First Rounds

In the latest Indy 1500 Gun and Knife Show I picked up one of my “bucket list” guns: a Hungarian made Browning Hi Power. (The “bucket list” just said “Hi Power”, not specifically Hungarian made.) The finish on it is a little rough. Since there’s no real collectors value for this gun, I plan to refinish it eventually.

High Power

In the meantime I took it to the range yesterday for the first time and ran a box of ammo through it.

Fit my hand surprisingly well for a double stack. I have big palms but short fingers–a combination that makes it hard to find gloves, let me tell you. I’ve shot other double stacks and they’ve all felt clunky in my hand (yes, even the mighty CZ75B 😉 ).  One compact .380 was actually painful to shoot simply because of the shape of the grip.  The Hi Power was very nearly perfect.

The Hi Power pointed well so I could get the sights lined up and on target quickly. Shot nicely. I’m not all that great a shot so I can’t really speak to its accuracy but well within “Minute of bad guy” at about 7 yards. Someone in the past had removed the magazine safety. No loss so far as I’m concerned.

The controls (slide release, safety, trigger of course) were all easy to reach. Nice crisp trigger pull. Just one problem. The trigger spring was weak. Sometimes the trigger wouldn’t return fully allowing the trigger lever to reset. Pushing the trigger forward lets it reset and I can fire. Fortunately, this looks like a fairly straightforward fix, simply replacing the spring.  And it looks like it’s easily accessible:  simply field strip (actually easier than a 1911) and drift out the trigger pin.

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The Evil of Red Flag Laws

Another reason why “red flag laws” are out and out evil.

Some years back, I had some business with a lawyer. What the business was is unimportant to this post (it did, in the end, come out in my favor). In the course of the business he told me of a case where a man spent every summer in jail. Seems the man’s ex would accuse him of assaulting her. The police would arrest him. Then, when it came to trial she would not show up and the case would be dismissed on “lack of evidence”.  Then the next year, she would do it again.  As you can imagine, it made it difficult for this man to hold down a decent job or anything of the like.  So making bail every year was out of the question.  And so from arrest to trial (at which point charges would be dismissed through lack of evidence), he sat in jail.

I asked the lawyer if the police didn’t eventually figure out what was going on. He said that from their perspective they didn’t see “a bunch of false accusations.” They saw a man with record with a long list of arrests.  The judges hearing the case for arraignment would see the same thing.  And, as their thinking no doubt went, where there’s that much smoke….

This is just one case in a situation where there is due process protection:  primarily the “speedy trial” provision.  For sufficient values of “speedy trial.”  I’m not even really complaining about the system here.  Any system is going to be abused (see “First rule of government“).  About the only thing I could think of to add in cases like this is stronger censure about people making false reports and reports which they don’t follow up on.  But this is what happens with due process protection.  And even with them, there are people who will use it to harass the innocent.  Take that away and what do you think will happen?  Really?

“Red Flag” laws are just another way for the vindictive and just plain evil to use the state to carry out harassment and abuse on their behalf.  And it does so to accomplish something which are already addressed by existing law if the state will just use them.  Chief among these is the 72 hour psych hold.  You can take someone suspected of being “a danger to self or others” in for 72 hours, 3 days, for evaluation allowing them to gather evidence to make a case before a judge (at which the accused can also be represented, present his or her own evidence, and argue his own side of the case) that the person needs to be deprived of liberty or property (I’ll presume “life” isn’t on the table in cases like this).  You know, what whole Fifth Amendment thing about “nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”?  Yes, it’s a lot of trouble to do that.  It’s supposed to be a lot of trouble.  Depriving someone of basic rights like life, liberty, or property is supposed to be hard.

If you want something easy, find a different line of work.

Thus, “red flag laws” are not necessary.  The only thing they “buy” is the ability of people like the ex described above to get the police to harass people they don’t like.  And that makes them far worse than useless.

That makes them downright evil.

Cultural Appropriation Again

Elsewhere someone was talking about this silly concept of “Cultural Appropriation”.

