Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Key Issues

Roberta X describes the fun she has when her key breaks off in her door.

Fortunately, she was able to grab onto the remains with her Leatherman. When it happened to me some years ago, I wasn't so lucky.

I had to climb the then-five-foot-high fence and crawl in through the dog door. In the rain.

You don't want to know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sick Of This Crap

I live in the woods.

If you look really close, you can see about as much
of my house as is visible through the trees.

I've wanted to live in the woods all my life. Last time I looked, it has not yet been made illegal by the Great Codependent Authorities Who Know What's Best to live in the woods. I wildcraft medicinal herbs, watch monarch caterpillars munch on milkweed, and delight in the chaotic exuberance of wildness. What others see as order and artificially structured beauty makes me feel as if I'm being slowly suffocated.

I also have a privacy fence and a locked gate. My property is posted. I lost patience with trespassers and vandals many years ago, and it was a sheriff's deputy answering one of my calls back then who first told me I should get a gun.

I used to have my personal orders shipped to my office, but that's not allowed any more. So I have a nice big resin "deck box" outside the fence, right next to the locked gate, that is clearly marked PARCELS.

Then how come the friggin' UPS drivers can't put my damn parcels in the PARCELS box??

Oh, the folks at UPS agree that a box marked PARCELS is a perfectly acceptable way to receive deliveries when you're not home. They apologize profusely and the delivery is usually made the next day. They assure me it won't happen again.

Until the next time I'm supposed to get a package.

When I got home today, the delivery-du-jour had been sent back to the depot. UPS promised somebody will call me by 10:00 am tomorrow, and my package will be delivered. And they apologized and said it won't happen again. Yeah, right.

Since when is having your house visible from the road and allowing strangers direct access to your front door a requirement to order a book from Amazon, or a holster from LA Police Gear?

Reminder

Registration always leads to confiscation.

Guess He's Staying

A side-effect of my decades with Thoroughbred horses is that everyone must have his or her own good leather track halter with a brass nameplate. Even Milton The EvilPony™ has one.

Nobody does the Hairy Eyeball like Milton.

So of course I had to order one for Sarge.


Looks like he's official now.

Cost-Benefit Ratio

A draconian ammunition restriction bill, AB962, passed the Commiefornia California Assembly on September 11 (interesting date, that) by a 44-31 vote. The only hope left for gun owners in that state is a veto by Governor Arnold "I made millions shooting guns in movies but you peasants shouldn't have any" Schwarzenegger.

Cabela's has already announced they will no longer be able to ship ammo to California customers if this bill is signed.

The misbegotten politicians who favor this legislation claim it will reduce crime by making it harder for criminals to obtain ammunition. After all, guns without ammo are just funny-shaped clubs, right?

Remember that point.

Let's look at just how much ammunition is likely to ever be used in crimes.

According to the CDC's WISQARS database, in 2006 (the most recent year for which complete figures are available) the total number of firearm fatalities from all causes was 30,896. The total number of firearm injuries from all causes was 71,417. That gives us a total of 102,313 total firearm incidents that resulted in death or injury regardless of cause. Causes can include criminals killed or injured by police, genuine accidents, and justified self defense, but let's add them all together to make sure we're not missing anything.

There is no record of how many rounds were fired during any given firearm incident, but let's just pull a number out of any handy body orifice and assign a value of 5 to this question. That would give a potential total number of 511,565 rounds fired in incidents resulting in injury or death during 2006.

How does that compare to the total number of rounds of ammunition purchased during a typical year?

According to the NRA, Americans typically buy about 7,000,000,000 rounds of ammunition annually. This past year, though, the amount has jumped to about 9,000,000,000,rounds. But let's stick with the lower number, just to ensure the results of our calculations look as bad as possible. Divide 511,565 rounds of possibly-criminal ammo by 7,000,000,000 rounds bought during an average year, and we get 0.00731% of ammo that might possibly be used in a crime.

That's 13,683.5 rounds not used in any crime for every 1 that might have possibly been.


And that's just ammo bought annually. I have hundreds of rounds in calibers I don't shoot so much any more that I've had longer than a year. Nobody knows how much ammunition is owned by private citizens in this country, and that's a good thing.

