Today Should be a National Holiday, a Big One: starting an annual tradition.

I’m not kidding.

Back in the 1770’s unrest was growing in the American colonies, at least those along the Atlantic Seaboard from New Hampshire down through Georgia.  Protests over taxes imposed without the taxed having any voice in the matter, complaints about a distant monarch and legislative body making rules and laws over people to whom they are not beholden.

There had been clashes which fed that unrest, including the famous “Boston Massacre” where British troops fired into a rioting mob resulting in several deaths.  Think of it as the Kent State of the 18th century.

In an effort to quell the unrest, or at least have it be less of a threat to British officials, General Thomas Gage, Military governor of Massachusetts, under orders to take decisive action against the colonists, decided to confiscate firearms and ammunition from certain groups in the colony.  His forces marched on the night of April 18, 1775.

The colonists, forewarned of the action (the Longfellow poem, which children learn in school–or they did when I was in school–is historically inaccurate, but it sure is stirring, isn’t it?), first met the British troops at Lexington Massachusetts where John Parker, in command of the local Colonial Militia said, according to the recollection of one of the participants, “Stand your ground.  Don’t fire unless fired upon.  But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

Whether Parker actually said those words, the first shot was fired.  No one knew who fired it, whether British or Colonial.  In the ensuing, brief battle the British regulars put the Colonial militia to flight.

The British then turned toward Concord.

A small unit of militia, hearing reports of firing at Lexington marched out but on spotting a British unit of about 700 while themselves only numbering about 250 they returned to Concord.  The Colonial militia departed the town across the North Bridge to a hill about a mile north of town where additional militia reinforcements continued to gather.

The British reached the town and began searching for the weapons they came to confiscate.  They found several cannon, too large to be moved quickly, and disabled them.  Other weapons and supplies had been either removed or hidden.

On seeing the smoke of the burning carriages from the cannon, the Militia began to move.  It is not my purpose here to go into detailed description of their movements but in the end the British regulars found themselves both outnumbered and outmaneuvered.  They fled, a rout that surprised the Colonial Militia as much as the British regulars.  Again, I simplify but in the end they marched back to Boston continuing to suffer casualties from what amounted to 18th century sniper fire from the surrounding brush.  The frustration of the British soldiers led them to atrocities, killing everyone they found in buildings whether they were involved in the fighting or not.

Eventually the British forces fought their way back to Boston where they were besieged by Militia forces numbering over 1500 men.

And the Revolutionary War had begun.

And so, on this day in 1775, the nascent United States took the course that would lead eventually to Independence.

And that’s why April 19 deserves to be a National Holiday on a par at least with Independence Day.  The latter was recognition of what became fact on the former.

The political power of the NRA

Newsweek did an article where they tried to dismiss the NRA based on the idea that the number of members is smaller than people believed.  Not only was the article wildly, factually, inaccurate–a creation of pure wishful thinking if not deliberate disinformation–but, to be blunt, it really does not matter.

The anti-freedom Democrats (but I repeat myself) want to paint the NRA as the cause of opposition to their gun grabbing. If it’s the cause, if they can just defeat “the NRA” then they win. Only the NRA (and GOA and 2AF and other groups) isn’t cause, they’re effect of ordinary citizens who actually care about their rights, including RKBA. The NRA’s membership is modest on the national scale. Their political funding paltry compared to others. What they bring to the table is a lot of people who vote at least in part based on candidates’ support of RKBA–and the NRA helps, imperfectly perhaps but at least to some extent, to make people aware of where those Candidates stand on issues. In short, there are a lot of people–NRA members or not–who will vote based on those NRA ratings of politicians.

It’s not the money they offer to politicians that gives them their power. It’s not even the number of actual members. It’s the number of people who use them as a touchstone for whether or not a candidate is a “good” one to vote for on RKBA issues.

The NRA’s power comes from the fact that many people do support RKBA. But the anti-freedom Democrats (once again, I repeat myself) simply cannot wrap their heads around that so they try to convince themselves that it’s the other way around.

The very definition of “cart before the horse” in its original sense.

On This Day: Transit 1, the Granddaddy of GPS.

