, and many shooters are aware of a trick involving rubber bands and belt loops.

Are we then to ban the practice of bump firing as well as the hardware?  We're going down a pointless rabbit hole here, all based on the same asinine assumption that we can stop malicious actors by banning certain pieces of hardware.

None of the legislative proposals listed above would have done anything to stop the Las Vegas shooting, and even if passed, they won't stop future shootings.  It's nothing but virtue signaling for gun-control advocates and "concerned" celebrities.

Not Really Katrina

September 7th, 2017

As Hurricane Irma approaches the Virgin Islands, Governor Kenneth Mapp has issued an order allowing the National Guard to confiscate lawfully owned firearms from citizens if deemed necessary.

Many people are drawing parallels between this and the situation in New Orleans in 2005, when Mayor Ray Nagin signed a similar order. The NRA brought litigation then, and Congress responded by outlawing any such future confiscations.

So, it seems Mapp's order would be illegal, right? Not exactly.

As an unincorporated territory, Virgin Islands are governed under the provisions of the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands. The US Constitution, which limits the authority of the federal government, doesn't really apply there. It's something of a gray area. The USVI proposed their own constitution in 2007, but nothing came of it.

This, along with the Insular Cases as precedent, will cause real problems for 2nd (or 5th) Amendment claims. It stinks, but this is the situation.

Gizmonic Feedback Alterator #3

August 7th, 2017

Some days, you just feed some material into the machinery. Some of those days, something interesting comes out. I've no idea what to call it, so here goes.

Trump's War

April 8th, 2017

It appears the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, namely Sarin, on its own citizens. It's only human to feel grief and outrage. Something needs to be done.

The frustrating truth is, we're not the ones to do it. Sryia poses no direct threat to the United States or its interests. Military action on our part is simply not justified. It would be nice to see the United Nations grow a pair and intervene, but we have no real authority to act on our own. To do so is to engage in exactly the sort of overbearing forced regime changes we so resent Vladimir Putin for doing.

It is also a complete violation of a very significant campaign promise made by Donald Trump, which gives me pause. Trump ran on the idea that we wouldn't get involved in things like this, that we wouldn't become the world's policeman, and that he'd pursue a Wilsonian "America First" sort of isolationism.

That appears to be out the window. But why, and why now? The Syrian government has been killing its citizens for seven years. The whole time, President Trump told us it wasn't our fight. Am I to believe that a picture of a dying child changed his entire world view?

Perhaps. The man is a living Markov chain, often appearing to run on the whims and impulses of the moment. The idea of such a man sending our soldiers into war is very unsettling.

I suspect it's worse, and here comes the fun part: in which I lament the loss of Steve Bannon, of all people. Bannon was a huge influence on Trump's policy vision, and at the center of that was avoiding foreign military intervention. There have been innumerable reports of him openly feuding with the hawks in Trump's circle. I have a very difficult time accepting that his ouster from the NSC yesterday doesn't have something to do with Trump's sudden, rash decision to order missile strikes on Syria.

In short, I think somebody got to Trump. I mentioned Wilson before, and his early term is worth revisiting. He ran on a populist, isolationist platform, much like Trump. He won reelection with the slogan "he kept us out of war." He even pursued a position of neutrality when the Lusitania was sunk with 128 Americans on board. We're expected to believe a single telegram from Germany to Mexico suddenly swayed a nation from neutrality to a war stance.

I doubt it was that simple then, and I doubt it now. The timing of Bannon's departure lines up too well.

So now we're committed, and we're very likely alone. Ambassador Haley has already told the UN that we'll continue to strike if Assad crosses ill-defined red lines. Well, as of today, Assad has resumed his bombings of civilian targets. If we fail to respond, we look weak, and that's not something this President will abide at all.

We've no justification and no coalition. All this does is edge us closer to a repeat of our Cold War bush wars with Russia. What's worse is that we live in a time when wars never end. We still have Afghanistan on our plate, and it's not as if Iraq is stable. There is absolutely no point and nothing to be gained by us opening a third front in Syria.

I don't know who's whispering in Trump's ear right now, but it isn't Bannon and it certainly isn't Maddis. This whole fiasco suggests that Maddis is somehow out of the loop, and that frightens me most of all.

It's a morbid parallel that the strikes occurred one day after the 100th anniversary of our entry into World War I.  116,000 Americans died in those trenches, driven to madness, choking on poisoned air, aching with starvation, and ultimately cut down by the brutal machinery Europe had adopted to carry on their petty centuries-old grudge matches.

