Anyway, I should be delighted by the news that the comic’s titular “Archie” is, at last, deceased. Shot to death, even.
But while I hasten to add that I was nowhere near Riverdale when that happened, my relief is tempered.
You see, in last Wednesday’s number of the Life with Archie series, the redheaded, eternally youthful hero took a bullet for a gay politician.
Of course he did.
This scenario represents progress of a sort, in that the homosexual character isn’t the one who dies this time. The gay counterpoint to the “magical negro” is what you might call the “tragical homo,” a pop culture trope exhaustively catalogued in Vito Russo’s 1981 classic The Celluloid Closet. But we’re well into a new century, and gays have milked that Harvey dry, I guess. Time to switch it up, and make the straight guy the “lovable but doomed best friend” instead.
“The way in which Archie dies is everything that you would expect of Archie,” beams Archie’s head honcho, Jon Goldwater. “He dies heroically. He dies selflessly. He dies in the manner that epitomizes not only the best of Riverdale but the best of all of us. It’s what Archie has come to represent over the past almost 75 years.”
Which is … what, exactly? Butt sex? Political assassination? Naked, shameless pandering?
Oh, wait, I know: “Eat your spinach or else” liberal propaganda! Dummy me.
Maybe there’s a comic book industry bar bet the rest of us aren’t in on. This week alone, Captain America became a black guy and Thor got a sex change.
Kathy Shaidle, “Comic Con Job”, Taki’s Magazine, 2014-07-22.
July 23, 2014
July 21, 2014
Defence With A “C” summarizes the tale of how we got to the current suite of modern military small arms. It’s a long story, but if you’re interested in firearms, it’s a fascinating one.
To understand why we’ve arrived where we are now with the NATO standard 5.56mm calibre round you have to go all the way back to the war of 1939-1945. Much study of this conflict would later inform decision making surrounding the adoption of the 5.56, but for now there was one major change that took place which would set the course for the future.
The German Sturmgewehr 44 is widely accepted as the worlds first true assault rifle. Combining the ability to hit targets out to around 500 yards with individual shots in a semi-automatic mode, as well as the ability to fire rapidly in fully automatic mode (almost 600 rounds per minute) the StG 44 represented a bridge between short ranged sub-machine guns and longer ranged bolt action rifles.
After the second world war the US army began conducting research to help it learn the lessons of its previous campaigns, as well as preparing it for potential future threats. As part of this effort it began to contract the services of the Operations Research Office (ORO) of the John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, for help in conducting the scientific analysis of various aspects of ground warfare.
On October 1st, 1948, the ORO began Project ALCLAD, a study into the means of protecting soldiers from the “casualty producing hazards of warfare“. In order to determine how best to protect soldiers from harm, it was first necessary to investigate the major causes of casualties in war.
After studying large quantities of combat and casualty reports, ALCLAD concluded that first and foremost the main danger to combat soldiers was from high explosive weapons such as artillery shells, fragments from which accounted for the vast majority of combat casualties. It also determined that casualties inflicted by small arms fire were essentially random.
Allied troops in WW2 had been generally armed with full-sized bolt action rifles (while US troops were being issued the M1 Garand), optimized to be accurate out to 600 yards or more, yet most actual combat was at much shorter ranges than that. Accuracy is directly affected by the stress, tension, distraction, and all-around confusion of the battlefield: even at such short ranges, riflemen required many shots to be expended in hopes of inflicting a hit on an enemy. The ORO ran a series of tests to simulate battle conditions for both expert and ordinary riflemen and found some unexpected results:
A number of significant conclusions were thus drawn from these tests. Firstly, that accuracy — even for prone riflemen, some of them expert shots, shooting at large static targets — was poor beyond ranges of about 250 yards. Secondly, that under simulated conditions of combat shooting an expert level marksman was no more accurate than a regular shot. And finally that the capabilities of the individual shooters were far below the potential of the rifle itself.
This in turn — along with the analysis of missed shots caught by a screen behind the targets — led to three further conclusions.
First, that any effort to try and make the infantry’s general purpose weapon more accurate (such as expensive barrels) was largely a waste of time and money. The weapon was, and probably always would be, inherently capable of shooting much tighter groups than the human behind it.
