The Confederate Flag Thing

June 26th, 2015


Charleston can a rough town.  They've got a dark history when it comes to race relations.

It's sad that it took the murder of nine people at the hands of a neo-Nazi to get the world to notice that.  It's even sadder that people think taking a stupid flag down will change anything.

Yes, I get it.  The Confederate flag isn't strictly about slavery.  But like it or not, that flag is unavoidably tied to perceptions of dehumanization, oppression, and segregation.

Consider the svastika.  Hitler didn't invent it.  He appropriated it for his uses, and it will forever be tainted by his association.  There's no reclaiming it.  Even if I see it as a Jainist symbol for opportunity, there's no way my Jewish or Polish friends want to see it.

So…yes, it's time to consider taking it down from government offices.  It's a symbol of a divisive and awful time in our history.

But to call the act positive political or social change is a lie.

Everybody's going to throw a fit and draw lines in the sand.  Conservatives will harp that the flag is a symbol of history and heritage.  They're correct, to some extent. But they're also being somewhat tone-deaf.

It doesn't matter.  Liberals will wrap themselves in the garb of social reformers and get drunk on their own imagined virtue.  There may even be singing.  Anyone who disagrees with them will be labeled racists.  It's that one little cheap and reprehensible ad hominem that will shut down any argument.

My biggest problem?  All those pompous, self-satisfied hypocrites will never do anything about the real problems in places like Charleston.  As soon as the flag comes down, they're going to find another issue to write Facebook posts and petitions about.  The issues of economic disparity and unequal opportunities will be yesterday's news next week.

Meanwhile, the same wheel of poverty and discrimination will continue to grind the people who actually live there.  But hey, we took a flag down, so we don't have to think about it anymore.

Victory in Puerto Rico

June 20th, 2015


This one came in under the radar. An organization called Ladies of the 2nd Amendment in Puerto Rico brought a class-action suit challenging the Commonwealth's permitting system.  They won.

In the Court of Salinas, Judge Lugo Anibal Irizarry ruled that Articles 2.01, 2.02, 2.04, 2.05 and 2.06 of the Arms Act failed constitutional scrutiny.  Most notably, he criticized the voucher system, stating "no fundamental right is taxable."  While I doubt we can expect this decision to be quoted in continental cases, it's nice to see an acknowledgement of that.

Residents may now carry firearms without needing to pursue a permit of any sort.  Additionally, there is no longer a licensing requirement for purchasing guns.

The last time I'd seen movement on the issue down there was 2011, in which they won two significant victories.  There isn't a translation of the decision yet, but I've got feelers out.  I'll post it as soon as it's in my hands.

(If anyone would like to translate, the relevant documents are here and here.)

H.R. 2058

May 14th, 2015


The FDA is soon expected to extend its authority to all tobacco products. They consider electronic cigarettes and vaping products to fall into that category, so we could be looking at serious trouble for manufacturers.

Currently, products introduced prior to February of 2007 are grandfathered in under the doctrine of substantial equivalence.  Anything introduced later would have to go through an expensive and difficult approval process.  The problem is, the vast majority of vaping products were introduced after that date.

Rep. Tom Cole has introduced a bill that would move the "substantial equivalence" date for FDA deeming from 2007 to 2015, with a 21-month extension period. That means all vapor products currently on the market would be grandfathered in, as would any introduced in the following 2 years.

It's not ideal by any reckoning.  I'd rather the FDA didn't classify these products as tobacco, but that looks inevitable.

CASAA is supporting it, and you can contact your representative through Popvox.


May 9th, 2015


The sunset, seen from the Gale Crater on Mars.

Sunset. On. Mars.

New Star Wars Trailer

April 16th, 2015


So, we have an actual trailer for the Force Awakens.  It looks like JJ Abrams has the feel of the original trilogy figured out.

I'm not even going to warn you that there are spoilers ahead.  Well, I guess I just did.  With my obligation thus fulfilled, let's get to it.


That's a Star Destroyer crashed in the desert, with a dead X-Wing in the foreground.  Notice the rounded turbines:  that's an old-school model, not one of the new ones.  The battle must have taken place during the original trilogy.


Kylo Ren, the new bad guy.  The mask reminds me of Darth Revan, from the one good Star Wars video game.  His lightsaber looks downright dangerous.


I think that's Leia receiving the lightsaber.  Notice the resemblance to Luke Skywalker's first lightsaber, which he lost in the Empire Strikes Back.  The person handing it over appears to be an alien.

Who ends up with it?  Finn.  Apparently, the stormtrooper gig wasn't working out too well for him.  I expected Daisy Ridley's character to be the one, since she's supposed to be Han and Leia's daughter.


Speaking of Luke, I think that's him.  Who else has a mechanical right hand and hangs out with R2D2?


New stormtroopers.  The Nazi parallels in this scene are hard to miss.  The Empire is gone, and they appear to be serving something called the First Order (the good guys are apparently the Resistance).


Check out this dapper guy.  It looks like they've switched to a more practical rifle than the old converted Sterlings.


The Millennium Falcon being chased by a couple of TIE fighters.  They're actually flying into the fuselage of the dead Star Destroyer.  In case there's any doubt about the pilots, the final shot clears it up.


Shut up.  I've just got something in my eye.  From chopping onions.  Also, allergies.

Ah, screw it.  "Chewie, we're home" is all I needed to hear.

The Hugo Mess

April 5th, 2015


Science fiction is often political.  Heinlein's middle period is praised by libertarian thinkers, Star Trek promoted progressive mores and social justice, and Ursula Le Guin's work sparked debates about gender roles.  This is to be expected in a genre that often looks to the future for hope or cautionary tales.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the awards pageants are also marred by politics.  It really shouldn't.  Yet some people are crying foul because Larry Correia and and Brad Torgersen managed to dominate the nomination process for the Hugo awards.