We had no place settling the world's scores then, and we have no place doing so now.

It Looks Like Private FFL's Are a Thing Again

December 29th, 2016

Once upon a time, you could order a gun through the Sears catalog and have it mailed to your door.  Contrary to much of the political rhetoric you may have heard, that's no longer the case.  In fact, it hasn't been since 1968, when the Gun Control Act mandated the requirement for a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to transfer firearms.  Essentially, one had to acquire the license to "deal" in firearms, and the licensee would act as a gatekeeper between manufacturers and the general public.

Many collectors acquired the license and used it to transfer firearms to friends and other collectors.  That was, until Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center decided he didn't like that.  Among several of his odious initiatives, he successfully badgered the Clinton administration into wiping out non-profit, or "kitchen table," FFL's in the 1990's.  Since then, common wisdom was that the ATF would not issue a Type 1 FFL to anybody who was not "engaged in the business" of selling firearms for a profit.

Then it came up that Sugarmann himself has had an FFL for quite some time.  Let the hypocrisy sink in for a moment.

I filed an FOIA request to the ATF in 2010.  Then I did it again.  And again.  A few months back, I finally got someone at the Bureau who was interested in helping me.  The resulting document dump is here.  It's a bit large if you're on a slow connection.

The upshot is this:

  • The FFL was issued to the VPC
  • It was denied at first because they are a declared nonprofit, and not "in the business"  (Notice Sugarmann resubmitted the application and checked the box saying he did intend to make a profit.)
  • Sugarmann responded that he was a "firearms expert in design and manufacture," and that he needed the FFL for the "examination and publication of written material" on the subject.  He explicitly states, "no firearms or ammunition will be sold."
  • The ATF decided that was acceptable criteria, and the FFL was issued.  It continues to be routinely renewed.

Well, huh.

I reached out to the ATF and asked them how one gets a Type 1 FFL if he's not running a for-profit business.  This was the initial response:

Thank you for your recent inquiry to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).  This is in response to your email, in which you inquired about whether a nonprofit organization may be issued a Federal firearms license (FFL) for the purpose of publication of research and whether there are any licensing exceptions that exist for nonprofit organizations who are not engaged in a firearms business.

There are no exceptions to the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) allowing organizations who are not engaged in in the business to obtain a Federal firearm license (FFL).  We recommend that you obtain any firearm needed for your research from a local FFL.

There was a back-and-forth in which they dug their heels in on this and insisted that there was no exception.  I then brought the VPC FFL to their attention. Either they do this or they don't.

Then I got an email from a L. Babbie, Firearms Enforcement Specialist. Apparently, there is an exception.  It's ruling 73-19.  According to Mr. Babbie,

You may record “N/A” to that question [on making a profit] and attach a sheet of paper to explain the nonprofit nature of your business.  A local ATF Industry Operations Investigator (IOI) will call you to schedule a meeting after your application is received at the local ATF office.

So…if I say I need to receive and ship firearms from my home for research purposes, I can have my own FFL.  I suggest everyone with the interest and time to do so apply immediately and quote this exception.  If you write about guns for a blog, that's research.  If you know a manufacturer who wants you to test out their products, that's research.

If the ATF decides they don't like the situation, they can rescind the ruling, in which case it would be reasonable to expect Sugarmann's FFL will also be voided.  If they issue denials in an inconsistent manner, there's definite potential for an equal protection claim.

I regret that I don't have the time to pursue this as I'd like.  To be honest, getting a response at this late a date was something of a surprise.  I ask that anyone with interest in the matter pass it along to as many people as possible.  I have one attorney looking into it, but the ideal would be to flood the ATF with this in order to push a resolution.

I do find it deliciously ironic that the guy who killed kitchen-table FFL's might be the avenue through which we get them back.

Edit:  Nick Leghorn at TTAG has picked up on this, and there's more input on the Reddit thread here.

How Trump Happened

November 18th, 2016

We've heard the blame shifting.  We've seen the finger pointing.  By now, you've no doubt heard the theory from the Left:  Donald Trump won the election because of uneducated white males, which is liberal codespeak for racists.  Apparently, there are 60 million or so of them.

When the last shred of an argument one has is a shockingly and unfeasibly large allegation of racism, it's time to reconsider strategy.  They were wrong, so wrong it cost the Democrats everything.  Hillary Clinton must be fuming that she not only lost–she lost to Donald Trump.