Second, that there was a practical limit to the value of marksmanship training for regular infantry soldiers. Beyond a certain basic level of training any additional hours were of limited value*, and the number of hours required to achieve a high level of proficiency would be prohibitive. This was particularly of interest for planning in the event of another mass mobilisation for war.
July 16, 2014
The folks at Rolling Stone are concerned for your safety, so they’ve helpfully put together a primer on the five “most dangerous” guns in America. Because they love you, America:
Yes, we’re apparently talking about grenade launchers here. I didn’t even know grenade launchers were available to civilians. Awesome!
Wait, “the explosive that creates the energy to fire the gun occurs in the fixed shell of a shotgun rather than the metallic cartridge of a rifle”. Why would I expect the charge that propels the shot out of a shotgun to be ignited in a rifle cartridge? Is this some sort of magic that allows you to fire a different weapon than the one you’re holding? No wonder Rolling Stone thinks this is such a dangerous weapon!
H/T to Charles C. W. Cooke for the link.
May 25, 2014
Brendan O’Neill on the Santa Barbara murders:
The bodies in Santa Barbara were barely cold before feminist clicktivists were exploiting this horrendous mass murder to boost their campaign against sexist trolling and online misogyny. The revelation that the shooter, Elliot Rodger, was a visitor to those saddo-packed ‘men’s rights’ websites, and had produced a badly written 140-page screed about how much he hated women for showing no interest in him, was all that the victim-feminist lobby needed: within minutes it was saying that Rodger’s outpourings and actions confirm that we need to ‘stamp out misogyny’. He is no ‘mere glitch in the system’, they claimed, but rather the ‘product’ of a society that apparently hates women.
Let’s leave aside the fact that this kind of argument is indistinguishable from the blue-rinse, conservative insistence that violent movies make men into maniacs or that saucy novels churn out real-world rapists. Truly are radical feminists the heirs to the backward Mary Whitehouse view of human beings as the amoeba-like products of their cultural surrounds, in this case of sexist websites — a view which not only treats us all as easily brainwashed by movies and literature but, even worse, lessens actual killers’ and rapists’ responsibility for their actions by depicting them as simply the warped end products of big, bad culture. More pointedly, the reading of profound social meaning into losers’ and loners’ manifestos gives way too much credence to these individuals, overlooking the fact that more often than not they are simply grasping for a serious-sounding reason for their already existing desire to commit a crime and cause hurt.
Everyone with a cause seems to jump on events like this to push their favourite agenda: the gun control folks are also frothing that “better” gun controls would have prevented the murders (yet California already has most of the rules they demand, and the shooter got his weapons legally). Blame the guns. Blame the “men’s rights” movement. Blame video games (you know people are busy searching right now to see if the shooter played any video games at all). Blame anything except the severely disturbed mind of the shooter.
Update, 26 May. According to this slightly OTT summary, even the basic facts of the case were already being “manipulated” to further particular agendas:
Let’s examine the true facts.
- Fact: 6 people were murdered, not 7. The 7th “victim” was the chicken sh!t murderer offing himself.
- Fact: Only 2 of the 6 victims were killed by gunfire. 3 of them were stabbed to death and 1 was killed with the murder’s car.
- Fact: Only 2 of the murder victims were female, the other 4 were male.
- Fact: The magazines found in the coward’s possession were all CA legal 10 round magazines. Not the heinous, world ending “high capacity” magazines the antis attribute so much death and destruction to.
- Fact: All three handguns (note, no evil assault rifle that is the scourge of humanity) the murderer had in his possession were all legally purchased by him in CA, despite the ludicrously stringent gun laws in this state. Despite the 10 day waiting period, despite the extensive background checks, despite the state wide handgun registry, despite the “prohibited persons” database, despite the fact that he went through all the steps the anti-gunners claim they want to save lives, he was able to purchase his guns legally.
But that is just The Daily Beast, hardly a reputable news source. So, let’s take a look at what Jessica Valenti, a writer at the beacon of honest news, the Guardian, had to say. According to her, it was not his mental illness that is to blame. No, we cannot blame that because that would be a “mistake” and would only serve to stigmatize other mentally ill people. Instead, she blames the “gun culture” and “misogyny”. Yes, the war on women! Of course, why did I not see that? I’m so stupid. Then she quotes some female artist, whom I have never heard of, who incorrectly labeled this incident terrorism in a tweet. Where to start?
