Settling In

October 13th, 2014

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Clio's making herself at home. Maia doesn't always seem to approve of the new arrangements, though.

Clio on the couch

Clio

October 8th, 2014

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I've had Maia for just over two years, so it's time for a new dog.

(A companion, not a replacement. It's important to make that distinction clear when you bring your existing dog to the shelter.)

So, this is Clio.

The coloring suggests English Setter, but the nose and ears are something closer to a Labrador. We're off to the vet tomorrow to get a better idea on age and lineage.

Eric Holder Resigning

September 26th, 2014

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It may seem like odd timing, but it makes a perverse sort of sense. Come Monday, the Department of Justice will be required to release documents they previously withheld from Congress during the Fast & Furious investigation. Holder may be trying to distance himself from whatever fallout might ensue, but he remains in contempt of Congress for that bit of obstruction.

While it looks like he'll escape any consequences from that (and it has for some time), one can only hope this will haunt his professional life. Two American law-enforcement officers and over 150 Mexicans died as a result of a botched operation that took place on his watch.

As it stands, we've got a midterm election coming up, and there's a possibility of the Senate changing hands in January. If that's the case (and I'm not sold on it), the President will have a difficult time appointing a favorable successor. Expect a nominee before that.

I imagine Solicitor General Verrilli's name will be in the running. He's the safe choice. Deval Patrick's name was briefly floated, but his political baggage is more disastrous than Holder's.

Kamala Harris is also a possibility, which concerns me. She instituted California's ballistic fingerprinting system, supported Proposition H (a total ban on handguns in San Francisco), and signed on to an amicus curiae brief in the Heller case arguing against the individual right to keep and bear arms.

We're not going to get a good appointee, but Verrilli seems the least dangerous possibility.

DC Has a Carry Law, and It's Terrible

September 21st, 2014

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In response to their recent court loss in Palmer v. DC, the District of Columbia has drafted a law [pdf] allowing civilians to carry firearms. The city council is doing their best to flaunt the court order without veering into direct contempt, much as they did following the Heller decision.

Essentially, one might be able to get a permit to carry in the District, but the bill is structured in such a way as to make it virtually useless. Here are the major provisions:

Applicants must demonstrate "a good reason to fear injury" and "a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community." Applicants must provide documented evidence of their plight. Said evidence may not be enough to sway the issuing authorities, who can deny the existence of a special need on a whim.

Applicants have to complete a course certified by the Chief of Police that includes at least 16 hours of training. The course must cover "situational awareness, conflict management, and moral and ethical decisions on the use of deadly force." How much will something like that cost, and how many instructors are there in the District to conduct it?

The Chief of Police may limit "the geographic area, circumstances, or times of the day, week, month, or year in which the license is effective."

Licensees may not carry in the following places:

  • Any building owned or under the control of the District
  • Any public transportation vehicle, including the Metrorail transit system
  • Any public gathering or special event conducted on property open to the public that requires issuance of a permit from the District or federal government
  • Within 1,000 feet, or other lesser distance designated by the Chief or his or her designee, when a dignitary or high ranking official of the United States or a state, local, or foreign government is under the protection of the Metropolitan Police Department, or other law enforcement agency
  • Any prohibited circumstance that the Chief determines by rule

The first four provisions cover pretty much every part of the District. Just for good measure, that last provision grants the Chief the authority to ban carry in any other place by fiat.

This is clearly not what Judge Scullin intended, and it's indicative of a larger trend. We win in the courts, and the defendants comply as little as possible, forcing us to sue again. They hope to wear us down by attrition.

Sensenbrenner Wants to Shut Down the ATF

September 18th, 2014

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So, we've got a proposal on the table [pdf] to break up the ATF and fold its responsibilities into other law-enforcement agencies. The idea is to give the FBI authority to enforce firearms regulations while giving the alcohol/tobacco stuff over to the DEA.

I'd love to see it happen. Homer Cummings' little post-Prohibition revenue collection agency has grown into the arbiter of our firearms laws, and it would be a gross understatement to say they've done a horrendous job of it.

This is the agency that funneled guns across the border to Mexico in the Fast & Furious operation, who distributed swag to their agents emblazoned with "ATF: Always Think Forfeiture," and who were responsible for the debacles at Ruby Ridge and Waco.

Then there's the problem of their "whites only" Good Ol' Boys Roundup, which lasted more than a decade before being shut down.

Beyond the abuses lies the issue of gross incompetence.  They're charged with maintaining a registry of ~130,000 machine guns straight, but they've admitted an error rate of at least 50% in the NFRTR.

So, yes, I'd rather see the FBI running things. They're an older, larger organization run by professionals. They're the very antithesis of the ATF's go-getter cowboy culture–one that has resulted in serious catastrophes.

The funny thing? The idea of folding the ATF into the FBI has come up several times over the years. John Conyers proposed a bill after Ruby Ridge and Waco that even got support from Al Gore. The reaction from many ATF agents was favorable. They'd get better support and a much better working environment. It also wouldn't hurt to have the same organization handling compliance and enforcement of firearms laws.

There will always be regulation on firearms. If it's to be done, I'd rather have the FBI doing it.