They didn't cheat.  They simply worked the system within its own rules.

What's more, I really don't care.

What does concern me is that the Hugos are a sham in the first place.  We had some spectacular, thoughtful, and moving fiction last year.  Almost none of it got nominated (Anne Leckie's Ancillary Sword being the exception).

The Kevin J. Anderson book is a generic space-opera mess that reads like it was phoned in.  Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books are pulpy fun, but they're second-tier work at best.

Claire North wrote a spectacular novel about a cabal of serial immortals that deserves to be a classic by any reckoning.  Any nomination?  Nope.  Felix Gilman's Revolutions continues to showcase a vivid imagination and excellent prose.  It was ignored.  Eric Lundgren's hilarious and surreal Facades?  No love.  Max Barry's Lexicon?  Christopher Priest's The Adjacent?  Zip.  Nada.

So, yeah.  Screw the Hugos.  They're no better than the Grammys at rewarding merit.  I'm grateful the internet has given us innumerable other channels to find the good stuff.

(Incidentally, Larry Correia's new Monster Hunter International book has been out for a bit.  Somehow, I missed the release, but I'm tearing through it now.  The MHI books aren't high literature, but they are incredible, giddy, gruesome fun.)

Shaheen Allen Pardoned

April 2nd, 2015


Shaheen Allen made the mistake of driving from Pennsylvania to New Jersey with a firearm in her car.  She was arrested, charged, and convicted of a felony under New Jersey's Graves Act.  Initially, she was to face a mandatory 42 months in prison.  Public outcry led prosecutors to allow her entry into a diversionary program in lieu of prison time, but she remained a convicted criminal.

Governor Christie has now pardoned her.  His statement is here.  Happy ending, right?

Tell that to Steffon Losey-Davis, who has yet to receive the governor's beneficence, or to any other victims of New Jersey's gun laws.

There is nothing in Christie's pardon, or in any public statement he's made to date, to indicate that he finds the Graves Act unfair or unconstitutional.  I won't hold my breath waiting, either.  He ran for office in 1995 in support of New Jersey's "assault weapons" ban.

So, why the change in heart with Ms. Allen?  The answer is as simple as it is reprehensible:  politics.  He needs to win over conservatives if he's to run for President, and that means making  a show of support for gun rights.

I'm relieved and grateful for Ms. Allen's pardon, but I won't be trusting Christie on 2nd Amendment issues.

B. Todd Jones Resigns

March 20th, 2015


B. Todd Jones has announced his resignation as director of the ATF, with only 11 days' notice.  I don't know if it has anything to do with the backlash from his plan to reclassify M855 ammunition as "armor piercing," but the coincidence is hard to miss.  When he spoke to the Senate Appropriations committee last week, he had the look of a man who'd found himself dumped in the deep end of the pool.

To be honest, you couldn't pay me to do his job.  Anyone taking the position inherits a plethora of troubles from an agency dogged by scandal.

Continued »

More Desperation

March 18th, 2015


States United to Prevent Gun Violence is running a couple of surreal campaigns to push gun control.  The first is this little chestnut:

Never mind that it's illegal to run a gun shop in New York without all sorts of licensing, or that it's illegal for customers to even handle one without a purchase permit.  Since they're gun control advocates, they can probably get away with the David Gregory defense.

They've also scored rapper Snoop Dogg, who is quite the paragon of civic virtue, to promote a separate campaign.

For an organization swimming in the Joyce Foundation's cash, they're certainly stooping quite low.

Continued »

ATF Holding Off on the M855 Ban. For Now.

March 10th, 2015


From their website:

Although ATF endeavored to create a proposal that reflected a good faith interpretation of the law and balanced the interests of law enforcement, industry, and sportsmen, [yeah, sure…] the vast majority of the comments received to date are critical of the framework, and include issues that deserve further study. Accordingly, ATF will not at this time seek to issue a final framework. After the close of the comment period, ATF will process the comments received, further evaluate the issues raised therein, and provide additional open and transparent process (for example, through additional proposals and opportunities for comment) before proceeding with any framework.

Well, it's nice to see my pessimism belayed a bit.  This isn't over, though.  Keep pressure up on your legislators.

The Obama Socialist Executive Ban on 5.56 Ammunition

March 8th, 2015


That title is a decent approximation of how inaccurately the current situation has been described to me.  It's 95% untrue.  The proposal at hand is not the result of legislation.  There is no executive order on the matter.  It is not a blanket ban on 5.56.  It only affects one specific loading.

Here's the short explanation.  The 1985 Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act (LEOPA) delegated authority to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to decide whether certain ammunition could be banned from civilian ownership if it is deemed "armor piercing."  The criteria are quite specific:

A projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or 

A full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.

Military M855/SS109 ammunition has long been exempted from that definition by name.  Last month, the ATF decided to change their minds on the matter.  Their report is here [pdf].

The first problem is, they're wrong.  The second problem is, it won't stop them.

Continued »

More Fun with Roman History

February 14th, 2015


Picking up from yesterday, we're left with vastly differing accounts of the emperor Numerian's death.  Which is correct?  The easiest way to solve this is to run down a simple timeline.

Malalas' Chronographia makes the following claims:

  • Saint Babylas (then patriarch of Antioch) refused to admit an emperor to the church
  • the emperor executed Babylas
  • the emperor went to war with the Persians
  • said emperor was captured following a siege at Carrhae

It becomes apparent he's referencing three distinct emperors, all of whom predate Numerian by a generation.

Continued »

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