Quotulatiousness

November 30, 2013

“I have nothing to hide from the government, so why should I worry?”

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:39

The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains why you should worry about omnipresent government surveillance:

There are a few ways to respond to this, depending on what you think will work best for the person raising the question.

  • Point out how mass surveillance leaves you at the mercy of not only the NSA, but also to the DEA, the FBI and even the IRS. We know that the government claims that any evidence of a “crime” can be sent to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
  • Tell them that, even if you don’t think you have something to hide, it’s possible the government thinks you do, or can create some concern about you (or your friends or loved ones). There are so many laws and regulations on the books, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner said the Congressional Research Service did not have the resources to count them all. One legal expert has argued that the average person likely commits three felonies a day without ever realizing. So, you may be technically breaking a law you have no idea about.
  • We all benefit from a system that allows privacy. For example, when journalists can speak to sources without the specter of surveillance, helping fuel investigative journalism and the free flow of information. And this is not just a hypothetical — the Department of Justice subpoenaed the phone records of Associated Press journalists in an effort to track down government whistleblowers. And it’s not just journalists. Activists, political organizers, lawyers, individuals conducting sensitive research, businesses that want to keep their strategies confidential, and many others rely on secure, private, surveillance-free communication.

Creating a Scottish air force after independence

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:14

We looked at the problems of setting up a Scottish naval organization last week, and now Sir Humphrey turns his attention to the proposed air force for a post-independence Scotland. The proposed air force equipment from the white paper included “a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) squadron incorporating a minimum of 12 Typhoon jets based at Lossiemouth” and “a tactical air transport squadron, including around six Hercules C130J aircraft, and a helicopter squadron”:

The first challenge is the Typhoon fleet and how it can be operated to best effect. QRA is a very expensive thing to do properly — it’s not just about having pilots based in a cockpit ready to take off. Setting up QRA is about having a Recognised Air Picture, a means of sharing information and communicating it to the airbase. It is about having the C2 links in place so that in the event of a scramble, the means exist for the senior decision taking Minister to be able to authorise a shoot down decision and then for the pilot to carry it out in an appropriate manner. This ability needs to be available 24/7/365 and is an onerous task on aircrew and support teams.

In the SDF the reality is that with only 12 jets available, their entire effort will be taken up doing QRA — assuming two training aircraft come over, this gives a squadron of 10 aircraft to generate 2 airframes on a constant basis. Take two out of the equation for servicing, two on the flight line and two being prepared to take over, and this leaves you with a flex of four aircraft to conduct all training and flying for the fleet.

The MOD currently estimates that Typhoon costs £70k per hour to fly (full costs), so assuming that it flies for 30 hours per airframe per month over a year (an averaged figure as there will be peaks and troughs), you suddenly realise that it would cost £2.1 million per month, £25 million per year to keep each aircraft going, or a total of nearly £300 million per year to ensure that two jets were constantly available for QRA. This is well over 10% of the putative budget. Add to this the operating costs of RAF Lossiemouth currently exceed £100m per year, and you realise that nearly 20% of the SDF budget is going to be taken up just to run QRA.

As Sir Humphrey pointed out in an earlier post on the naval question, there’s no guarantee that lopping off a “fair share” of the UK’s existing equipment inventory makes any sense for the quite different needs of an independent Scotland. Again, the right approach is to ignore the equipment question at first and instead analyze the actual needs — what does Scotland need their air force to do — rather than building a wish list of impressive machinery that almost certainly won’t provide value for the money. An independent nation needs to protect their own airspace (or be involved in alliances to provide that protection communally), but that requires identification of actual or potential threats to Scottish interests.

Another problem with automatically adopting the same equipment as the UK is that the supporting organizations and infrastructure will also have to be created to utilize the equipment:

The other problem is who actually supports the aircraft — a lot of deep level RAF servicing has been contracted out now, and these contracts will be null and void for the SDF airframes. The SDF will either have to spend a lot of money to introduce servicing facilities (which are not cheap) or it will have to enter into all manner of very expensive commercial arrangements with UK companies to get them to support Typhoon in Scottish service. This sort of arrangement cannot be skimped either — if you don’t service your aircraft, then you quickly lose the ability to fly them. As such a newly independent Scotland may find itself hamstrung by a need to pay a great deal of money in support contracts and servicing contracts and not capital investment in new technology.

