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August 19, 2009

"OMG He Had a Gun!" (and nothing happened)

Today's must read essay:

From New Hampshire to Arizona, Americans openly carrying firearms have been seen outside Presidential appearances. The most remarkable thing about this is that some find this behavior to be remarkable.

American citizens are the sovereigns in our system of government. Indeed, We the People created the government which, at least in theory, only does what we tell it to do in the Constitution. Sovereigns are expected to be armed.

The Second Amendment was added to our Constitution to insure that the individual right to keep and bear arms not be infringed. Infringement would impair the proper functioning of the militia, which had been America’s homeland security system all through colonial times and well into our republican era.

The armed attendees made it clear that they were exercising their right to keep and bear arms. Zero tolerance of firearms has become so extreme that even a picture of a gun can get a student kicked out of school. The presence of armed citizens helps correct the notion that guns are inherently dangerous.

Americans are increasingly deciding to go about openly carrying firearms even when they might legally carry concealed. Some would like to say that this constitutes disturbing the peace. It is a strange view that accepts as normal a police officer openly carrying a firearm, but finds it alarming when a sovereign citizen – the cop’s boss – does the same.

In addition to the educational value of going about openly armed, the presence of such citizens has another positive impact. Real homeland security is being maintained. The Secret Service is tasked with protecting the President and other select individuals – and nobody else.

For those who object to openly armed citizens being present near presidential events, do they have any concern for the well being of those who do not benefit from Secret Service protection?

As the saying goes, "read the whole thing".

In today's hyperpartisan atmosphere, there seems to be an increasing tendency to criminalize policy disagreements and actions which are perfectly legal. This happens on both sides of the political aisle, and it's a shame because it represents the elevation of fear and emotion over reason and civil discourse. America has always been a nation of strong individuals with deeply held convictions. We agree to certain restraints upon our liberty out of a well founded regard for the balance between freedom and security. I got an email from a co-worker of the progressive persuasion this morning. At the bottom of the email was this quote:

"Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all."

- John Maynard Keynes

The quote struck me as a perfect example of the moral blindness that afflicts both liberals and conservatives when we start believing our own side represents all that is righteous and good with the world, while the other side are a bunch of amoral, cretinous ignoranuses out to destroy life as we know it.

I have always believed some ideas and some political systems are more likely to foster virtuous actions than others. But I have also always been aware that, whether one is liberal or conservative, no ideological system guarantees its adherents will live up to the ideals it sets forth. We are all - regardless of political persuasion - subject to the flaws inherent in human nature. A 2003 column by Jack Shafer illustrates how human frailty often clouds our political vision:

The best way to gain the momentary advantage in a debate is to call your opponent a liar, his every statement a falsehood, and his gist pure propaganda. Your sucker-punched foe will gasp, the audience will move to the edge of their seats, and the flustered moderator will struggle to regain control of the conversation. It makes for great theater and will suppress the fact that you were losing the debate for a couple of minutes.

Setting aside for a moment Mr. Shafer's own rather glaring bias (calling one's opponents liars is hardly a practice that began with conservatives - I'm fairly certain even cavemen resorted to insults when their arguments failed), he makes a good point. Stooping to the ad hominem rarely makes the point it's intended to. It's a form of rhetorical cheating: if you can't offer convincing evidence to support your point, try attacking your opponent.

Because as we all right thinking people know, every single person who believes what we do is a perfect, spotless exemplar of moral rectitude. All that's needed to disprove that the sun rose every morning this week is to find an imperfect person who agrees with that statement.

Getting back to that quote: calling capitalists "the nastiest of men" is a prime example of painting with the broad brush. Thinking others have no more right than you to appropriate the rewards of your own willingness to take risk, your own ingenuity, or your own effort is hardly the nastiest of motives. I invite those who disagree to hand over their paychecks to someone who did nothing to earn your pay, but believes he has a right to it anyway.

But then an equally silly position is often advocated by some conservatives: that capitalism is such a wondrous system that it trumps historical experience. In what other realm of human behavior do conservatives argue no regulation is needed to reign in the more destructive aspects of human nature? Do we believe free men and women never murder, steal, or rape those weaker than themselves? Do we believe the strong and unprincipled never prey upon the weak?

Of course not. Then why would we believe destructive or fraudulent behavior - human characteristics that manifest themselves across all spectrums of our daily lives - will never manifest itself in a free market system?