Based on the numbers, it seems like the burden this legislation puts on law-abiding gun owners in California is vastly greater than any possible impact on crime. Criminals have as many off-book avenues for obtaining ammunition as they do for obtaining guns.

Instead of reducing crime, it has much greater potential to reduce the number of law-abiding gun owners in California due to yet another onerous set of hoops they need to jump through just to remain law-abiding gun owners.

Unless that's just what those misbegotten politicians really wanted all along.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sarge Progress

When I first got Sarge, he had a non-healing open wound on his withers, a souvenir from surviving an attack by a stallion when he was four months old. The stallion ripped most of the skin from his back and chest, as well as damaging muscles in his back. Everything healed up except an open area that was larger than my hand when I first saw it.

Here's how it looks now:

That's the good news. The bad news is that this nice, tight scar gets flaky and itchy, leading Sarge to roll and scratch himself on trees until he scuffs it open again. It's nowhere near as bad as it was at first, but I'd much rather he didn't skin it up at all.

My vet had me treat it with topical nitrofurazone ointment to get it to close up. I can keep gooping it up with that, but the stuff is nasty-slimy, attracts dirt, and requires I apply it wearing nitrile gloves. Corona and Bag Balm also tend to sit on the surface and collect debris. Horseman's Dream works well, but wears off too quickly.

Any suggestions?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Buying The Lie

Yale student Annie Le is murdered, and the comments here are rife with blather about how being armed would have been useless to prevent her death.

You can't protect yourself, don't even try.

Never mind that the "person of interest" in the murder of Yale student Annie Le has "deep scratches" on his chest, arms, and back:
"Sources also said investigators are finding evidence that the pint-size scientist who weighed only 90 pounds put up a fierce struggle against her attacker."
Looks to me like she had ample opportunity to save herself if she'd had effective tools and the training to use them. It takes time to inflict that many scratches. It takes a lot less time to inflict far fewer bullet holes that would have had a much better chance of stopping the attack.

You can't protect yourself, don't even try.

A Johns Hopkins student kills a home invader with a sword, and the so-called "experts" insist that resisting a rapist or robber puts the victim's life in danger.

Resisting puts your life in danger? As if it isn't already in danger when you're facing a violent criminal?

You can't protect yourself, don't even try.

Oh, they pay lip service to taking a "self-defense class," but I can't see the value of any class that doesn't teach you how to inflict sufficient devastation to an attacker to actually stop the threat. I seriously doubt any classes Yale might offer would provide methods to do so.

You can't protect yourself, don't even try.

All these advocates of helplessness have bought the lie that criminals won't harm submissive victims, and that it is impossible to defend yourself effectively against them.

Of course, in their mandatory-disarmament world, that is very likely true. At 4'11" and 90 pounds, Annie Le would be at a serious disadvantage against any average-size man. Three things are necessary to take effective action: tools, skills, and will. The tools, or force multipliers, are what allows a small woman to prevail against one or more larger, stronger assailants. Via Breda, we find out that Annie Le even wrote a magazine article about personal safety that stopped far short of making truly effective recommendations.

You can't protect yourself, don't even try.

Tools are not limited to guns by any means. Even the ever-popular whistle is technically a tool, albeit an extremely weak one. And it carries the expectation that saving my sorry ass is Somebody Else's job, not mine.

You can't protect yourself, don't even try.

Skills are also necessary, training and practice. And tools and skills are worthless without the will to use them. The will is by far the most critical leg of this triangle. But we're told the same thing by The Authorities over and over again.

You can't protect yourself, don't even try.

Never mind the many successful self-defense cases Clayton Cramer documents in his Civilian Self Defense Blog. Never mind the many cases Zendo Deb documents of victims killed by criminals after they complied with every demand.

The Johns Hopkins "safety measures" recommended by their Director of Education for Health and Wellness actually do say you should not resist a rapist. And this so-called advice is from a woman. The Illinois State Police still contend if you can't escape from a rapist you must not resist. Instead, the claim that women should tell the rapist they are pregnant or have AIDS, vomit on him, or poke him with a rat-tail comb. Of course, this is in Illinois, the only state in the country with absolutely no legal means of carrying a defensive firearm. Even Wisconsin allows open carry.