Well, first of all, I must point out, that not only were more of the murdered victims male than female (2-1 ratio in fact), he also made threats to kill men in his videos and “manifesto” (ie: written rantings of a psycho), but since that does not bolster her point, she conveniently ignores that. As for the “gun culture” involvement in this crime, since the majority of the victims of this incident were not killed with guns (again, 2-1 ratio were killed with non-guns), blaming the “gun culture” is just another false flag.
April 24, 2014
Mr Wheeler replied, “There is certainly no shortage of guns and corruption in Central America. If you have the means to smuggle a ton of cocaine, you can probably smuggle a ton of guns, too. But this was easier… the Justice Department and the ATF made the contacts and set up the networks, told the gun shops to cooperate, so all the Mexicans had to do was send in a straw buyer, make the purchase, and move the weapons south of the border.”
I said, “These people aren’t very smart… there are something like 300 million guns in America, and they have a robust shelf life. Even if all gun manufacturing stopped tomorrow, there would still be an abundance of guns in America for decades. The only way to disarm Americans is mass confiscation, and I feel pretty certain that would spark a civil war. I know several gun owners that would rather fight than give up their guns.”
Mr. Wheeler said, “Oh, I know dozens… perhaps hundreds that feel the same way. I really don’t think confiscation is something you need to worry about, because it will never work. There are simply too many of them, and too many people have guns that there is no record of. A confiscation program would only piss off the most dangerous people in America… the people who would shoot back. You are correct, a mass confiscation would provoke a civil war.”
I said, “Well, you are a military man… what would that look like?”
Wheeler said, “Well, it wouldn’t look like the first Civil War… no lines of men standing in ranks and shooting across a field at each other, no “North and South” or sharply defined state lines for friendly and enemy territories, at least, not in the beginning. No, it would look more like Iraq or Afghanistan, with house to house fighting, IED’s, snipers, small factions and independent militias operating on their own, refugees streaming away from battle zones in all directions…”
“But the first question to ask is who would the combatants be? I mean, the Army isn’t going to just roll out onto the street in tanks on day one, so my guess is that it would start out as a police action, with Federal agencies like ATF and FBI taking the lead, supported by local law enforcement. But once people start shooting back, they would have to ratchet things up, do things like institute curfews and roadblocks, and they would eventually try to press the various state Guard units into service. That’s where it all goes squirrelly, because both local law enforcement and the Guard will be riddled with people who support gun rights, regardless of what laws the politicians pass, and they won’t be crazy about having to police, and maybe even fight against, their own people. The Governors may well object to the state Guard units being activated and may not wish to cooperate…”
“And it is not clear to me how many LEO and Guardsmen would remain loyal to the government and how many would join the “rebellion”. My guess is that both sides would be riddled with defections, informants, and spies. But what if, say, the Gulf states like Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida secede, and they take control of all military bases and equipment, and you suddenly have gone from an insurgency with rifles to a breakaway nation, or maybe several breakaway nations, armed with fighter jets, drones, tanks, and a navy? Whoo, buddy… now all bets are off… kiss posse comitatus goodbye. This would be the ugliest thing this county has ever seen…”
I asked him several “what if” questions and let him riff on them… I just let him talk and wargame out the Second Civil War, there in the back seat of my car as we drove to the airport, and he painted a picture of horrific death and destruction. Once this conflict started, even the best-case scenarios he described sounded truly grim. He seemed to believe that civilian casualties would be extremely high, given how much fighting would centered in and around large cities, and that food would be used as a weapon, causing famine and starvation on a terrifying scale. Booby traps, IED’s, rampant bombings, drone strikes, snipers, local-level assassinations, mortars and shelling, death squads (both government and rebel), reprisal killings, torture… it sounded more like the Middle East than middle America.
Wheeler got quiet for a few moments, and then he said something that I will never, ever forget.
“These people are playing with matches… I don’t think they understand the scope and scale of the wildfire they are flirting with. They are fucking around with a civil war that could last a decade and cause millions of deaths… and the sad truth is that 95% of the problems we have in this country could be solved tomorrow, by noon… simply by dragging 100 people out in the street and shooting them in the fucking head.”