It speaks volumes when the only way the media can manufacture outrage against American citizens who have committed no crime is to distort the facts:

On Tuesday, MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer fretted over health care reform protesters legally carrying guns: "A man at a pro-health care reform rally...wore a semiautomatic assault rifle on his shoulder and a pistol on his hip....there are questions about whether this has racial overtones....white people showing up with guns." Brewer failed to mention the man she described was black. Following Brewer’s report, which occurred on the Morning Meeting program, host Dylan Ratigan and MSNBC pop culture analyst Toure discussed the supposed racism involved in the protests. Toure argued: "...there is tremendous anger in this country about government, the way government seems to be taking over the country, anger about a black person being president....we see these hate groups rising up and this is definitely part of that." Ratigan agreed: "...then they get the variable of a black president on top of all these other things and that’s the move – the cherry on top, if you will, to the accumulated frustration for folks."

Not only did Brewer, Ratigan, and Toure fail to point out the fact that the gun-toting protester that sparked the discussion was black, but the video footage shown of that protester was so edited, that it was impossible to see that he was black.

Sometimes, we want to win so badly that we're willing to sacrifice anything - including our most deeply held principles. But a decent regard for those principles demands that we apply them fairly. Dishonestly playing to our worst prejudices about those who disagree with us says far more about our own character than it does about those we oppose:

On Sunday's Meet the Press, David Gregory's voiceover at the time of their Obama-with-Mustache visual is "but the rhetoric has become extreme." The voiceover lands on the word "extreme" when the Obama-with-Mustache poster appears, and they too then immediately cut to video and audio of Limbaugh.

How's that for subtle? But there's a problem with this media narrative.

For written at the poster's bottom is the web address "LaRouchePAC.com," the political action committee website for Communist and perpetual Presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche.

No right-winger he. And neither he nor his acolytes are likely ones to be "stoked by the provocative megaphone of Rush Limbaugh." In fact (from Wikipedia):

In 1979, LaRouche formed a Political Action Committee called the National Democratic Policy Committee (NDPC). LaRouche has run for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States seven times, beginning in 1980.

It is a sad, sad day in the life of this nation when those who condemn divisive and extreme rhetoric and deplore fear mongering engage in precisely those tactics, all the while wringing their hands over how all this overheated rhetoric may stir up some deranged whack job:

Bill Clinton tried to pin the devastating 1995 Oklahoma City bombing on Rush Limbaugh and his medium, which the president denounced as "hate-talk radio." Its denizens, the president said, are "purveyors of hate and division" who "leave the impression, by their very words, that violence is acceptable." Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle chimed in that when Limbaugh and his imitators verbally blast those in public life, some of their listeners "aren't satisfied just to listen"thereby insinuating a clear connection between rhetoric critical of public officials and violence.

Democrats are stressing that very theme again this summer, but this time with a twist: They are using similar language – language, in fact, that is often identical, and sometimes even more incendiary, than their opponents – all while complaining that such words create a combustible environment.

As tempting as it often seems to number ourselves amoung "the sane", the truth is that the vast majority of our fellow Americans are law abiding citizens. Yes, most Republicans. And most Democrats. Those who think the right way to tamp down extremist hyperbole and fear mongering is to fling heaping helpings of both about may want to consider just how their own extremist hyperbole contributes to the very hysteria and paranoia they claim to oppose?

No reasonable person - regardless of his or her position on the desireability of nationalized health care - wants to see the President of the United States gunned down. Sadly, a deep distrust in the fundamental decency of our fellow citizens, fanned by inflammatory rhetoric from both sides, is making it difficult to conduct a civil debate. Too many of us have been guilty of painting with the broad brush - stoking our fears by seizing on the worst examples of behavior on both sides in a misguided attempt to portray those we disagree with as "dangerous extremists". But protesters against President Obama are no more "terrorists", no more "unAmerican", than the waves of anti-war protesters who threatened to kill George Bush, who depicted him as a Nazi, who called decent men like my husband murderers and criminals.

Heated debate often results in overheated rhetoric and name calling. But this is a phenomenon that knows no political party. It's a human failing, not a political one.

And the fact that the balance of power has shifted is no justification for glossing over the distressing truth that those on both sides of the political aisle have been guilty of hateful, intolerant speech and inflammatory accusations. Democracy is often noisy and violent in its rhetoric and when things get heated, sometimes tempers boil over. People on both sides of the aisle say things they shouldn't. Paranoid things. Sentiments one would hope that cooler heads would disavow.

But words and images are not actions, and even threats are not deeds. If we want civil debate, we must learn to debate civilly; with restraint and above all with awareness that true freedom implies the freedom to disagree.

Even when we're certain all the "right" is on our side.

Posted by Cassandra at August 19, 2009 08:47 AM

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Brewer failed to mention the man she described was black.