[…]

The proposal to acquire C130s seems similarly expensive. There is not, and has never been a C130 basing presence in Scotland. This means that the SDF would need to pay out from the start to set up a C130 support facility and hangar in Lossiemouth. They would also need to find sufficiently trained crews and groundstaff – a small point, but the C130 fleet has been based at Lyneham and Brize Norton for nearly 50 years. Finding a sufficient pool of operators and support staff to uproot from their home to go to a newly independent Scotland is going to be a major challenge in itself.

Shock, horror – the National Socialists were socialists!

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:43

Daniel Hannan on the remarkable — but somehow unknown to many — fact that the NSDAP (the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, aka Nazi party) were actually socialists:

‘I am a Socialist,’ Hitler told Otto Strasser in 1930, ‘and a very different kind of Socialist from your rich friend, Count Reventlow’.

No one at the time would have regarded it as a controversial statement. The Nazis could hardly have been more open in their socialism, describing themselves with the same terminology as our own SWP: National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

Almost everyone in those days accepted that fascism had emerged from the revolutionary Left. Its militants marched on May Day under red flags. Its leaders stood for collectivism, state control of industry, high tariffs, workers’ councils. Around Europe, fascists were convinced that, as Hitler told an enthusiastic Mussolini in 1934, ‘capitalism has run its course’.

One of the most stunning achievements of the modern Left is to have created a cultural climate where simply to recite these facts is jarring. History is reinterpreted, and it is taken as axiomatic that fascism must have been Right-wing, the logic seemingly being that Left-wing means compassionate and Right-wing means nasty and fascists were nasty. You expect this level of analysis from Twitter mobs; you shouldn’t expect it from mainstream commentators.

Vikings defence unfamiliar with that newfangled “two minute” stuff

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:13

There are a lot of things that have gone wrong for the Minnesota Vikings this season, but one of the worst has been their inability to close out games. No matter how well all the other aspects of the game have gone, the opponent’s final drive has been a painful experience for players and fans. ESPN‘s Ben Goessling says they have the league’s worst record in this area:

Minnesota has played more defensive snaps with a late lead than any team in the NFL this season, with worse results than any club in the league. When leading by seven or fewer points in the final three minutes of a game, the Vikings have allowed quarterbacks to go 30 of 47 for 365 yards and three touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Teams have run for another 36 yards and gained a total of 23 first downs. The Vikings’ only sack, and only turnover, came when Everson Griffen took Ben Roethlisberger down and forced a fumble to end the Vikings’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. But since Cutler beat them, Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer and Dallas’ Tony Romo have done the same, and Green Bay’s Matt Flynn drove the Packers to a game-tying field goal last Sunday.

“The results don’t say we’ve learned a lot [from the first Bears game],” coach Leslie Frazier said. “We haven’t produced in these situations as often as we need to, obviously. I think we did learn some things from that situation. We’ve just got to find a way to make some plays. We did in the Washington game and the Pittsburgh game but we haven’t done it enough.”

There’s not much of a silver lining in blowing four last-minute leads this season, but Frazier tried to find one Friday by pointing out the Vikings’ defense stiffened and held the Packers to a field goal in Sunday’s tie. The Vikings have also taken to calling timeouts on two-minute drills in their last two games, both to give their offense another crack at scoring and to make sure their defense is set. Frazier blamed himself for not getting more involved in the defensive play-calling at the end of the Bears game, and linebacker Erin Henderson said defensive coordinator Alan Williams’ call on the touchdown was something the Vikings hadn’t practiced in last-minute situations leading up to the game.

[…]

The youth of the Vikings’ secondary has rarely been more apparent this season than it was that Sunday in Chicago, and Frazier wanted to believe they’d be better on Sunday if the Vikings found themselves in the same situation. With so many injuries sapping the Vikings’ cohesiveness in the defensive backfield, though, it’s hard to know exactly what would happen.

Need a new conspiracy theory?

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:34

A couple of my friends posted links to this rather useful flowchart to help you find the conspiracy theory that’s right for you:

[Click to see full-size flowchart]

[Click to see full-size flowchart]

H/T to Jessica Brisbane and John McCluskey for the link.

November 29, 2013

This week in Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:09

My weekly Guild Wars 2 community round-up at GuildMag is now online. This week’s content update is called Fractured, which involves major changes to the Fractals of the Mists “infinite” dungeon, plus there’s the usual assortment of blog posts, videos, podcasts, and fan fiction from around the GW2 community.