Just consider that.  He's the most ridiculous and inept Presidential candidate we've ever had.  Any one of his stupendous blunders or unearthed scandals would have been enough to destroy any other campaign.  How did he get this far?

The answer is simple: anger.  Not just the kind that makes people throw a vase and feel better, but the kind that gets deferred.  The kind that festers.

The people the Democrats wrote off as trailer-park hicks are the majority of this country, not the liberals in affluent, coastal (and overwhelmingly white) intellectual towns.  And they've been ignored and let down for too long.  They've endured decades of a Democratic party that abandoned them in the sixties, paid them only cursory lip-service when it needed to pad margins with the "bubba" vote, then mocked them for being too bourgeoisie and unimportant.

That's why Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania went to Trump.  I know. I'm in those places.  I talk to those people all the time.  They're sick of watching pensions dissipate and jobs disappear while all they get from Washington are empty promises.  They're so frustrated with the system they want someone, anyone, to come along and break it.

And they're not just white males.  I suppose nobody wants to actually travel to Montgomery, Shreveport, or Gary to work the exit polls.  If they did, they'd find the Trump coalition to be much broader than they imagined.  I've talked to black and hispanic Trump supporters, male and female, in those states.  They know Trump has a blind spot for race, and that he's got a reprehensible attitude towards the fairer sex.

The thing is this: they were willing to overlook that.  That's the ultimate indictment of the system as they see it.  They didn't elect Trump because they think he's a racist or a misogynist–they voted for him in spite of those things.

That's just how wretched of a candidate Clinton was.  That's just how wretched the Democratic party is at this point.

And yet, they refuse to see it.  They blame the Klan, the Russians, James Comey…oh, come on.

2016 was the year their complacency, their smugness, their illusion of inevitability came back to bite them.  But they're too arrogant, too assured of their own self-righteous correctness to admit it, much less accept it.  They ignored the people who actually work for a living, the people who have real struggles, in favor of spoiled brats who have to seek out conceptual struggles on Facebook and Tindr.  And now those people are rioting in the streets.  How charming.

They deserved to lose, and badly.  Still, I didn't expect it to be this much of a bloodletting.  The Clinton dynasty is done, having effectively aged out with a feeble whimper.  Their candidate hadn't even written her concession speech before all the sycophants, allies, and pundits turned on her and blamed her for the utter crash the party endured this week.

I almost pity her.  I almost pity the Democratic party.  But they created this situation.  Whether or not they'll learn from it depends on whether they have a shred of humility left.

In the meantime, let's hope President Trump doesn't get too frisky with the nuclear codes.

Y'all $#*%ers Need Talos

November 7th, 2016

So, the Skyrim Special Edition is out.  PC players have long had access to graphical upgrades and community mods, but the SE brings those to console players.

Some of the graphics updates are subtle, while others are still quite noticeable.  While the frame rate is still locked at 30fps, load times are drastically reduced.  That said, this is still Skyrim, so some of the character models are janky, and many of the glitches are still there.  Expect to see the occasional mammoth falling out of the sky and such.

The mods are an inexhaustible supply of novelty, though.  The unofficial patch fixes a great number of nagging issues.  Others offer everything from small tweaks (realistic weather effects, better companion dialogue) to entirely new quests and cities.

If you never played this game when it came out, this is a good chance to rectify that mistake. For those of us who did, the upgrades and mods certainly make it worth revisiting.

Here are the obligatory screenshots.  I decided to do something different and run them through the G'MIC filters to give them an oil-painted look.

Do Let's Shut Up

October 9th, 2016

I'm sick of the manufactured outrage this election.  The American public was fully aware what kind of people both Presidential candidates were when we nominated them.  We have only ourselves to blame.

Let's be honest and stop with the fist-waving and name-calling.  We relinquished that right with an enthusiasm and abandon that should trigger nothing but shame in retrospect.

Donald Trump is, for lack of a more articulate adjective, an asshole.  He's the spoiled rich kid, the bully, the fraternity jock who hopes a comely cheerleader will get drunk enough not to remember who took advantage of her in the morning.  The evidence of his disdain for nonwhite elites is apparent to anyone who knows how to use Google, and it always has been.

Those who voted for him in the primaries should have known this.  The only explanation is that we're truly desperate or that we chose to disregard that in favor of bumper-sticker slogans.

The Left doesn't get a pass.  To them, Trump is a blessing.  Hillary Clinton should get on her knees every morning and thank whatever higher power she believes in that she has him for an opponent and not a competent politician.  Let's be honest: in their backrooms and meetings, her campaign staff celebrates every time some woeful piece of his past comes to light.