Also conveniently left off most news articles is that the guy was most likely not even a protestor but rather a supporter.

A man, who decided not to give his name, was walking around the pro-health care reform rally at Third and Washington streets, with a pistol on his hip and an AR-15 (a semi-automatic assault weapon) on a strap over his shoulder.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 19, 2009 11:58 AM

Sadly, Yu-ain, if your purpose is to portray anyone who opposes your righteous position as "dangerous", facts are easily dispensed with.

After all, you are expressing an Emotional Truth.

Posted by: Chinese-Jewish Mexican American Lawn Chica at August 19, 2009 12:01 PM

They also don't mention that:

Likewise, those open carry advocates at yesterday's event in Arizona arranged for a police liaison the day before the event, and were constantly afforded security by the Phoenix Police Department and had at least one known Secret Service agent shadowing them to assure they were following the law.

How many scary violent troublemakers call the police the day before to request a liason officer to make sure that their activities are all on the up-and-up?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 19, 2009 12:08 PM

The Second Amendment was added to our Constitution to insure that the individual right to keep and bear arms not be infringed. Infringement would impair the proper functioning of the militia, which had been America’s homeland security system all through colonial times and well into our republican era.

You know what - I'm not clear on this. I think that the purpose of arming the populace was not to aid the militia but to impede it.

It would take me a while to put together the cites, but after reading the Federalist Papers (#27, IIRC, being key) and reading other material about how the Founders felt about the Federal government's power to maintain a standing army, I see it like this:

The Federal government needed a standing army to protect the country against invasion, etc. But the Revolutionary War and events preceding it showed the evil that could result from the ability of a strong central government to maintain a standing army that it could direct against the populace. So the Constitution was set up to provide that the Federal government had to fund State militias that would be staffed and directed by the States (not the Feds). Should the Feds then get out of line, the States would have armed forces that could resist the Feds' armed forces, and this would enable the States to preserve their sovereignty and their citizens' liberty. This is the thinking behind "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state ...". If the States (and the word "state" always means the individual sovereign States and not the country as a whole in the Constitution) were to remain free and secure against arbitrary Federal power it was necessary for them to have militias.

But it's a necessary evil.

Because now the States have standing armies, and what's to stop them from using them against the public?

The solution was to ensure that the people themselves would be armed:

"... the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

If you could not infringe the right of the people to keep and bear arms, they'd outnumber the militias and could resist them and preserve their liberties. The RKBA was put in the Constitution not to assist the militias but to ensure that they could be resisted.

Posted by: RonF at August 19, 2009 12:09 PM

But in that case the armed citizenry would itself be a militia.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 19, 2009 12:16 PM

How many scary violent troublemakers call the police the day before to request a liason officer to make sure that their activities are all on the up-and-up?

Ummm.... white, racist, violent troublemakers like that black dude who wasn't violent (or, as it turned out, a troublemaker)? :p

Posted by: Cassandra at August 19, 2009 12:21 PM

"No reasonable person - regardless of his or her position on the desireability of nationalized health care - wants to see the President of the United States gunned down."
No matter how much I despise the direction in which B.O. and the majority party wants to take the nation, I can not, I will not, wish for any means of resolution other than open debate and the ballot-box.
""The rifle is a weapon. Let there be no mistake about that. It is a tool of power, and thus dependent completely upon the moral stature of its user. It is equally useful in securing meat for the table, destroying group enemies on the battlefield, and resisting tyranny. In fact, it is the only means of resisting tyranny, since a citizenry armed with rifles simply cannot be tyrannized."

"The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles."

—USMC Colonel Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle"

P.S. 439 days and a wake up.

P.P.S. I never leave home without it. Neither should you.

Posted by: bthun at August 19, 2009 12:27 PM

"Cretinous IgnorANUSES?"

I love Freudian slips. Too funny. In any case, there are occasions to display a defensive weapon and a time to carry it concealed with a CCW permit. I engage others in polite conversation when approached and direct the conversation to the logic that criminals are, by their very nature, not going to obey the gun laws as they rape and pillage an unarmed populace.

The other obvious point to be made is that in most states where second ammendment support is high there is a decreasing amount of violence perpetrated on the population. I believe in a level playing field replete with my personal defensive weapon. I might be incorrect in my assumption, but it occurs to me that the demonization of the active military and veterans by progressives is a thinly disguised attack on our training and discipline regarding the second ammendment and civilian life.

Posted by: vet66 at August 19, 2009 01:00 PM

I might be incorrect in my assumption, but it occurs to me that the demonization of the active military and veterans by progressives is a thinly disguised attack on our training and discipline regarding the second ammendment and civilian life.