Unfortunately, this is unlikely to pass under the current administration. One of the President's few successful actions after Sandy Hook was appointing a permanent director for the ATF, and he's not going to be keen on dismantling the organization.

If things change in 2016, this would be worth bringing up.

On Prohibition

September 16th, 2014

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I'm a big fan of Kennesaw's Swift-Cantrell park, and I was dismayed to see this sign posted yesterday.

I understand the ban on tobacco. Secondhand smoke is a very real hazard, and nobody likes to see cigarette butts or puddles of treacly tobacco on the ground. E-cigarettes are a different matter. They don't generate litter, and exposure to bystanders is pretty much nil outdoors.

Furthermore, e-cigarettes aren't tobacco. Ordinance § 66-2(c)(3) makes it unlawful to "sell, smoke, or consume tobacco products." The Breathe Easy policy is overreaching.

Doug Taylor is the Parks & Recreation Director for the city. He can be contacted here. Please be civil and polite in all correspondence.

ATF Pushing Ahead with 41P

September 15th, 2014

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A year ago, the President advanced a number of regulatory proposals on gun control. One of the more esoteric ones involved changing the way trusts are handled in regards to NFA firearms.

The original action date was to have been last June, but the BATFE was deluged with comments. While action appeared to have been pushed back to 2015, the Bureau has recently published a draft form [pdf].

Essentially, any "responsible party" of a trust or corporation must now file this form and seek approval from local law enforcement. That approval is impossible to obtain in many areas.

The BATFE stands to gain nothing. They're saddled with the paperwork, but it doesn't generate any revenue. As such, I doubt they'll hire on more examiners to address the workload. The end result will be an exponential growth in wait times for NFA approvals across the board.

There's no saying when 41P might be enacted, but I wouldn't be surprised if the administration wants to rush this one in before the midterms so they can show some success on gun control.

Echopraxia by Peter Watts

September 5th, 2014

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Science fiction is often divided into two main genres: soft and hard. Soft science fiction tends to be more humanistic, with a greater emphasis on traditional story and character development. Ursula Le Guin, Theodore Sturgeon, and Cordwainer Smith are good examples.

Hard science fiction tends to focus on concepts, with more weight given to scientific rigor and speculation. Its lineage stretches from Asimov and Clarke to modern authors like Greg Bear and Alastair Reynolds. It's not to say these guys can't write stories, but this is primarily a literature of ideas.

That's where Watts comes in. His books are defined by pessimism towards the future and a density of scientific detail. He wants to make a point as well as tell a story.

Continued »

Dear ISIS

August 12th, 2014

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Any time you want to stop the killings and coerced "conversions" of Christians would be great. For a bunch of guys who claim to be acting on the tenets of God or Muhammad, you're defying both.

Consider Muhammad's covenant with the monks of St. Catherine's:

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

Further, from the Pococke translation:

Whosoever shall annul any of one of these my decrees, let him know positively that he annuls the ordinance of God. (…) No one shall bear arms against them, but, on the contrary, the Muslims shall wage war for them.

This is all a callback to Surah 29, which states:

And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, "We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him."

Many people claim that Islam is the cause or justification for the horrors being perpetuated in Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth.

National Mutt Day

July 31st, 2014

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They get their own holiday, too. Since Maia doesn't actually have a job, she doesn't get a day off.

So, mostly it's an extra popsicle and a bit more crotch sniffing than President's Day.

Maia on the couch

Fast & Furious: Unexpected Progress

July 31st, 2014

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Two years ago, Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress. At issue was his refusal to turn over documents crucial to the investigation of the ATF's disastrous Fast & Furious operation. The President invoked executive privilege and refused to turn over the information.

Shortly after, the website Judicial Watch made an Freedom of Information Act request for those documents. Nothing came of it, so they filed a lawsuit in September of 2012. That lawsuit was decided earlier this month by U.S. District Court Judge John Bates, who ruled that the Department of Justice must provide a Vaughn index of the relevant documents.

The Supreme Court established the concept of the Vaughn index in Vaughn v. Rosen. An agency that wishes to withhold information must provide a detailed index and description of the information, state the statutory exemption claimed, and they must explain how disclosure would damage their interests.

Does this mean we'll get all the answers? No, but it will point us in the right direction.

10th Circuit Upholds Multiple Long Gun Reporting

July 28th, 2014

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In 2011, the ATF began requiring dealers in Southwestern border states to report sales of multiple semiautomatic rifles to individual purchasers. The ATF doesn't have the authority to do this.* As such, the requirement has been challenged in the DC and 5th Circuit courts, but it was upheld in both instances.

Today, the 10th Circuit issued a ruling [pdf] affirming them.

Among the lovely chestnuts of wisdom was this:

A review of Project Gunrunner conducted by the Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) indicates that tracing guns seized in Mexico can provide “crucial” information in gun-trafficking investigations and generate intelligence regarding trends in gun smuggling. (…) [Assistant Director of Field Operations William Hoover] explained that trace information helps ATF “reconstruct the flow of weapons along the border, how and where they are being purchased, and who is purchasing them.”

Yeah, because that worked so well when Project Gunrunner was active.

* Here's the multiple-handgun form [pdf]. It specifies "pistol or revolver." Nowhere does it grant them the power to demand reporting of long guns. If they want that, they have to get authority from Congress.

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