“This bill isn’t a slippery slope. It’s a steep hill greased up with lard”

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:38

Brian Lilley is against a new bill that would provide the police with the power to demand that drivers submit to breath testing even when there’s no evidence that they’ve been drinking:

It’s the latest attempt to crack down hard on the ever-shrinking problem of drunk driving. The news release touting Bill C-556 states that, if passed, it would, “amend the Criminal Code to allow police officers to perform systematic random breathalyzer testing regardless of whether or not the driver shows signs of impairment.”

That means police don’t need a reason to give you a test.

They don’t need to see dilated pupils, smell booze on your breath or even have you admit you had a beer while watching the game.

The bill would give police a big increase in power and that’s not a step I want to take.

No one supports drunk driving, no one that I know anyway. And attempts to deal with the issue have largely been successful.

Statistics Canada is clear — drunk driving has been on the decrease for years now.

“The impaired driving rate generally declined from the mid-1980s to 2006, when it reached its lowest point in over 25 years, at 234 incidents per 100,000 population,” reads a report from the agency.

Back in the mid-80s there were roughly 600 incidents of impaired driving per 100,000 of population; in 2011 the Canadian average across all provinces and territories was 262 incidents per 100,000.

[…]

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all Canadians are protected from unreasonable search and seizure.

This bill would shred that protection.

This bill isn’t a slippery slope. It’s a steep hill greased up with lard and those in favour of ever expanded police powers are just waiting for Parliament to step on it.

Canadians need to say no to drunk driving and they need to say no to this bill.

Taxation on gambling would be a money loser

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:40

Tim Worstall explains why it would make no sense whatsoever to impose taxes on the winnings from betting:

The point about betting of all types, including this spread betting, is that the winnings of some people are, and must be, entirely offset by the losses of others. Yes, certainly, there are companies in the middle who organise things and they are taxed on their earnings and profits in the usual manner. But the winnings of some punters come from the losses of others.

It’s also a pretty standard part of the UK taxation system that if there is going to be tax charged on the income or profits of something then there will also be an equal allowance against losses on doing that same thing. For example, Gordon Brown changed the law on a company selling a subsidiary: no longer would corporation tax be changed on any profits from doing so. But so also a company could not claim a tax credit for a loss from doing so.

So, if we introduced a tax on betting winnings we would also need to have a system of credits or allowances for betting losses. And here’s the problem with that idea: betting is a less than zero sum game. The winnings of any person or group of people are obviously the losses of all other people betting. So tax charged would be equal to tax credits gained. But it’s worse than that as the bookies are also getting their slice in the middle. Meaning that total winnings are less than total losses. So our credits and allowances for losses would be higher than any revenue gained from the winners.

We’re from the FDA, we’re here to help you

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Health, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:19

Nick Gillespie on the mindnumbingly awful exercise of FDA regulatory power in shutting down personal DNA testing company 23andMe:

Personal genetic tests are safe, innovative, and the future of medicine. So why is the most transparent administration ever shutting down a cheap and popular service? Because it can.

In its infinite wisdom, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has forbidden the personal genetic testing service 23andMe from soliciting new customers, claiming the company hasn’t proven the validity of its product.

The real reason? Because when it comes to learning about your own goddamn genes, the FDA doesn’t think you can handle the truth. That means the FDA is now officially worse than Oedipus’s parents, Dr. Zaius, and the god of Genesis combined, telling us that there are things that us mere mortals just shouldn’t be allowed to know.

23andMe allows you to get rudimentary information about your genetic makeup, including where your ancestors came from and DNA markers for over 240 different hereditary diseases and conditions (not all of them bad, by the way). Think of it as the H&M version of the haute couture genetic mark-up that Angelina Jolie had done prior to having the proactive mastectomy that she revealed this year.

[…]

Peter Huber of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, has an important new book out called The Cure in the Code: How 20th Century Law is Undermining 21st Century Medicine. Huber writes that whatever sense current drug-approval procedures once might have had, their day is done. Not only does the incredible amount of time and money — 12 years and $350 million at a minimum — slow down innovation, it’s based on the clearly wrong idea that all humans are the same and will respond the same way to the same drugs.

Given what we already know about small but hugely important variations in individual body chemistry, the FDA’s whole mental map needs to be redrawn. “The search for one-dimensional, very simple correlations — one drug, one clinical effect in all patients — is horrendously obsolete,” Huber told me in a recent interview. And the FDA’s latest action needs to be understood in that context — it’s just one more way in which a government which now not only says we must buy insurance but plans whose contours are dictated by bureaucrats who arbitrarily decide what is best for all of us.