March 25, 2014
It’s hard to guess just which parts of his little violent criminal spree might be downgraded to mere “dumb things”:
Cpl. Jonathan Laporte shot up his own home and two of his neighbours’ cars before arming himself with a shotgun and handgun and blasting his way through the showroom of a high-end car dealership on Feb. 9, 2011.
The rampage came less than an hour after he was charged and released by police for physically assaulting three men at a Hunt Club Road hotel.
The 25-year-old soldier had met a man at the Days Inn after replying to an online ad for consensual, “no strings attached” gay sex. But the encounter turned violent after Laporte became heavily intoxicated and grabbed his partner by the neck and started squeezing after warning the man not to tell anyone about their hook-up.
The man eventually escaped wearing nothing more than his underwear and a T-shirt, but returned to the room to recover his wallet and cellphone. Once inside, Laporte closed the door and resumed the attack, punching the man repeatedly in the face as he screamed for help.
March 18, 2014
Virginia Postrel diagnoses the real reason politicians are upset about Armalite’s updated image of David’s armament:
Italian authorities were indignant when they discovered that the Illinois weapons maker ArmaLite had an advertising campaign showing Michelangelo’s David holding one of its rifles. “The advertisement image of an armed David offends and violates the law,” tweeted tourism minister Dario Franceschini. Angel Tartuferi, director of the Accademia Gallery, which houses the sculpture, agreed: “The law says that the aesthetic value of the work cannot be altered.”
This moral posturing is clearly about something other than respect for the sculpture’s “aesthetic value” or “cultural dignity.” Otherwise, officials would crack down on the David boxer shorts sold by countless Florentine vendors. And where was the outrage in 1981, when the David was flogging Rush brand poppers, amyl nitrite drugs used to enhance sexual pleasure, in magazines aimed at gay men?
It seems that it’s fine to use the David to sell things as long as you emphasize his nudity rather than his meaning.
ArmaLite’s ads broke the unwritten rules. Instead of highlighting the hero’s body, they emphatically made him a warrior. Hence Franceschini’s objection to an “armed David,” even though every David is armed. “David famously used a slingshot to defeat the giant Goliath, making the gun imagery, thought up by the Illinois-based ArmaLite, even more inappropriate,” writes Emma Hall in Ad Age.
To the contrary, the gun imagery, while incongruously machine-age, was utterly appropriate. David did not use a “slingshot.” He used a sling. As historians of ancient warfare — and readers of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath — know, a sling was no child’s toy. It was a powerful projectile weapon, a biblical equivalent of ArmaLite’s wares.
February 17, 2014
Let’s be clear: parts of California are doing fantastically well, but other portions of the state are suffering disproportionally. Here are a few suggested legislative fixes to redress the inequalities of life faced by too many disadvantaged people in the state:
2. The Undocumented Immigrant Equity Act
The “I am Juan too Act” would assess all California communities by U.S. Census data to ascertain average per-household income levels as well as diversity percentages. Those counties assessed on average in the top 10% bracket of the state’s per-household income level, and which do not reflect the general ethnic make-up of the state, would be required to provide low-income housing for undocumented immigrants, who by 2020 would by law make up not less than 20% of such targeted communities’ general populations.
There are dozens of empty miles, for example, along the 280 freeway corridor from Palo Alto to Burlingame — an ideal place for high-density, low-income housing, served by high-speed rail. Aim: One, to achieve economic parity for undocumented immigrants by allowing them affordable housing in affluent areas where jobs are plentiful, wages are high, and opportunities exist for mentorships; and, two, to ensure cultural diversity among the non-diverse host community, bringing it into compliance with the state’s ethnic profile.
4. The Silicon Valley Transparency and Fair Jobs Act
This “Google Good Citizen Act” would set up a regional board to monitor commerce in the San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara tri-county area. The state regulatory commission would monitor offshore investment, outsourcing, and unionization. All commercial entities, with over 100 employees, would be in violation and face state fines if: 1) the number of a firm’s employees overseas accounted for 10% or more of the workforce currently employed within the tri-county Silicon Valley area; 2) more than 1% of the current capitalization of a Silicon Valley company were deposited in banks outside the United States; and 3) more than 50% of a tri-county company’s workforce were non-union. Aim: To ensure progressive Silicon Valley commercial businesses are caring progressive state citizens.