  • I wear pants, an article of clothing invented by the ancient Chinese.
  • I speak English, a language that derived from Norman soldiers trying to seduce Anglo-Saxon barmaids.
  • Our government is a Republic, derived from a form invented by the Romans (Plato’s “Republic” had nothing to do with anything we recognize as a Republic today), with other parts deriving from the Dutch Republics and even the Iroquois nations.
  • I drive a car, the motor-carriage being invented by a German.
  • The general purpose computer I type this on is owed to an Englishman.
  • My dinner was “Italian” which featured tomatoes which come from the Andes. And since I’m on a low-carb diet the
    •  pasta (invented in China) is actually
    • Shirataki noodles, which come from Japan
  • My ex comes from Japan meaning my daughter is half-Japanese.
  • My father’s ancestors from Germany
  • My mother’s from Ireland.

I could go on and on.  Dogs originally domesticated in Eurasia.  Buttons on clothes from Germany.  Coffee (although I can’t stand the stuff, others can’t live without it) from Ethiopia.  Chocolate from Central America.  Beer from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).  Wine from China (Take that, Frenchies!).  Distilled liquor comes from Asia, by way of Greece and then via the Arabic alchemist Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan (often referred to as “Geber”).

Cultural Appropriation? That _is_ our culture.

First Rule of Government

The First Rule of Government:
Any government power that can be abused, will be abused.

The Second Rule of Government:
All government powers can be abused.

This means that any use of government power needs to be wrapped around with all manner of checks and restraints. You won’t prevent abuse, but you can, at least, make it more difficult and, hopefully, slow the progress of abuse.

Whenever some new policy granting power to some part of government is proposed, the first question the wise man will ask is “how will people intent on abusing power use this?”  A good touchstone is to personalize it: “how would my worst enemy, intent on doing me harm, use this?”

If the answer to that question makes you break out in cold sweats, maybe thing twice about granting that power to government.  If it doesn’t make you break out in cold sweats, well, I hate to break it to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.  It may just mean a failure of your imagination to consider all the ways that it might be used to your harm.

This is why I am utterly and completely opposed to the “Red Flag” law proposed in Congress.  Basically, these laws state that somebody can make a claim about an individual–the individual being a “danger to self or others”–and police will swoop down on this person in order to remove any weapons they might have.  And if the person makes any mistakes, any mistakes at all, why the police already have an excuse to open fire because, you know, “danger to self and others.”

The requirement for “due process” is supposed to be a check on government abuse.  This flies in the face of that.  Simply having a judge rubber-stamp someone’s accusation does not make it “due process.”

Due process is a two-way street, which includes actual evidence and not just somebody’s word and allowing the accused to present evidence and call witnesses in his behalf.  It is not just one side making a decision unilaterally.

Admittedly, there are some limited cases where things can be held for a very limited time while things are sorted out (that three day hold I mention–most arrests as another example) but only for a very brief period so that the process doesn’t become the punishment. They are limited for a reason.  It’s why there’s a “speedy trial” provision in the Bill of Rights and why we have things like Habeus Corpus (you can only hold a person so long before charging and before arraignment).

“Red Flag” laws fly in the face of all of that.

 

Privilege

These days people talk a lot about “privilege.” Apparently I’m supposed to have it because of the color of my skin or what part of the world my ancestors came from.  And folk with different color skin from other parts of the world, don’t.  All this irrespective of our actual individual circumstances both now and in our past.

You want to know what privilege is?

Privilege is being able to make comments on social media about other races/genders/what-have-you without having your posts deleted or, in some cases your account suspended or outright canceled.

Privilege is being able to commit “strict liability” crimes (that is, crimes where the actions themselves are criminal regardless of whether one “intended” to commit a crime–an example is mishandling classified documents) and have charges dismissed because “she didn’t intend to commit a crime”.

Privilege is being able to put forward the most empty headed, economically and practically unsound policies secure in the knowledge that any criticism will be dismissed as racist/sexist/whateverist because simply of who you are.

Privilege is being able to say any vile thing you want about people of certain races without being fired for it.

Privilege is being able to repeatedly make openly anti-Semitic comments in the halls of Congress, from a position of authority, and receive no official censure.

Privilege is being able to create a hate crime hoax against oneself, pay the co-conspirators with a check, with your name on it, and have the charges dropped because, basically, you did “community service” and let them keep the bond money.