You can't protect yourself, don't even try.

How can these people live with themselves, saying citizens should meekly submit to violence and violation? What do they gain? More power? More control? A more infantilized populace waiting for Mommy or Daddy to come rescue them from the Big Bad? And what do the segments of the populace who believe that crap gain? An officially-sanctioned excuse to abdicate even more personal responsibility than they already have?

You can't protect yourself, don't even try.

It's all a lie, a terrible lie. Mommy and Daddy aren't coming. You're alone in that alley, or that parking lot, or your bedroom, or that Yale laboratory, alone with your worst nightmare, and scratching him with your fingernails isn't going to save you. All that will do is provide DNA evidence to help convict the criminal after you're dead.

Is that good enough for you? Was it good enough for Annie Le?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Radical Extremist

On September 10, Cass Sunstein was confirmed as the Obamessiah's "Regulatory Czar."

Let's see what kinds of organic fertilizer this nutjob shovels:

"We hardly need to imagine a world, however, in which people and institutions are being harmed by the rapid spread of damaging falsehoods via the Internet. We live in that world. What might be done to reduce the harm?"
Damaging falsehoods? Like conservative/libertarian blogs?

Sunstein does have his own form of libertarianism:
"The idea of libertarian paternalism might seem to be an oxymoron, but it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice. Often people's preferences are ill-formed, and their choices will inevitably be influenced by default rules, framing effects, and starting points. In these circumstances, a form of paternalism cannot be avoided. Equipped with an understanding of behavioral findings of bounded rationality and bounded self-control, libertarian paternalists should attempt to steer people's choices in welfare-promoting directions without eliminating freedom of choice. It is also possible to show how a libertarian paternalist might select among the possible options and to assess how much choice to offer."
Steer people's choices? And how much choice to offer?

He also feels we should "celebrate" paying taxes:

"In what sense is the money in our pockets and bank accounts fully ‘ours’? Did we earn it by our own autonomous efforts? Could we have inherited it without the assistance of probate courts? Do we save it without the support of bank regulators? Could we spend it if there were no public officials to coordinate the efforts and pool the resources of the community in which we live?... Without taxes there would be no liberty. Without taxes there would be no property. Without taxes, few of us would have any assets worth defending. [It is] a dim fiction that some people enjoy and exercise their rights without placing any burden whatsoever on the public… There is no liberty without dependency."
Former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano, an advocate of strict interpretation of Constitutional law, said about Sunstein, "We have never had anyone with this much power, who is this far to the Left, and who is this out of touch with the American people [appointed by a president]. His potential damage is limitless." Napolitano went on to say that Sunstein is likely on the president's short-list to be the next justice seated on the bench at the Supreme Court.

And you thought Sotomayor was bad?

Check here to see how your senators voted, and let them know how you feel about it. The 2010 midterm elections are closer than you think.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Knowing Your Limitations

Marko Kloos, the Munchkin Wrangler, hit yet another one out of the park with his essay, "A Vote For Gun Control Is A Vote For Thunderdome:"
Every martial art that involves direct unarmed hand-to-hand fighting has weight classes. This is done because a bantamweight boxer will get his clock cleaned by a heavyweight ninety-nine out of a hundred times. Sending a 115-pound fighter up against a 220-pound fighter is simply not an even contest, because the heavyweight can deal (and absorb) much more powerful punches.

Let me repeat that little factoid: even a trained fighter in prime shape has no realistic chance of winning an unarmed fight against a heavier opponent.
Of course, in the comments there were plenty of martial artists claiming that's just not true. They have seen the little guys beat the big guys, over and over, or done it themselves. Okay, fine, but they all seem to use the dojo as the source of their proof.

As Sgt. Rory Miller pointed out so well in "Meditations On Violence," real-life attacks bear no resemblance to sparring on the mats. Or fighting in the steel cage, for that matter.