Australian railway’s Chinese-made locomotives falsely certified as asbestos-free

Filed under: Australia, Business, China, Railways — Tags: — Nicholas @ 08:15

A growing concern for companies that deal with Chinese businesses is when safety is compromised and (as in this case) required safety certifications are falsified:

Railway workers have been exposed to potentially hazardous asbestos after the deadly dust was found in locomotives brought in from China.

The breach of a 10-year ban on the import of products containing the carcinogenic fibre is not the first incident of its kind.

Unions are now demanding tougher policing of Chinese imports, describing the current asbestos-free certificates as a farce.

Last year freight carrier SCT imported 10 locomotives made by China Southern Rail (CSR) to tow iron ore bound for China to port.

To comply with the decade-old Australian ban on asbestos imports, they were certified asbestos-free. However, this was not the case.

National secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union Bob Nanva says maintenance workers raised concerns about the dust.

“We had our maintenance workers repairing a number of diesel engines,” he said.

“They identified a lot of white dust among those engines and asked the question as to whether or not that dust was safe.”

The workers’ concerns were justified. White asbestos — or chrysotile — was found throughout the locomotives, in insulation around the exhaust and muffler system, around coolant pipes and in the brake exhaust section near the roof of the driver’s cabin.

[…]

This is not the first time China has broken the Australian ban on asbestos.

Last year more than 25,000 Chinese-made Great Wall, Chery and Geely cars were recalled after asbestos was discovered in their engine gaskets and brakes.

In decades to come experts expect hundreds of thousands of Chinese casualties from asbestos.

A 1980s film by Szechuan University smuggled out from China shows the tragic story of China’s own Wittenoom — at Dayao, in the province of Yunnan — where asbestos exposures had led to the fatal cancer — mesothelioma.

Back in Australia, it was the same type of blue asbestos, from the Wittenoom mine, that lined Melbourne’s blue Harris trains, potentially poisoning passengers when the walls were broken.

So dangerous were the trains they were sealed in plastic and buried in quicksand at a quarry in Clayton.

Blue asbestos, which is more likely to cause the cancer mesothelioma, is now banned in both countries — but China is now the world’s largest user of white asbestos, which Perth’s asbestos expert Professor Bill Musk warns still causes cancer.

H/T to Craig Zeni for the link.

November 28, 2013

What’s the real US unemployment rate?

Filed under: Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:44

Statistics can be very helpful tools in analysis, but the quality of analysis will depend on the accuracy of the statistics. In the US, the organization responsible for compiling the unemployment numbers is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They actually compile several different categories of unemployment data, only one of which is commonly used by the media: the U-3 unemployment rate. Wendy McElroy explains why this may be a very misleading number:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiles the United States’ unemployment statistics every month. It looks at six categories of different data, that are called U-1 to U-6. U-3 counts how many people were unemployed but were actively looking for work during the past month; this is the official unemployment rate that is broadcast by the media. By contrast, U-6 counts the unemployed and underemployed who are excluded from the U-3 data. For example, U-6 classifies people who have unsuccessfully looked for a job in the last year as “not participating in the labor force” rather than as unemployed. U-6 also includes part-time workers who need more employment in order to live, but the number of these workers is dwarfed by the number of long-term unemployed. (“Long-term employment” is defined as lasting 27 weeks or more).

The data included in the categories increase as the numbers ascend; the categories are defined as follows:

  • U-3 Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force
  • U-4 Total unemployed plus discouraged workers
  • U-5 Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other persons marginally attached to the labor force
  • U-6 Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons

What is America’s real unemployment rate? According to U-3 for October 2013, 11.3 million people were officially unemployed. BLS adds that 91,541,000 working age people did not participate in the labor force. If these numbers are added together, there are 102 million working age Americans who are either unemployed or not in the labor force for reasons that are not clear; for example, they could be retired. The non-working population represents 37.2% of working age people.

(Note: it is not known how the federal furlough of employees during the October shutdown affected the data, if at all. The furloughed employees seem to have been counted as both unemployed and working because they eventually received full payment for the time off.)