And privilege is being able to dismiss all of the above by simply invoking “white fragility” whenever anyone complains about things like the above.

Privilege exists.  Only it isn’t what’s usually claimed for it.

Asatru Leaning Agnostic: A Blast from the Past

This is a topic I’ve talked about before so there will be much rehash.  I was raised in a religion that, well some consider it “Christian” but others not so much.  In any case, I was taught Young Earth Creationism in it and…the more I learned the less viable that became.  Either the religion was wrong on that aspect–and if I couldn’t trust it on that, how could I trust it on anything else–or the God described by that religion was playing an enormous practical joke on mankind, deliberately designed to mislead most and lead them astray.  This latter one would mean that what the religion said about the nature of God was wrong.  And if I could not trust it on that, how could I trust it on anything else?

The answer was, I couldn’t.  And not being the White Queen on the other side of the Looking Glass, I could not believe seven impossible things before breakfast.  It didn’t happen instantly but over time I found I just didn’t believe it any more.

Humans, however, have something deeply hard-wired into us that demands ritual and symbolism, a look for something outside ourselves.  I didn’t recognize that for a while but eventually the lack caught up to me leaving me open for other possibilities.  Oh, not necessarily for belief.  And thus why I couldn’t fill the need with the common monotheistic religions–belief is the core of their philosophy; that one has to believe is what makes whatever “salvation” they offer possible.  Cynically following a practice without belief simply because it fills the internal need for ritual and symbolism was contrary to my own ethos.  I couldn’t just pretend.

Pagan religions, however, don’t have that problem.  The gods and goddess as described in them generally do not care whether people believe or not.  (This, incidentally, breaks the “magic systems” in many games and books which postulate that a god or goddess’s power depends on the number and sincerity of believers.  But if that were the case then all these gods would encourage their believers to proselytize, to convert others to their belief so that they, the gods would have more power.)

I first got introduced to modern Asatru via the novels of John Ringo, specifically part 2 of Princess of Wands and an oblique reference near the end of Through the Looking Glass.  Curious, I followed up by getting Greg Shetler’s book Living Asatru and Diana L. Paxson’s Essential Asatru.

It was like a flashbulb (and doesn’t that date me) going off.  Here was a system that was not only full of symbolism, but with hooks on which I could build my own rituals that suited me.  It was also built around an ethos that I found highly congenial.  And ones status in the afterlife (should there be such a thing) was based on deeds, not the belief in which I was simply not suited to give, not without a lot more evidence (not “proof” mind, I never asked for proof) than any gods that exist have ever seen fit to offer.

One of the first things the books said was that the myths were stories about the gods, told to convey principles.  Indeed, when I studied mythology in college, that was the very definition of myth, the stories told in a culture to define that culture.  We tend to think of “myth” to mean false, but whether they’re literally true or not they contain a greater truth–the values and ideals that make up a culture.  So the myths are not truth in the literal sense that there’s a large tree and the world is stuck in one of its branches with Asgard in another, Nifflehiem down by the roots and so on.  They were stories told to convey ideas and ideals.

No need to reconcile modern science with Young Earth Creationism here.

That said, on a somewhat humorous note, I am a physicist.  And so I find it interesting to note that in the Norse creation story the sparks from Muspelhem, the land of fire (heat) meeting ice from Niffleheim, the land of ice (cold) was the driver behind the creation of the world.  In much the same way the meeting of heat and cold is the driver behind the science of thermodynamics which is behind everything interesting that happens in the Universe.  Neither Relativity nor Quantum Theory has altered that.  All that happens in the world comes about because of the meeting of heat and cold and energy flowing between the two.

Likewise when it comes to right and wrong, the common monotheistic religions tend to base that on “God said so.”  Pagan religions like Asatru are more like the gods say so because it’s right and wrong (and don’t try to pretend that the gods are ultimate examples of “good”.  They can be flawed just like people are.  Indeed, the ultimate deciders of fate in Asatru are the Norns and you’ll have to look long and hart to find someone claiming that they are “just” let alone “loving and merciful.”)  There is the concept of ørlǫg.  Basically, that’s the weight of ones actions to that point, and to a lesser extent the weight of the actions of those that came before.  It’s what determines ones fate.  Ones fate is determined by the sum total of all that ørlǫg.  One can change ones fate my making different choices but its hard because it takes a lot of effort to shift that ørlǫg into a different direction.  And the direction the ørlǫg pushes you is not simply because the gods say so, but rather the nature of the thing itself.  I have examined that a bit in my post on Morals, Ethics, and Religion.