So does the press.  When a new bombshell drops, they high-five each other.  When the cameras roll, they smooth their jackets, put on an air of righteous indignation, and pretend to be appalled.  If they had a shred of integrity, they'd admit they are absolutely loving this.

The fireworks have an ancillary effect of distracting the public from what an awful politician and human being Hillary Clinton has been.  Is it really coincidence that Trump's soap opera comments fell into the hands of CNN the same day transcripts of Clinton's Wall Street speeches were leaked?  Really.  Come on.

I remember the 1990's.  I remember when Ms. Clinton did her best to discredit and slander the women her husband abused.

I remember when she urged him not to intervene in the Bosnian genocide because it was potentially "a Vietnam that would compromise health care reform," which was Ms. Clinton's pet project at the time.

I remember her full-throated support for the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which increased our minority prison population by 60%.  If there's a candidate who should be pilloried by criminal-justice reformers, it's not Trump.

Then there's the whole issue with the personal email server.  Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier could face up to thirty years in prison for mishandling classified information, even though there is no evidence he planned to share it with anyone outside the chain of command. Clinton did the exact same thing, but on a larger scale, and for a longer span of time.  She got a pass from the FBI because there was no evidence she meant any harm.

The double standard, and the obvious fact that the FBI investigation was managed by the administration, doesn't seem to bother anyone, least of all her supporters.

Why?  Because they believe her personal reinvention as a "progressive," or because they simply "want to see a woman President."   To this end, they voted for her despite the fact she's pretty much the monster Trump is.  His crime may be that he's an incompetent and awful person, but hers is naked corruption.

So, here we are.  Both choices are wretched, but let's at least show some sliver of honesty.  There were other candidates, but this is what we chose.  Voting has its consequences.  Not voting has its consequences.  We get the government we deserve, and in 2016, this is apparently it.

The Lonely World of No Man's Sky

August 21st, 2016

This may be one of the most hyped media properties of the last two years. There was no way the finished product would live up to expectations, especially when those were built on unrealistic assumptions.

This isn't an outer-space shoot 'em up. Players looking for a fast-paced action game are going to be disappointed. Is it the fault of the developers? No. They promised an exploration game built on a dynamic, procedurally-generated universe. On that score, they delivered.

What we do get is a haunting, quiet experience. It rewards, well, just walking around and enjoying the world it creates. There are no easy answers, and the player is expected to figure out the mechanics and lore himself. Its only presumption is that we simply live in it, which is a brave design choice on its own.

The Democrats don't care about gun violence

July 24th, 2016

Oh, sure, they pretend to.  They make sure the media sees their crocodile tears following every public shooting.  They do their little sit-ins for measures that gut due process, and they push selective gun bans that do nothing about the underlying madness that grips our society.

But when it comes to initiatives that actually reduce violence, they clam up.  Case in point:  current Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine.  As Mayor of Richmond, he backed a program that actually reduced gun violence, and now he's taking flak for it.

That's not Alanis Morissette irony; it's the real thing.  Democrats don't really care about inner-city violence, which represents the vast majority of firearms-related homicides in this country.  They care about symbolic gestures that score them political points.

Among other things, Project Exile was notable for receiving the support of both the NRA and the Brady Campaign (then known as Handgun Control, Inc.).  It was hailed by law enforcement.  So, what happened?  Within four years, it withered away from a lack of funding and complaints that people who actually committed crimes with guns were receiving stiff prison sentences.

Another effective strategy was Operation Ceasefire, a deterrence program lauded by the DOJ for reducing Boston's juvenile homicide rate by 63%. The so-called Boston Miracle was empirically verifiable, and its results were repeatable.

So, where are we on that now?  Interest waned, and the money followed.  Then the Newtown shooting put guns back on the political radar.  The President said he wanted a "conversation" on gun violence, and that all the cards were supposedly on the table.

California pastor Michael McBride approached Vice President Biden with the idea of more funding for Operation Ceasefire on the premise that, well, it actually worked to reduce gun violence.  The response from the White House was a total lack of interest.  Apparently, the only cards on the table were limiting the amount of rounds someone can have in a magazine and a expanding a background check system that is routinely ignored by gang members.

This is the grim calculus of the gun-control lobby.  The vast majority of homicide victims are minorities in our inner cities, but Democrats only get their hackles up when it happens to suburban whites.

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