5. The California Firearms Safety Act
The “No Guns for Grandees Act” would forbid private security details to be armed with handguns or semi-automatic long guns. It would allow private security personnel to be armed only with paintball, BB or pellet guns. Aim: To prevent unnecessary armed deterrence by private security units in the hire of the affluent.
6. The Fair Housing Adjustment Act
The “Everywhere an Atherton Act” would tax all private residential square footage in excess of 1800 square feet at four times the current per square foot assessment. Aim: It would ensure state resources are equally distributed and not inordinately siphoned off to a small minority of the state population. Would encourage existing large homes to downsize through reverse remodeling.
February 15, 2014
In a development that absolutely nobody could have seen coming, Connecticut has the highest known population of (technical) criminals in the United States:
In a massive display of civil disobedience, tens of thousands of state residents have refused to register what the left calls assault weapons, instantly making them criminals guilty of a felony.
The legacy of the Connecticut residents who used their privately owned firearms to help overthrow the tyrannical colonial rule of King George III, who probably considered their muskets the military-style assault weapon of the day, apparently lives on.
Connecticuters in the tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands have refused to comply with a law, adopted after the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, requiring them to register what gun-control advocates consider assault weapons by the end of 2013.
As the Hartford Courant reports, as of Dec. 31 some 47,916 applications for assault weapons certificates had been received by state police. By some estimates, this represented as little as 15% of the rifles classified as assault weapons owned by Connecticut residents.
Estimates by people in the industry, including the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, place the number as high as 350,000.
Update, 19 February: The editorial board of the Hartford Courant thinks that the solution to this problem is to just ignore the deadline or even scrap the law. No, wait, that’d be a sensible reaction. They actually want the state to round up the scofflaws en masse:
Some people actually tried to comply with the registration law, but missed the deadline. The state’s official position is that it will accept applications notarized on or before January 1, 2014 and postmarked by January 4. But, says Dora Schriro, Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, in a letter to lawmakers [PDF], anybody sufficiently law-abiding but foolish enough to miss that slightly extended grace period will have to surrender or otherwise get rid of their guns.
This, of course, is the eternally fulfilled fear of those who oppose registration of things governments don’t like — that allowing the government to know about them will result in their eventual confiscation. Such confiscation, despite assurances to the contrary, occurred in New York, California, and elsewhere. Connecticut has accomplished something special, though, by making “eventual” a synonym for “right now.”
You know who won’t have to surrender their weapons? People who quietly told the state to fuck off.
This successful example of mass defiance horrifies the editorial board of the Hartford Courant, which shudders at the sight of the masses not obeying an order that, history, tells us, never had a shot at wide compliance. According to them:
It’s estimated that perhaps scores of thousands of Connecticut residents failed to register their military-style assault weapons with state police by Dec. 31….
…the bottom line is that the state must try to enforce the law. Authorities should use the background check database as a way to find assault weapon purchasers who might not have registered those guns in compliance with the new law.
A Class D felony calls for a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Even much lesser penalties or probation would mar a heretofore clean record and could adversely affect, say, the ability to have a pistol permit.
If you want to disobey the law, you should be prepared to face the consequences.
Such shock! Such outrage!
February 4, 2014
Jonah Goldberg makes a case (that might not sit well with many SoCons) that social conservatism is actually more fundamentally libertarian than modern liberalism:
I guess where I’d disagree with Siegel’s formulation (and Vin’s) is the idea that liberalism is necessarily “radically civil-libertarian” about much of anything. Of course, individual liberals may be civil-libertarians. I can certainly think of plenty who are. But as an intellectual, cultural and political project, I think liberalism is better understood as a competing value system. Think of it this way. Social conservatism is very libertarian about all sorts of things, and not libertarian about other things. Constitutional considerations aside, where it believes the State shouldn’t interfere it is because non-interference advances a cultural agenda of traditional conservatism.
The same goes for liberalism. It celebrates certain lifestyles or cultural choices because it likes the content or fruits of those choices. It is a mistake, it seems to me, to say liberals are libertarian about much of anything. They are outraged about alleged intrusions into our privacy when it comes to the NSA, but utterly dismissive of potentially far greater intrusions into our private lives via things like Obamacare.