The Lore of Asatru does not come with a nice convenient set of commandments akin to the Ten Commandments of Judaism and Christianity.   Some modern practitioners, however, have distilled a number of ideas from the surviving Lore into what they call the Nine Noble Virtues.  I find them a good guide, myself.

This is just one of several different lists.  I don’t particularly say it’s better or worse than others, but I had to pick one to go into here.  So, here it is:

Courage.
I’ve generally seen this defined in modern Asatru as the bravery to do what is right at all times.  Determining “what is right” might be open to question, of course, but for me the other virtues serve as a good guide.  It’s also possible that different people may come to different conclusions about what is right:  a soldier defending his home against invaders may see this as the right thing to do.  Another soldier serving his nation in invading and stopping a dangerous “evil” (by his standards) regime may see that as the right thing to do.  And, here’s the thing, they could well both be right.  The solder defending against the invasion is doing the right thing for him.  The soldier invading is doing the right thing for him.  And, in the end, when the dust has settled, the victory has been won by one side or the other, and the soldiers  of the victorious side can honor the courage of their vanquished foes while the soldiers of the defeated can respect the courage of those who bested them.

Courage need not just be courage on the battlefield either.  The political activist who risks arrest to stand up for a position he believes to be right, the scientist who braves ridicule by saying to his peers “you are wrong and I can prove it”,  and the medical personnel who risk infection to minister to the victims of a plague all exercise the virtue of courage.

Courage is also, I think, a virtue that is its own reward and its lack is its own punishment.  There is no need for some stern lawgiver to say “if you do not have courage you will be punished.  If you do, you will be rewarded.”  From the punishment aspect consider Kipling’s poem “That Day”:

There was thirty dead an’ wounded on the ground we wouldn’t keep —
No, there wasn’t more than twenty when the front begun to go;
But, Christ! along the line o’ flight they cut us up like sheep,
An’ that was all we gained by doin’ so.I ‘eard the knives be’ind me, but I dursn’t face my man,
Nor I don’t know where I went to, ’cause I didn’t ‘alt to see,
Till I ‘eard a beggar squealin’ out for quarter as ‘e ran,
An’ I thought I knew the voice an’ — it was me!

And that’s the way it’s been.  The horrible death tolls in battles weren’t usually (not until the “modern” age anyway) caused during the battle itself but in the pursuit.  Shakespeare put it another way: “Cowards die a thousand deaths. The valiant taste of death but once.”  That certainly has been the case in my own life.  When I’ve let cowardice dictate my actions the result has usually been misery, even if I avoid whatever it was I was afraid of.  When, on the other hand, I am moved by some small measure of bravery the result is that I’m usually happier even in “failure” than otherwise.

And yet given all of that Courage is a hard one for me.  Fear is a powerful motivator even if one knows, in ones head, that it tends to lead to more misery than it saves you from.  And so this is one I struggle with.

Truth:
Say what you know, or at least believe, to be true and right and it’s generally better to be silent than to lie.  Now, according to the Norse beliefs (remember, we’re talking about Asatru here) there is no obligation to be true to those who lie to you.  In the mathematical field of Game Theory a strategy of tit-for-tat is often the most effective strategy and I find it interesting that a mathematically sound approach is what has come out of Norse religion.

I would add my own thought that Truth may sometimes conflict with other virtues such as Hospitality.  This is the concept of the “white lie” told to spare others hurt.  I’m not particularly opposed to that concept just be sure that 1) it doesn’t cause greater  hurt later and 2) be absolutely sure that you’re telling your “white lie” to spare the other person and not to spare yourself (see “Courage” above).