Not quite. I believe it's because guns = power.

Both supporters and detractors agree on this point. One side just believes that you shouldn't have any.

It's kinda funny to me how the people who believe that Bush was a tyrant and more dangerous than the terrorists wanted *him* to have all the guns.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 19, 2009 01:09 PM

"Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all." - John Maynard Keynes

I'm reminded of the Friedman video you posted a couple months back. Paraphrasing: "Of course, none of us are greedy. It's always the other bastard that's greedy". and "Where's the evidence that political motives are any nobler than profit motives?"

So far Kroger has never used it's control of food distribution to punish "the undesirables" by starvation. The Soviet Union, China, Somalia, and a host of other Gov'ts have done exactly that.

Give me the nasty capitalist over the politician who "knows what's best for us" any day of the week.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at August 19, 2009 01:20 PM

Instant personal gratification is now possible because every instance in life can now be captured by video and immediately uploaded into the main stream consciousness - no disclaimers required.

I know I'm jaded, but I cannot think of a more opportune and immediate method of discrediting a political opponent than by having a reliable operative blend into a crowd of the opposition's supporters and then do something to make the entire crowd look really, really, stupid. Of course, such stupidity always seems to take place before well place "amature" video cams with immediate upload access to You Tube.

Yessir, it's "grass roots" politics at it's best.

Posted by: spd rdr at August 19, 2009 02:13 PM

"Cretinous IgnorANUSES?"

I assure you sir, that was no Freudian slip, but rather an attempt to lighten up my admittedly long essay :)

Glad it made you laugh.

Posted by: Sigmund Freud's Hanes UltraSheers at August 19, 2009 02:19 PM

"Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all." - John Maynard Keynes

"If you put two economists in a room, you get two opinions, unless one of them is Lord Keynes, in which case you get three opinions." - Winston Churchill

Posted by: BillT at August 19, 2009 02:37 PM


That's an interesting thesis. I can think of a couple of things that work against it:

1) Congress is given explicit power to organize, discipline, and Federalize command of the militia (US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16).

2) Congress is also given explicit authority to raise standing armies at need, provided it does so for no more than two years.

3) Finally, Congress is given explicit authority to suppress rebellion.

Now, working in favor of your thesis is this fact:

A) The States are given sole authority to appoint officers to the militia. Congress may set the discipline, but the states alone can appoint officers to rank within the militia.

B) The Second Amendment separates the need for the militia from the provision considering the individual right of the people. The normal reading of that is that the "militia" is "all the people," and the documentation from the period seems to confirm this understanding. Your reading is not impossible, however.

Posted by: Grim at August 19, 2009 02:42 PM

What one has to remember is that be leftist and logical have absolutely nothing in common. There are no Democratic Left Wing Nuts, but every Republican is a Right Wing Nut. Barney Frank is a genius, but nobody, absolutely nobody, has gotten him to actually answer a question.

I stopped for my cocktail hour cocktail a tad early today, and me being me, started talking politics with the fellow next to me. During the course of the conversation, the name Mary Jo Kopechne came up. Inasmuch as we are in Massachusetts, the name is not all that unfamiliar. The fellow I was talking to told me Right Wingers killed her, and Ted Kennedy was never in the car. A unique take on her death, in that in 40 years, I had never heard it before. Not only was Ted not in the car, but he took the blame for the accident because of the upcoming election. I didn't have the heart to tell him that Mary Jo had worked on Bobby's campaign, and well, Bobby had already died. Ergo, their was no reason for Ted to do something he had never done before or since - that is, take the blame for anything. Nope, a cope who saw him in the car was a figment of my imagination, Chief Arena (who is well known in my neck of the woods) was a liar, and the judge who called Ted a liar was part of the conspiracy. Oh, and every third sentence included the fact that he was a Viet Nam vet. Not once, my dear friends, did I bring up my heroic military career, but I was tempted to bring up that other well known Massachusetts war hero John F. Kerry. I didn't.

Barney Frank's boyfriend was doing some business out of Barney's house, and Barney is caught using his position to cover-up some illegalities, but Barney becomes a hero of the Left of outing himself. Pardon me, but he was outed before he supposedly outed himself, but why let facts get in the way of realities.

Barbara Boxer is facing a decent challenge for her Senate seat, but does anybody doubt that Barbara, before election day, will be accusing that challenger of being an anti-semite? Hey, it worked in the past.

Logic and the Left - chuckle.

Posted by: RIslander at August 19, 2009 04:02 PM

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