Consider gun rights. Yes, conservatives believe in second amendment rights because they are in the Constitution. But they also value a culture of self-sufficiency, self-defense and a traditional understanding of individual sovereignty. (Relatedly, I think it’s fair to say that hunting culture is inherently conservative and, very broadly speaking, anathema to much of liberal culture). Liberals dislike gun rights, because they detest gun culture (their Constitutional arguments in this regard have always struck me as nearest-weapon-to-hand debating points and rationalizations given their general disdain for Constitutional literalism in nearly every other regard) and see gun violence as a kind of public health issue, which means the State should have an unlimited license to deal with it. The right of armed self-defense also offends the State’s monopoly on violence, and liberalism is a jealous guardian of State power. Liberals talk a great game about being libertarian when it comes to sexual politics, but have no problem politicizing other, equally personal, choices: like what you can eat, or what you can say (I’m thinking of things like campus speech codes). Moreover, the recent push to socialize the provision of birth control (and abortion) is hardly a libertarian enterprise.
Oh, a quick addendum, lest I be greeted with the usual scoffing at the suggestion that social conservatism is more libertarian than liberalism.
I would argue — and have argued for years — that mainstream conservatism is vastly more libertarian than liberalism for a number of reasons. I’ll list four. Law, Metaphysics, Economics and the Family.
1) Mainstream conservatism actually takes the Constitution seriously, which means that written into conservatism is a very real limit on what the State can do to advance a cultural agenda.
2) Metaphysically, conservatism draws heavily on Judeo-Christian values, and therefore has a constrained vision about the limits of social and individual perfectibility and the power of the State to achieve such things. Liberalism, as Bill Voegeli, Thomas Sowell and others have argued, has no such limiting principles because at its core it is an unconstrained vision.
3) Economically, conservatism and libertarianism while not entirely identical overlap considerably. This means we actually believe that there’s a very limited positive role for the State to second guess the allocation of resources in the market place or to spend money better than the people who earn it.
4) Conservatism, unlike liberalism, considers the family a near-sacrosanct institution that should be an oasis from government meddling (barring instances of abuse and the like). The family, for liberals is the last nut to crack. Which is why people like Melissa Harris Perry can talk about “public ownership” of children or in the words of Hillary Clinton talk about how we need to move away from the idea there is any such thing as somebody else’s child.
I could go on, but I think those four should do for now.
January 6, 2014
The good news is that in the United States, the number of police officers killed in the performance of their duties dropped to a level last seen in 1959. The bad news is that the number of people killed by the police didn’t drop:
The go-to phrase deployed by police officers, district attorneys and other law enforcement-related entities to justify the use of excessive force or firing dozens of bullets into a single suspect is “the officer(s) feared for his/her safety.” There is no doubt being a police officer can be dangerous. But is it as dangerous as this oft-deployed justification makes it appear?
The annual report from the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also found that deaths in the line of duty generally fell by 8 percent and were the fewest since 1959.
According to the report, 111 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty nationwide this past year, compared to 121 in 2012.
Forty-six officers were killed in traffic related accidents, and 33 were killed by firearms. The number of firearms deaths fell 33 percent in 2013 and was the lowest since 1887.
This statistical evidence suggests being a cop is safer than its been since the days of Sheriff Andy Griffith. Back in 2007, the FBI put the number of justifiable homicides committed by officers in the line of duty at 391. That count only includes homicides that occurred during the commission of a felony. This total doesn’t include justifiable homicides committed by police officers against people not committing felonies and also doesn’t include homicides found to be not justifiable. But still, this severe undercount far outpaces the number of cops killed by civilians.
We should expect the number to always skew in favor of the police. After all, they are fighting crime and will run into dangerous criminals who may respond violently. But to continually claim that officers “fear for their safety” is to ignore the statistical evidence that says being a cop is the safest it’s been in years — and in more than a century when it comes to firearms-related deaths.
December 24, 2013
H/T to KA-CHING! for the image.
December 10, 2013
Charles Cooke on the ATF working hard to create new criminals through elaborate entrapment schemes:
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is probably best known these days for the failure of its disastrous Fast and Furious scheme — a botched initiative that aimed to give American guns to Mexican cartels first and to ask questions later. Under pressure, the administration was quick to imply that the mistake was an aberration. But a watchdog report, published last week by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, suggests that the caprice, carelessness, and downright incompetence that marked the disaster was no accident. In fact, that it is endemic in the ATF.