Honor:
Oh, this is a hard one.  I’m tempted to retreat to the “I know it when I see it” but that wouldn’t be fair.  I’ll try to give my own thought on the matter rather than repeat some other folks words.  To me, honor is the natural tendency to do the right things for the right reasons.  An honorable person doesn’t have to think, doesn’t have to figure the angles, doesn’t have to calculate the odds, he just does it.  It’s what you have when you take all the other virtues and pull them together into one smooth whole.

Loyalty:
As individuals we are rather small things in the vast universe but by giving our devotion to something outside ourselves, whether it’s a cause, a belief, or a person, we can become something greater.  But this only holds so long as we remain true to that something outside ourselves.  To abandon the something is to lose all that one has gained and then some.

Now, this doesn’t mean that devotions cannot change with time, but if they do we need to deal with them honestly.  A clean, honest break with old devotions is better for all concerned than betrayal, deceit, and trickery.

Discipline:
Anything worthwhile takes work.  It takes effort.  It takes putting off immediate gratification in favor of future, greater, satisfaction.  Whether its sweating and aching in the gym three times a week to build a strong body or spending six hours a day studying to learn a difficult subject or pushing doorbells every day to drum up support for the political candidate who supports the causes you favor it takes work, lots of work, to get the greater rewards in life.  And yet every time one takes that road it’s a gamble.

The work does not always pay off in the ways you might like.  When I was younger I wanted to be able to sing well.  I spent hours every week working on it.  I took classes.  I had voice coaches.  The result?  I got to the point that if I practiced a particular song long enough with the right preparation I could stay mostly on key.  But sing well?  I don’t have the voice.  I don’t have the ear.  And I never will.  So that exercise of discipline didn’t pay off.  Or did it?  Humans are creatures of habit.  Simply applying the effort, the discipline, made it that much easier to do so when next I wanted to accomplish something.  Years later when I wanted to get good at Judo, I spent hours every week practicing, exercising, studying everything I could about Judo.  And, while I will never be a “great Judoka,” I got good enough to earn the respect of my peers in the dojo–and the respect and honor of the instructors.

So the rewards of exercising discipline are not always obvious.  It’s easy to say “it’s not worth it” but trust me, it is.  Oh yes indeed, it is.  And I don’t need any old man in the sky to tell me that.

Hospitality:
When I grew up my family had a simple rule.  Well, we had lots of simple rules but I’m talking about one in particular.  Whenever we had guests the rule was that no one went away hungry.  This is a rule I have continued as an adult.  And, I think “hospitality” goes beyond just house guests.  Helping my neighbor at need is also a part of hospitality.  And, in today’s shrinking world “neighbor” can reach very far indeed.Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of people not follow that rule.  Oh, yes, it can be hard to make sure that your guests and neighbors are tended to, sometimes ones duty to guests might mean going short oneself.  Easier to just look after yourself and let others fend for themselves.   Besides, if you’re that hospitable you’ll end up with people who just take advantage of you.

But there’s a catch to that “easy approach”.  A great truth in the world is that if you want to have friends you have to be a friend.  To let others fend for themselves is to end up with a lonely life.  But, there’s another catch as well.  It’s not the cost or the fanciness of the “hospitality” that works the magic.  That it’s provided cheerfully, and willingly.  A table of potato soup and collard greens, provided cheerfully in the presence of good company is far more “hospitable” than caviar and filet mignon grudging from the hand of a stuck up . . . Well, you get the point.

In the myths the Gods were often wandering the world and a guest one hosts could easily be a god.  There’s a lesson there, I think.  Consider any guest as a possible God in disguise and one will rarely go wrong.  And while one might attract a few moochers along the way by that approach, one will rarely lack for friends.

Industriousness:
This one I think relates strongly to Discipline.  Where discipline is taking the harder, longer road to great rewards rather than the shorter, easier road to small rewards, Industriousness is pursuing that road with vigor.  When I chose Judo as a martial art, I chose one that took time and work to achieve high rank rather than one of the many “belt mills” where you can show up for class (if that) pay your fees and you, too can be a black belt in six months.  But that choice would mean nothing if I didn’t put in the time and effort.  If I didn’t do the work.  So it is with many things in life.  Discipline and Industriousness go hand in hand if you want to achieve real success.