On this date in 1960 the Transit 1B was launched becoming the first successful navigation satellite.  The earlier Transit 1A, launched in September 1959 failed to reach orbit.

The program got its start shortly after the Soviets launched Sputnik 1 in 1957.  Scientists were able to determine its orbit using doppler shift of its radio signals during a single pass.  They theorized that if the orbit of a satellite was known and predictable, they could work backwards from the same information and determine the position a station receiving those signals and they proposed a satellite system to implement this principle.

The Transit 1B was launched on April 13, 1960 on a Thor-AbleStar rocket.  The rocket consisted of a Thor missile first stage and an “Ablestar” second stage.  This class of rocket was able to put up to 330 lbs into Low Earth Orbit.

The system was successfully tested in 1960.

After the first tests, the decision was made to switch from the Thor-Ablestar launcher to the Scout, solid fueled launcher.  This presented a significant challenge as the solid fueled Scout had both a lower payload capacity and subjected the payload to higher vibration during launch.  Smaller and more rugged electronics were successfully designed and the successfully  orbited went into orbit in December 1962.  The first of these new satellites Transit 5A-1 had problems with its power supply.  A second, launched in April 1963 failed to achieve orbit.  A third had various electronics problems including oscillator instability which meant it could not be used for navigation but it did successfully demonstrate gravity gradient stabilization (the ancestor of the “tether” concept).

These early “teething” problems were overcome and the Navy started using the system for navigation in 1964.  Surveyors used the system for making accurate benchmark measurements by averaging multiple Transit readings.

The system was rendered obsolete by the Global Positioning System satellites.  The last Transit satellite was launched in 1988, and remained in service until 1996, through the early days of GPS.

Not Stupid: A Blast from the Past

To my liberal friends:

I keep running into this “conservatives (by which they generally mean anyone the speaker thinks is not far left liberal/progressive) are stupid/uneducated” idea.  And, frankly, the constant refrain is making you look bad.

Look, you and I disagree on political philosophy. Fine. We have different priorities on what we consider important. But this “conservatives are stupid/ignorant/uneducated” meme is getting old.

My degree is in physics. I graduated Summa Cum Laude.  I work in “cutting edge” technology (Atomic Force Microscopy, one of the enabling technologies to nanotechnology). I am also a bona-fide “rocket scientist” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacecub) and have presented at space development conferences and seen concepts that I pioneered (commercial, manned, suborbital flight) go from paper to hardware reality.

I am not stupid, or ignorant, or uneducated. I just happen to think that “liberty” trumps “security.” That the best social program for the poor is a job. That a strong, vibrant, growing economy benefits everyone, rich and poor alike, that “government stimulus” is only able to put money into the economy that it took out of it in the first place and therefore does not help on any except the shortest of terms and actively harms the economy in the long term, and that the government should actually follow the Constitution, that something that is important enough that it must be done even if the Constitution doesn’t allow it, then amend. the. Constitution. to allow it.

And if the schools, that lead to “better educated” folk, have been telling people otherwise, well, so much the worse for the schools.

I’ve seen this refrain before, for at least 20 years.  Disagree with someone (in the incident I am specifically thinking of, that someone being a “professional educator”) not on facts but on a matter of political philosophy, on relative values, and get told to “go back to school, a public school”.  Since there was no disagreement on the facts of the matter in the case in question, but on what conclusions people drew from the matter there could not have been a better admission that schools weren’t teaching skills so much as providing political indoctrination.

So please stop confusing indoctrination with education, agreement with your favored policy for intelligence.   Recognize that people can disagree with you and not be stupid.  Otherwise, the results will turn around and bite you in the end.

Sidekicks

The movie with Chuck Norris, Mako (one of the great character actors of his day and it’s a shame he never got that gold statue), Richard Moll, Joe Piscopo and others.

On Facebook I saw that this movie was released 25 years ago yesterday.  That doesn’t add up to me, but that’s okay; it’s what brought it to mind.

I’ve got to admit, it has always been one of my guilty pleasures.  Behind the send-up of action movies, well, to a large extent I was  that kid.  Oh, I didn’t have the asthma excuse for getting out of gym.  No, I had it worse, I had the combination of being a physical “late bloomer” (meaning I hit puberty, and the various growth spurts, later than my peers) so I was always the runt in the class without having an excuse from showing everybody how small and weak I was.