After a bungled sting attracted the suspicion of the Milwaukee press earlier this year, reporters started to examine similar enterprises in the rest of the country. What they found astonished them. Among the tactics they discovered ATF agents employing were using mentally disabled Americans to help run unnecessary sting operations; establishing agency-run “fronts” in “safe zones” such as schools and churches; providing alcohol, drugs, and sexual invitations to minors; destroying property and then expecting the owners to pick up the tab; and hiring felons to sell guns to legal purchasers. Worse, perhaps, in a wide range of cases, undercover agents specifically instructed individuals to behave in a certain manner — and then arrested and imprisoned them for doing so. This is government at its worst. And it appears to be standard operating procedure.
As with Fast and Furious, the primary objective of the ATF’s stings seems not to be to fight a known threat but instead to manufacture crime. Across the country, the agency has set up shops in which it attempts to facilitate or to encourage illegal behavior, and it has drafted citizens into the scheme without telling them that they were involved. It is fishing — nonchalantly, haphazardly, even illegally. And the consequences can go hang.
At best the ATF’s new techniques constitute illegal entrapment. At worst, they are downright tyrannical. Entrapment is legally permitted if a suspect initiates a crime in the presence of an undercover agent or if he can reasonably be deemed to have been predisposed to commit the crime when offered an opportunity to do so. But it is difficult to see how either of these tests is being met in the Bruner case or in others. Indeed, cases using entrapment are often thrown out of court if the government is seen to have put too much pressure on a suspect or to have made breaking the law so easy or attractive as to render restraint impossible. Per the paper’s report, ATF tactics involved offering ridiculous prices for firearms to attract straw purchasers, requesting that suspects buy specific firearms that carry tougher sentences, or, as it did in one case, showing a known felon how to saw off a shotgun so that they could charge him with a more serious violation when he did it. Will anyone claim that these tactics are legal?
That they are immoral, too, needs less spelling out. Because no formal arrangements were made with the individuals whom the agency selected for involuntary cooperation, there were no means by which they could claim protection for their behavior after the fact. In other words: The federal government knowingly ruined their lives without telling them. And for what? Well, apparently to try to pick low-hanging fruit.
November 28, 2013
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
November 27, 2013
In The New Yorker, Maria Konnikova examines the psychology of first-person shooter games:
By August, 1996, Doom had sold two million copies, prompting Wired to name it “the most popular computer game of all time,” and it had spawned a new sub-genre of video game, the so-called “Doom clone.” Though Doom itself was not the original first-person shooter (a game in which, as Nicholson Baker wrote in his 2010 article about video games, “you are a gun who moves — in fact, you are many guns, because with a touch of your Y button you can switch from one gun to another”), it catalyzed the genre’s popularity. First-person shooters are now responsible for billions of dollars in sales a year, and dominate the best-seller lists of current-generation gaming consoles.
What is it that has made this type of game such a success? It’s not simply the first-person perspective, the three-dimensionality, the violence, or the escape. These are features of many video games today. But the first-person shooter combines them in a distinct way: a virtual environment that maximizes a player’s potential to attain a state that the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow” — a condition of absolute presence and happiness.
“Flow,” writes Csikszentmihalyi, “is the kind of feeling after which one nostalgically says: ‘that was fun,’ or ‘that was enjoyable.’” Put another way, it’s when the rest of the world simply falls away. According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is mostly likely to occur during play, whether it’s a gambling bout, a chess match, or a hike in the mountains. Attaining it requires a good match between someone’s skills and the challenges that she faces, an environment where personal identity becomes subsumed in the game and the player attains a strong feeling of control. Flow eventually becomes self-reinforcing: the feeling itself inspires you to keep returning to the activity that caused it.
As it turns out, first-person shooters create precisely this type of absorbing experience. “Video games are essentially about decision-making,” Lennart Nacke, the director of the Games and Media Entertainment Research Laboratory at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, told me. “First-person shooters put these tasks on speed. What might be a very simple decision if you have all the time in the world becomes much more attractive and complex when you have to do it split second.” The more realistic the game becomes — technological advances have made the original Doom seem quaint compared with newer war simulators, like the Call of Duty and the Battlefield series — the easier it is to lose your own identity in it.