Germany beat Argentina in the world cup finals
The next meeting of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis should be interesting.
Germany beat Argentina in the world cup finals
Thomas Piketty has written a monster of a book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I find myself in strange agreement with Brad DeLong, that the collective conservative response is weak. I had a patch of time that left me twiddling my thumbs waiting for some pretty long database operations to finish over the past four days. So I went and decided to fisk the book. I just finished the introduction. It took four posts, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and overran the spare time I had available from a database import and indexing task by about 12 hours.
Now I know why the criticism is so weak. Piketty is a target rich environment and doing a line by line analysis is simply exhausting. But it’s the only way to be sure.
Forty three years ago, my parents found out that even a babe-in-arms has to have a separate airline ticket paid for. That ticket was for me to get out of Romania. I was just 2 years old.
My father’s sister, Sylvia had bought 3 tickets, one for each of them and third which my parents thought covered the two half fares for the both of us but was issued for my brother, George (who I miss very much but that’s a very different story). They had one day to get money they did not have to Sabena airlines, in a different country, and pay for that ticket, across the iron curtain that divided east from west in those days. All this was before the Internet had made things so easy. The Sabena clerk was absolutely positive my parents would never make it for the flight the next day. Such things were impossible in 1971.
My father didn’t have the phone number of his sister and the US embassy didn’t have a phone book for that area of Jersey to look it up for him so my mother swung into action and called one of the few cousins she knew the Nazis had not killed. Katus Fishbein was my mother’s, father’s, brother’s, daughter (her cousin) and had been in my mother’s, parent’s wedding party. She was very religious, an ultra-Orthodox jew (which becomes relevant later). She wasn’t sure we’d be good for it. After all, we’d be penniless arrivals and who knows what sort of guy cousin Juliana had married. She had recently found out that cousin Juliana was alive just a year prior via a postcard her uncle Joseph had written to her brother and was somehow in her father’s papers. She wrote back to that address and even though the address had had its name changed (three times by then) the postmaster delivered the letter. All she knew was that Juliana’s husband was a christian. So she called another (mutual) cousin and that cousin, Clara Fein, vouched that we’d be good for it. My mother hadn’t a clue that cousin Clara had survived WW II. Cousin Clara hadn’t known that her uncle Joseph’s family had survived until that phone call.
So the Sabena clerk in Bucharest opening up the office found my parents waiting for her at the doorstep and a telex from the home office saying that the fourth ticket was paid for twice. The Sabena home office apparently had my father’s sister’s number and had separately informed her. Aunt Sylvia came through without asking.
Of course, the adventure wasn’t over. At customs, they inventoried our possessions to make sure we weren’t stealing from the socialist fatherland. My parents were allowed three hemp cloth diapers for me, for instance. My mother still uses one of those diapers to make sure that she doesn’t burn delicate clothes when she irons. They checked me for ear rings. No gold except simple wedding bands was allowed.
We all missed our flight connection and got a flight for the next day. Unlike the previous flight which had been due to arrive at 5PM Friday, it arrived at noon on Saturday. Aunt Sylvia got notified about the day change but somehow missed the time change.
When my parents finally arrived, it was the jewish sabbath and ultra-orthodox cousin Katus had asked cousin Clara to meet us at the airport. So there were my parents, two kids, two suitcases, and not a penny to their name. And here come a pair of people, absolute strangers shouting out my mother’s name and hugging and kissing and conducting them to their car. The last time Clara had seen her cousin she was seventeen and my mother was three years old.
In the back, my father whispered to my mother “who are these people?” My mother whispered back “I don’t know.” Cousin Clara’s husband heard, laughed, and all was explained on the way to their apartment.
Cross posted: Flit-TM
People signing up for Obamacare are being robbed by the government. This time it’s not metaphorically, like when your perfectly satisfactory insurance plan is made illegal and all the compliant plans are more expensive and have worse terms but literally. People are having their accounts debited improperly during the Christmas season. And because it is being done by the government, there is little recourse to sue due to sovereign immunity and, of course, those most injured haven’t the money to hire representation anyway. I think Pope Francis calls it ‘despoliation of the poor’.
Double debits, wrong day debits, wrong amount debits, these are all standard hazards with any sort of Electronic Funds Transfer (ETF) system. There’s nothing particularly new about these issues. It’s all part of the back end errors that those dastardly Republicans have been hyperventilating about and Democrats have been pooh poohing for weeks now.