And, of course, there was no Mr. Lee to take me under his wing and help me through all that.  And I didn’t have a “father figure” of any type really for guidance and support.  My parents had separated when I was very young.  The stepfather that came later was also gone (praise the Norns–and that abusive SOB is now long dead; may his shade haunt Niflhel until Ragnarok and beyond).  So I had to deal with that all on my own.

But I’m not bitter.  No, not in the least.

If you didn’t get it, that was sarcasm.

Anyway, back to the movie.  I don’t know how long it will be there, but for now at least the whole thing appears to be up on Youtube for free:

The Glory Days of Comics: A Blast from the Past

Well, at least the Glory Days to me.

I used to be a big fan of comic books.  And while I was fond enough of Marvel, my true love was for DC comics.

Along about ’87, I mostly dropped away though.  Comics had changed from the stories I loved into something else.  In the interest of being more “adult” and “relevant” they’d lost the magic that drew me to them, that still draw me to stories today.  Oh, there were exceptions.  I recently got reminded of the scene from a Superman graphic novel, the scene is titled “Superman and the Jumper”.

When Superman is written well, he’s very very good. (And, yes, I’ve seen the complaints “how many people could he have saved while he was spending all that time with that one person.” Well, that’s an issue you have to gloss over with Superman.  Because given his powers that question would apply to anything he does besides running at super speed from crisis to crisis to crisis.)

Truthfully, most of the stories from when I was reading comics kind of blend together and fade away.  I don’t really remember a lot of specific story lines.

But some I do.  Some are as vivid in my head today as when I first read them.

There’s the Dick Grayson story arc in New Teen Titans which began with him giving up the Robin identity (having passed it to Jason Todd–not being fired by Batman as per the post Crisis retcon, dammit) and ending with him taking the identity of Nightwing and setting out with Jericho to rescue the other Titans in the climax of The Judas Contract.

There was “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne,” IMO simply the best Batman story ever written.

There was “Night of the Stalker”, another Batman tale and #2 in my list of all time favorites.

And rounding out my top three ever Batman favorites, there is “To Kill a Legend.”

But there’s a Superman story that also remains fresh in my mind.  I don’t know the title, but Superman ran into a villain called, IIRC, The Protector, because he “protects” polluting industries on the grounds that his powers come from pollution.  Superman goes a bit off the rails, and then Supergirl* drops a bombshell on him.  The whole “kryptonian” thing was a  massive delusion on his part.  He and she are actually mutants whose fathers were co-workers in an atomic facility.  All the statues and mementos in his Fortress of Solitude?  Things he’d made to flesh out his delusion.  The phantom zone projector?  A glorified flashlight.  Kandor?  A model with the citizens nothing more than tiny dolls.  Accepting this revelation, Superman decides to “connect” more with the Earth, accepting more human contact, dating Lois (as Clark–since she was in one of her “attracted to Clark Kent” periods), playing football with the Galaxy broadcasting staff (and woolgathering so badly that he runs the wrong way when he gets the ball–yes, Clark Kent really is a klutz).

But when a distant star system pleads for help from invaders and Supergirl asks him to accompany them to help her, he rebuffs her; it’s not his problem.  So Supergirl and Krypto fly off to deal with the invasion while Superman stays behind for a date with Lois.

On the date, he keeps watching with telescopic vision Supergirl’s fight with the aliens.  Supergirl and Krypto are overcome.  Eventually, he makes a decision, hustles Lois out of his apartment, flies off, rescues Supergirl and Krypto, defeats the aliens, and flies back to Earth with SG and K.  Oh, and by the way, he’s on to the whole “Krypton never existed” thing being a hoax.  You see, Supergirl kept referring to him as “cousin” when, per the hoax, their fathers were simply co-workers, not brothers.  It seems that Kandorian shrinks were concerned about his earlier outbursts and in Kandorian medicine they don’t “resolve” problems but “remove” them.  And since his belief in destroyed Krypton, they thought, fueled his overreactions, they responded by removing his belief in Krypton. (Okay, that was kind of stupid. Kind of?  That was a lot stupid.)