The unemployment rate reflected by the last four categories of BLS data break down as follows:

  • U-3 = 7.3%
  • U-4 = 7.8%
  • U-5 = 8.6%
  • U-6 = 13.8%

The American media used the U-3 numbers and reported the unemployment rate for October to be 7.3%, which is about 1/2 of the more realistic U-6 total. The media also glossed over U-3 figures that were alarming. For example, the official rate for teen unemployment (16 to 19 years old) stood at 22.2%; black unemployment is 13.1%

Colby Cosh on Obamacare’s international ripples

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Health, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:12

You’ll have guessed from the tone of my Obamacare links and comments that I didn’t think it was a good idea from the start and it’s been a great example of how not to implement a major government initiative. That said, it’s a sure bet that Obamacare will have influence on other countries as they consider their own health programs. Colby Cosh is surprised that the scandal-addled Canadian media hasn’t been paying more attention to the Obamacare train wreck as the wheels fall off in all directions:

Obamacare isn’t going to make major systemic change in either direction look more appetizing to Canadians. That’s an important Canadian angle right there. Not long ago it looked as though national pharmacare was likely to become an election issue here, quarterbacked by the NDP and perhaps the Liberals, too. The concept has plenty of support among economists and other health policy experts—the same class of kindly boffins that, in the U.S., lined up almost unanimously behind the Affordable Care Act.

For better or worse, nationalizing prescription-drug insurance seems likely to be a much tougher sell here in the immediate future. Any large, complex health care experiment will be. The more wise heads support it, the easier it will be for supporters of the status quo to shout, “Unintended consequences! Ivory-tower tomfoolery!” Indeed, political strategists may already be saying it to themselves.

American commentators are already starting to wonder if Obamacare’s difficult start and increasingly troubled prospects may end up as a victory for small-government conservatism. The problems for the program do not end with the calamitous state of the federal insurance-exchange website, or even with the nasty surprises handed to the self-employed and freelancers in the “individual market” who were falsely promised: “If you like your plan you can keep your plan.” Some Obamacare buyers are finding themselves shut out from their preferred doctors and hospitals; employers are junking non-compliant health plans; and many in the middle class who liked the Obamacare concept are facing sticker shock.

[…]

The redistributive aspects of Obamacare were undersold, and possible pitfalls obviously not foreseen. The neoliberal Democrat Walter Russell Mead put it neatly the other day: “President Obama may be the Democrat who ends up convincing millions of American millennials that Ronald Reagan was right, and that the progressive administrative state is neither honest nor competent enough to solve the problems of the American people.” If that is the case, the effects cannot be confined to the U.S.

The equine Range Rovers race

Filed under: Britain, Sports — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:02

Published on 24 Nov 2013

Five Clydesdale shire horses have taken part in a charity race at Exeter racecourse.

The horses thundered down the home straight with the aim of promoting the breed, which has been given “at risk” status.

The horses took part in the Devon Air Ambulance charity race 35 minutes before before the day’s main racing and were ridden by professional jockeys.

The two furlong race was won by Tom Parker, ridden by Michael Nolan.

Poking holes in the proposed Scottish defence plans

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:07

Sir Humphrey says he’s neutral on the political issue of Scottish separatism, but he has a few professional criticisms of the fleet plan contained within the white paper:

At a most basic level, the paper appears to fall foul of what can be described as the ‘fantasy fleet’ syndrome so often found on the internet. In other words, people have taken an order of battle, hived of a reasonable sounding level of equipment and assumed that this would make a good defence force. That’s a great theory, but in reality its likely to be far more complicated than this.

For starters, the British Armed Forces are the product of hundreds of years of evolution, procurement and support. They operate a closely integrated set of equipment, underpinned by a well developed training network, and supported by a very complex set of support contracts to ensure availability. Due to the numbers and amounts of equipment in service, costs can be calculated using economies of scale, and planned workflow, in a way that smaller sized support cannot.

A nascent SDF would find itself operating a truly eclectic collection of units which are not necessarily the most appropriate for its situation. For instance, the proposal that the Navy takes on two Type 23 frigates seems a little odd. The Type 23 is one of the worlds most advanced anti-submarine warfare escorts, and designed to be a submarine killer par excellence. To use it to best effect requires a well trained crew, who have a range of extremely specialised skills. Assuming that no one is forced at independence to join the SDF, the challenge will be recruiting and retaining a core of niche skills to actually employ the vessel in her intended manner. This includes the engineers, weapon systems maintainers, the warfare department and those with the skills and experience at all ranks and rates to use the vessel in its intended manner.

[…]

Similarly, the issue of maintenance will be a complex one. There are no T23s based in Scotland, which means that a great deal of money will be spent creating a permanent support facility for the class in Scotland. In these circumstances the SDF will need to negotiate and establish support contracts, similar to the ones used by the RN, and pay to put in place the complex web of support arrangements in order to keep the vessels available for service. In a small procurement and support budget, it is hard to see where the money will come from for this sort of activity.