You never know when Tuttle will turn into Buttle in one of these systems. But what’s in a name?
Cross posted: Flit-TM
It is alarming when a serving military man publicly ignores the law. It is doubly so when he is not only a Lieutenant Colonel but also a professor who has taught at the military academy at West Point. LTC Robert Bateman’s recent Esquire blog misstates the law and misunderstands the role guns play in US society.
LTC Bateman asserts “As of 1903, the “militia” has been known as the National Guard” and links to an analysis of the act. The reality is quite different if you actually read the first paragraph of the act.
That the militia shall consist of every able-bodied male citizen of the respective States, Territories, and the District of Columbia, and every able-bodied male of foreign birth who has declared his intention to become a citizen, who is more than eighteen and less than forty-five years of age, and shall be divided into two classes—the organized militia, to be known as the National Guard of the State, Territory, or District of Columbia, or by such other designations as may be given them by the laws of the respective States or Territories, and the remainder to be known as the Reserve Militia.
In other words, the heart of his argument that the militia is not the whole of the people rests at the very beginning on a lie. In the case of an ignorant youth, this might be excused but not a high ranking military professional who has had the responsibility of teaching our future military leaders. It is inexcusable. Given further legislative developments since 1903 regarding discrimination based on sex, I doubt that even this definition of militia is supportable at present because it is too narrow but even this outdated definition is an ocean compared to the teacup that LTC Bateman wants to leave for 2nd amendment rights.
Since it’s established that LTC Bateman doesn’t necessarily respect the truth, it’s important to check on the rest of his assertions. One of them is that “Weapons are there for the ‘well regulated militia.’ Their use, therefore, must be in defense of the nation.” The police are not in the national guard, does their use of arms defend the nation? Are they a well regulated militia? Is he calling for the disarmament of the police? Perhaps he does, perhaps he doesn’t. By the terms of his argument, they shouldn’t be armed but perhaps he did not want to completely embarrass himself. The alternative is that he is arguing that the police are a militia. This militarization of the police is an entirely different kind of problem, no less disconnected from the American tradition or problematic for our liberties but different than the question of their armament.
LTC Bateman repeatedly says in this article “hunting is valid”. Then again he also says that weapons “must be in defense of the nation”. So why is hunting valid? I’m guessing because it polls well enough that gun controllers would earn permanent minority status if they were to be perceived as anti-hunting and he personally knows a few hunters who he’d like to continue to see socially.
A little investigation yields the possibility that the whole thing is part of a joke of a presidential run which includes such gems as the forced deportation of gun owners (unclear whether they can come back afterwards) and bringing back the draft. So one viable theory might be that he’s just kidding here.
I’m inclined to a different one, that we should feel sorry for LTC Bateman and his recent stroke that has apparently affected his mental capacity. Our ire should be saved for Esquire magazine and its editorial staff that has encouraged this man to nationally embarrass himself.
cross posted: Flit-TM
I’ve been pondering Pope Francis’ recent writings and have come to certain conclusions about some serious miscommunication regarding what the Pope is doing. Contrary to a lot of the Francis miscommunication corpus, I don’t think that this is the Pope’s fault.
Capitalism is not, properly speaking, a totalitarian system. It requires a separate moral system, a guide to provide purpose to all the buying and selling. It can fit to a wide variety of moral systems which is a good reason that capitalism ends up being global.
Capitalism’s limits to economic acts create a space for morality to survive and thrive and are natural fetters to the system. These are the fetters that would interest a churchman. Unfettered or unregulated capitalism is totalitarian. If you’re worshipping mammon. If you find value only in your bank account, if there is no other system that informs your purchases and your production, then you have a serious problem. The fetters of government regulation in the economic sphere are irrelevant to Pope Francis because he’s not a politician and not an economist. He has a different scope for his job and vocation.
This is a virtue problem and one that has real world, practical effects. The difference in the education levels in virtue in the American colonies at the start of its revolution and Bourbon France at the start of its revolution are a major factor in why the former succeeded and the latter was ultimately a failure that died in the terror.