He explains that his overreaction earlier was not the result of Krypton having been destroyed, but Earth itself and his love for it, particularly since Earth “adopted” him and gave him a home.  He wished that everyone could feel what he felt but that Kara should feel it most of all because she was adopted too.

And, as Superman flies off, Supergirl looks up after him with a wistful expression and the narration is that “she does feel it most of all.”

It has to be on the order of 50 years since I read those and I still remember it vividly.  I can still “see” some of the panels in my head.  And, you know, I’d really like to find those issues someday.  That is the one Superman storyline that stands out after all these years.

*Out of the Superman Family, I was always more of a fan of Supergirl than Superman in much the same way I was more of a fan of Dick Grayson as Robin/Nightwing.  Superman and Batman were these big, iconic characters while Kara and Dick just struck me as more, I don’t know, approachable, if that makes any sense.

Addendum:  In recent years, the Marvel Movies largely seem to “get it”.  DC, not so much.  I haven’t seen Justice League yet and am in no great hurry but of the recent batch, indeed, in everything since the first two Christopher Reeve (he is greatly missed) Superman movies, saving only Wonder Woman, DC’s movies have missed the mark for me.  While I could enjoy Michael Keaton’s (even Val Kilmer’s) Batman, he wasn’t really “Batman” to me.  And “grimdark” can be an excellent “seasoning” (I’ve talked about that elsewhere), it’s not so great as a steady diet.

A grammar lesson

Some people find this confusing:

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people, to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Mind you, the reason they find it “confusing” is because they desperately want it to say something other than its plain words arranged in a relatively straightforward declarative English sentence.

But for those people, let’s go over it, piece by piece, shall we?

Let’s start with “militia”.  What is the militia?  Put simply, the militia is the people when they take up arms to defend themselves, their communities, their States, and their nations.  Being part of the militia does not require being in a government-run organization.  It does not require drawing a government paycheck.  It is simply defined by what they do.

This was made quite clear by folk writing in the general time when the Second Amendment was written.  As just one example we have the following:

“Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American… The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” – Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

The militia are the people.  They are you and me and the person down the street.  To repeat, they are whoever might take up arms in defense of themselves, their community, their State, or their Nation.

“But,” some will say, “the meaning of ‘militia’ has changed since then.” That might be, but in a legal document, and the Constitution is a legal document, the ultimate legal document from which all laws in the US derive their authority, one does not unilaterally redefine terms.  The terms retain the meaning they held when the legal document went into force.

The militia is the people, neither more nor less.

Then there’s “well-regulated”, which, at the time the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written did not mean controlled by the government.  And it certainly did not mean drawing government paychecks and under government orders.  After all, the people had just fought, and won independence from, their former government.  And it is quite clear from the Coxe statement above and from other writings (for instance, James Madison in The Federalist Papers 46 described the maximum possible standing army attempting to override the states and the people being met with a militia 500,000 strong; extrapolated to today’s population, that would be like a military about three times the size of the present day’s military being met by over a hundred million armed Amerians) that one of the purposes of the militia was as a check on government, particularly Federal government overreach.  This is not possible if the “well-regulated militia” is restricted to those under government orders.

If, however, you look in a dictionary with good historical usage notes you find that “well-regulated” is a term meaning not “government restricted and controlled” but rather “properly functioning”.  A “well-regulated clock” is one that keeps good time.  I “well-regulated individual” is one with good self control.  And so on.

Thus, “well-regulated militia” means simply a militia that functions property, that can do what needs to be done when necessary.

“a free state”. Not just any State, but a free one, one where individual liberty is paramount, where the rights of those individuals are honored and protected.  The thing to remember also is that “State” at the time wasn’t another word for “provinces”, divisions within a nation.  “State” was a term for a sovereign entity.  We have the term “nation-state”, usually shortened to “Nation” because that’s by far the most common form of statehood, but it’s not the only one.  There have been many an example of city-states in history.   The States that made up the United States were, in  a very real sense individual sovereign nations.  They individually delegated part of their authority–which authority they gained from the people rather than any “divine right of kings”, “mantle of Heaven”, or similar “government is always right” philosophy–to a unified central government.  And this is what made a “free state.”