Self Reliance:
Too many people these days look for other people to take care of them.  I was raised to take care of myself.  Help others in need, yes–see Hospitality–but there’s a difference between “need” and “want” and the old adage about “giving a fish” also comes into play.  Sometimes your neighbor may want a fish but what he needs is to learn how to fish and perhaps someone to give him a shove out toward the lake.  The best help you can give most people is the motivation and ability to fend for themselves.  And, in that, example is a great teacher.  One helps others be self reliant by being self reliant.

One of the great virtues of being self-reliant is that self-reliance is essential to freedom.  If you are beholden to anyone for your survival then to that extent they control you.  To be free you must be able to stand on your own.  And if anyone tries to make you dependent on him or her, flee that person.

Note that fair trade is not a violation of self-reliance.  Both the farmer trading part of his crop and the blacksmith providing iron tools for those crops are self reliant.  Each takes only what they give good value for.  The employee giving honest work for an honest wage and benefits is self reliant.  There is no shame in doing work, even the most menial work, in order to be able to say “I earned my way.”

I think this is one of my biggest disagreements with the traditional Christian concept of God.  Salvation cannot be earned.  It is given entirely and completely at the pleasure of the Christian God.  A person’s eternal future is entirely at the sufferance of another.  This is completely contrary to the very idea of self reliance.  And so people bow and plead and beg and worship in the hope that they will be given as a boon something they cannot earn cannot win of their own efforts.  And why can they not win it of their own efforts?  Because the Christian God says so.

Perseverance:
No matter what you do you will occasionally face failure.  The truly successful are the ones who can come back from failure and keep striving until they succeed.  Yes, sometimes the reason for the failure is that you’re on the wrong path and no amount of perseverance will succeed, but all too often people quit when continued striving would have brought success.  In the end you have to make that call for yourself.  Quitting is easy.  Nothing is easier than to drift along with each change of fortune.  Staying the course despite the difficulties along the way is much harder.  But it is only there that greatness is achieved.

On This Day: The Quartering Act of 1765

Many people don’t realize just how long the build-up to the American War of Independence was.  To hear some people talk, you’d think British passed the Stamp Act one day, the next we held the Boston Tea Party, and before the weekend was over we were at war.  Actually it was a long, slow process of disaffection that led to the colonies first taking up arms, then declaring independence, and finally winning it.

In the aftermath of the French and Indian War, which itself was basically the American edition of the Seven Years War–starting, in fact, two years before that war is generally considered to have begun.  During the war, most of the colonies agreed to provide provisions, including quarters, for the army.  But once the war was over, sentiment in the colonies changed.  They hadn’t had a standing army in the colonies before the war.  Why, they asked, should they need one now?

This army had its headquarters in New York because the New York assembly had passed an act to provide quarters for them.  When the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War in February of 1763, the act providing for quarters was allowed to expire, which it did on January 2, 1764.

As the colonies were not willing to continue to provide quarters and provisions for an army that it saw served no useful purpose in the colonies, the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in America asked Parliament to do something.  Parliament responded with the Quartering Act of 1765.  This act required housing British troops in barracks and public houses.  But if these were not sufficient, i.e. if the British sent over more troops than there was barracks space, then, the troops would be housed “inns, livery stables, ale houses, victualing houses, and the houses of sellers of wine and houses of persons selling of rum, brandy, strong water, cider or metheglin” and on to “uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings.” Furthermore, colonial authorities were required to pay for this.  This, in fact, predates the effective date of the Stamp Act of 1765 (November 1, 1765) and thus provided an early warning of the Taxation without Representation issue that would loom so large over the next decade in the run-up to the American War of Independence.

When the British sent 1500 troops to New York City, the city’s Provisional Assembly refused to comply with the act leaving the troops in the ships as there were no quarters for them ashore.  This resulted in a minor skirmish in which one colonist was killed.  Because of New York’s resistance, Parliament suspended its governor and legislature but these orders were never enforced.  In the end the Provisional Assembly relented, allocating funds for the quartering of the troops.

Nearly a decade later, a new quartering act was part of what became known as the “Intolerable Acts”.  There is dispute over whether this act actually permitted the quartering of troops in private homes (or whether that was done, permitted or not), but the image of doing so is the direct reason for the Third Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.