The sheer running costs of the vessels will also be a challenge — on average it costs about £20 million per year (source THEY WORK FOR YOU) to keep a Type 23 at sea, and about £3 million for MCMVs and patrol craft. To keep the Scottish Navy afloat, you are looking at an annual running cost of around £60 million — before you consider salary costs of the crew and the shore support infrastructure to go with it. On a relatively small budget of £2.5 billion, it is easy to see how much of a cost it would be just to keep the ships at sea, let alone deploy them.

In a sense, the white paper’s defence plan does appear to have been drawn up with an eye toward “order of battle” and “table of equipment” that would create — on paper, anyway — a scaled-down version of the RN, RAF, and British army. That isn’t the sensible approach for an independent Scotland’s defence needs. The first thing they should have done is analyze what practical tasks their defence forces would be required to undertake, then consider the most cost-effective way to build and equip an organization to accomplish those tasks.

When I was a child, I was obsessed with toy soldiers. I had hundreds and hundreds of them from various eras from Roman versus Celt down to 8th Army versus Afrika Korps. When setting up my “battles”, it was always the soldiers with the cool kit who got to be the heroes: stirring combat poses and cooler weapons were my selection criteria. When I moved on to building models, the same characteristics dictated the particular models I built: more heavily armed ships, bigger tanks, more weapon-studded aircraft. The authors of this portion of the white paper appear to have had similar childhoods … and they’re still influenced by the same selection criteria. What sense does it make for Scotland’s defence forces to operate Type 23 frigates and Typhoon aircraft? They’re cool kit, but do they accomplish the primary protective duties for Scotland cost-effectively? Almost certainly not.

Scotland has a large coastline and significant offshore assets to protect, but it isn’t likely to need the hugely expensive (and admittedly very capable) kit that the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force need to accomplish their wider tasks. Scotland’s navy is much more likely to end up resembling a strong coastguard than a battle fleet, and their air force will probably not be equipped with top-of-the-line fighter aircraft (especially not F-35 or Typhoon fighters) as they would eat a hugely disproportional share of the defence budget for capabilities the Scots don’t actually need.

I strongly suspect the best course of action for Scotland (in the event of a successful independence vote) would be to negotiate a short-to-medium term deal with the rest of the UK to provide military units to Scotland as an interim solution while a sensible Scottish organization was built-up to take on those roles. It might sting the pride of nationalists to admit that they can’t afford to take on the full trappings of an independent state immediately, but it would be far more practical (and far less expensive) than carving off “their share” of the UK’s existing military.

QotD: The gun-control debate

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:44

I begin rather skeptical of most gun-control proposals. The ones that are pitched in the aftermath of mass shootings are particularly cynical, as they often attempt to regulate circumstances unrelated to the shooting. I still grind my teeth at Mayors Against Illegal Guns running ads in my state citing the Virginia Tech shooting, and talking about the need to shut the “gun show loophole” — even though the shooter didn’t obtain his weapons at a gun show. These sorts of arguments strike me as one part craven opportunism, one part feel-good placebo. (I wanted to say “panacea,” but panacea actually means a genuine cure-all.)

If someone wants to propose a new restriction on gun ownership after a tragedy, and cites that tragedy as a reason to pass it, it’s necessary to show how that new restriction would have prevented, mitigated, or impacted that tragedy. For example, almost none of the gun laws proposed after Newtown would have changed much of anything in that awful shooting, as that disturbed young man stole his mother’s legally purchased guns.

I suppose there are two potential changes to the law that would have significantly altered events in Newtown. First, a total ban on private ownership of firearms, which our friends in the gun-control movement keep insisting isn’t their goal.

Second, a restriction on gun ownership by people who live under the same roof as a person who’s deemed mentally incompetent or a threat to himself or others. Of course, then you get into the questions of what constitutes, “mentally incompetent or a threat to himself or others,” what constitutes “under the same roof”, etc.

Then there are the proposals to limit how many rounds each gun can fire before reloading. Almost every spree shooter — we need a better term for this — has had more than one firearm when they’ve launched their attacks. Instituting 10-round limits would mean that future shooters would get off 20 shots before pausing to reload, presuming they only brought two guns. It’s reasonable to conclude future mass killers will just bring three or four guns when they begin their rampage. This strikes me as a quite modest mitigation in the danger of these shooters, too modest to seriously consider.

Jim Geraghty, “Why Post-Shooting Gun-Control Debates Are So Insufferable”, National Review Online, 2013-09-18

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