Note where also the word “secure” appears in the Constitution:  in the preamble:  “to secure the blessings of liberty to yourselves and our prosperity.”  “Security”, thus, is not just the safety of the states from outside forces, but the security, the safety, of the very freedom for their people that made them “free states”.

He who would give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither freedom nor safety–Benjamin Franklin

What must be protected is liberty itself.  As I discuss elsewhere, the giving up of freedom for safety is a fool’s bargain.  To prioritize safety over freedom is to end up with neither.  To prioritize freedom over safety allows you to end up with a great deal of both.

“arms” means weapons.  Period.  Law dictionaries written about the time the 2nd was written defined arms as “weapons of offense or armor of defense”. It’s open ended.  It’s very open ended.  Deliberately so.

“keep and bear”.  Not just ownership, but carrying.  “Keep” means to possess.  “Bear” means to carry with you.

There’s only one word, left that is subject to deliberate confusion.  “Infringe”.  From the Oxford English Dictionary we have:

infringe
VERB infringing, infringed, infringes
1 Actively break the terms of (a law, agreement, etc.)
‘making an unauthorized copy would infringe copyright’
2 Act so as to limit or undermine (something); encroach on.
‘such widespread surveillance could infringe personal liberties’
‘I wouldn’t infringe on his privacy’

Limit.  Encroach on.  These are things that happen at the edges.  Another word for “encroach on” is “trespass.” One trespasses at the border of a property.  You don’t have to wait until they’re sitting in your living room flipping through the channels on your TV before it’s trespassing.

So, let’s put it all together:

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people, to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Since, to having people ready and able to take up arms to defend themselves, their communities, their states, and their nation is necessary for both to protect those things and to keep their state and nation free, the right of the people to own, possess, and carry with them if they wish, weapons of offense or armor of defense shall not be encroached upon, limited, or trespassed on.

That sentence is longer, but it means exactly the same thing as the former.  It is not a new interpretation invented by the NRA or any other group.  It is what the 2nd Amendment meant when it was written and has always meant since.   The only way to change that is to properly amend the Constitution, which means either 2/3 of the Senate and 2/3 of the House (or a Convention of States called by 2/3 of State Legislatures) to propose an Amendment, and 3/4 of State Legislatures to ratify it.

Anyone telling you differently is either lying to you or uncritically repeating the lies that someone else told them.

The Quest

How about some poetry today?

The Quest
Rudyard Kipling

THE KNIGHT came home from the quest,
Muddied and sore he came.
Battered of shield and crest,
Bannerless, bruised and lame.
Fighting we take no shame,
Better is man for a fall.
Merrily borne, the bugle-horn
Answered the warder’s call:—
“Here is my lance to mend (Haro!),
Here is my horse to be shot!
Aye, they were strong, and the fight was long;
But I paid as good as I got!”

“Oh, dark and deep their van,
That mocked my battle-cry.
I could not miss my man,
But I could not carry by:
Utterly whelmed was I,
Flung under, horse and all.”
Merrily borne, the bugle-horn
Answered the warder’s call!
“Here is my lance to mend (Haro!),
Here is my horse to be shot!
Aye, they were strong, and the fight was long;
But I paid as good as I got!”

“My wounds are noised abroad;
But theirs my foemen cloaked.
Ye see my broken sword—
But never the blades she broke;
Paying them stroke for stroke,
Good handsel over all.”
Merrily borne, the bugle-horn
Answered the warder’s call!
“Here is my lance to mend (Haro!),
Here is my horse to be shot!
Aye, they were strong, and the fight was long;
But I paid as good as I got!”

“My shame ye count and know.
Ye say the quest is vain.
Ye have not seen my foe.
Ye have not told his slain.
Surely he fights again, again;
But when ye prove his line,
There shall come to your aid my broken blade
In the last, lost fight of mine!
And here is my lance to mend (Haro!),
And here is my horse to be shot!
Ay, they were strong, and the fight was long;
But I paid as good as I got!