I have training in empty-hand, but that doesn't make me any bigger, younger, or sounder than I already am. That's 5'4" tall, mumble-mumble years old, with plenty of creaky souvenirs from a misspent youth riding and falling off horses. Sure, I can throw the 6'5" and 300 pound uke around just fine when uke cooperates with the exercise, but if uke declines to participate? No freakin' way.

Now substitute a pack of street criminals for uke in that image . . .

The best thing I've learned from my empty-hand training is my own very real limitations when deprived of effective tools for self-defense.
The truth is that criminals who make a living threatening injury or death for the contents of a cash register or a wallet won’t be greatly handicapped by any laws that prohibit the carrying of guns. They carry them anyway, but as I’ve pointed out, they’d still tilt the favors in their odds even if the magic gun control fairy could make all the guns go *poof* overnight. Gun control is tossing their intended victims into the ring with them after forcibly disarming them…to make sure the violence doesn’t escalate.
Violence wasn't invented along with firearms. It's been around as long as the human species. Massacres and atrocities have been perpetrated on the weak by the strong for thousands of years. Julius Caesar didn't need guns to kill a million people. The machete was the primary weapon of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

As an old-West poem praising the Colt revolver supposedly said, "Be not afraid of any man, No matter what his size, When danger threatens, call on me, And I will Equalize."

As Marko has stated elsewhere, "People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that’s the exact opposite of a civilized society."

Rule by the young, the strong, and the many. None of which I happen to be. No matter how hard I train.

I will still train, of course. There is a place for empty-hand skills in anyone's defensive toolbox, just as there is for the stick, the blade, and the gun.

Just so we know, really know, their limitations. And ours.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Getting What You Ask For

I train animals. To help me understand how to do that better and more efficiently, I study behavior science. My preferred method of training is based on Applied Operant Conditioning, to be specific, Clicker Training.

Behavior science tells us that successful behaviors are repeated. Hence I use the clicker as a bridging signal/secondary reinforcer to tell my horses and dogs the exact instant when they've done something right. This action on their part earns them a paycheck/primary reinforcer: a piece of carrot, a horse cookie, a cheese cube. Once they understand the rules of the game, they participate eagerly, learn very quickly, and never forget what they've learned.

It's possible using these methods to teach any critter to do anything it's physically able to perform, even if that behavior is far outside what we normally think of as typical for the species.

Judge retrieving a dumbbell at age 3

But training doesn't always progress smoothly. Sometimes behaviors other than what I'm looking for crop up and persist. That's when I have to take a step back and think about what I am actually reinforcing versus what I think I'm reinforcing.

Because the behavior you're getting is what you're really rewarding, no matter what you think you're doing instead.

So what does all this blathering have to do with gun laws?

Human societies are far more complex systems than the relationship between an animal trainer and her animals, but the same principles apply. Whatever behaviors members of those societies manifest are successful behaviors.

So if you're seeing a whole lot of behaviors you don't want, you can bet those behaviors are being rewarded, somewhere, somehow.

Crime and criminal violence are behaviors we absolutely don't want. When those behaviors increase, it's because they are successful for their perpetrators. The rewards are immediate: the stolen money, the stolen property, the "pleasure" of gratifying a sick desire to inflict pain and suffering.

Society is very fond of positive punishment. Investigating a crime ideally results in an arrest, a conviction, and appropriate sentencing. That's all well and good, but it all takes place well after the fact. Some investigations go on for months or years, and in the mean time there are no adverse consequences of their antisocial behavior for the criminals.

For punishment to work as a behavior-modification method, it must be a significant and immediate consequence of the behavior. No criminal commits a crime thinking he'll be arrested while he holds up the liquor store. But if he sees there's a good chance holding up the liquor store will get him shot, well, that's a clear disincentive.

Over and above the value of dangerous victims making criminals think twice, though, we need to look at how society rewards criminal activity. This post discussed how low reporting and arrest/conviction rates can factor in, but there's a lot more to explore.

Now can anyone please explain to me how making it more difficult and dangerous for people like me, law abiding citizens, to own guns and defend ourselves effectively increases the risk and reduces the rewards for criminals who attack us?