Pope Francis’ gig is ultimately to inculcate virtue and prepare us for Heaven. Occasionally this means he falls into the jargon of his profession which, like all professional jargon, is sometimes confusing because in different professions, the terms have different meanings.
cross post: Flit-TM
Today, right this minute, we have a massive natural experiment in deflation going on. The demand for Bitcoin (BTC) is far outstripping any increase in supply. If this were a national currency, the central bankers would have been institutionalized for their nervous breakdowns quite some time ago. It would be front page news every day and panic would rule the airwaves.
None of this is happening with Bitcoin. BTC insiders, movers and shakers seem pleased with the increase in value for their currency and the worry is the appreciation of the currency will go away, not that it will continue. Bitcoin pessimists like Paul Krugman, not surprisingly, believe that deflation will lead to transaction collapse and hoarding. Reality, so far, disagrees with them.
I think that the problem is that nobody among the pessimists understands what BTC is for. It’s never going to be the legally mandated monopoly currency in any significant economic zone. The ethic of the BTC community works against that. This means that BTC is not competing against the US dollar, the euro, or even the renminbi.
What bitcoin does very well is create a space for moving currency without the ability for it to be stopped. That challenges national currencies in crisis that want to impose currency controls to stop money leaving their borders. You can’t stop BTC transactions without draconian controls on communications.
As a practical matter, you can’t stop a coin key from crossing borders. It also creates an incredibly small unit of currency. The smallest unit in the BTC world is the satoshi, or 0.00000001BTC. Is there any currency in the world that equals one satoshi? Until bitcoin reaches the point where its smallest transactions (looking at ads and other microtransactions) can no longer be done with single satoshis, BTC will not suffer transaction reduction to to value increase.
Current pricing would seem to imply something of a damper on BTC transaction flow when BTC rises above $100,000 USD per coin. In other words, the cheapest, cheapskate ads are offering a hundred satoshis for a second of your attention in a world where 1BTC is approximately 1,000USD. We have a long way to go before those transactions cease to be denominated in BTC. And even then, there will be prestige associated with working in BTC which will keep interest in the currency relatively high and larger transactions flowing around the $100k level. Any reduction will bring back a number of the bottom feeders from other currencies.
There are several wannabe BTC competitors waiting in the wings for the day that people want to conduct microtransactions smaller than 1 satoshi. They have established exchanges with national currencies and with BTC itself. when BTC grows in value sufficiently to give up the low end of its microtransaction market, the marketers will move on to alternatives until one of them gains enough advantage to be the next BTC.
Ultimately, BTC is about mad money for a lot of people. As an experiment, I’ve mined BTC overnight and done micro-tasks using the thing in my spare time. Since April of this year, without any impact on my productivity, I’ve gotten the price of a fairly nice night out with my wife in BTC right now. It’s a piece, but only a piece, of an emerging 21st century wallet which diversifies currency use and manages transactions both online and offline. That wallet probably won’t fully emerge for a decade at the very least and more likely will take two to really standardize but it will be the death of the ability of national currencies to live on their past reputations. People will gain the ability to react to currency foolishness much more quickly. BTC will be an important part of that technology suite.
cross posted: Flit-TM
President Obama’s veto threat of the Upton bill to legally do what he is trying to do by illegal means, delay the individual mandate, has firmly established a sad fact. The United States has a lawless president. Impeachment would be a three ring circus and unlikely to be worth the effort. President Obama has indeed not let a crisis go to waste and is trying to legitimize presidential lawlessness by picking a test case where the he is doing lawlessly what the Congress wishes to do lawfully. It’s a threat of precedent, not a present threat to the lives and health of anyone today.
A more appropriate response than impeachment would be to wake up America that there is an important and symbolic issue at stake. Speaker Boehner can do this simply by denying the President an honor. He can deny President Obama the use of the House chamber for the State of the Union address. A currently substanceless threat to our legal tradition is responded to by a substanceless slap of rebuke. Let the President write his address and let it be read from the well by a clerk.
The idea that the President has so dishonored his office that he no longer can enter the House is a powerful image that alerts the people to a problem but does not stop us from carrying on with the serious task of government. Impeachment should not be our first resort. Who wants President Biden? This measure also has the advantage that it plays to Boehner’s strengths and requires no approval from anyone else. He can take this decision unilaterally. He should.
Cross posted: Flit-TM
From a system perspective, not a human perspective, compensation for work in capitalism is the system’s way of communicating to people that the system needs more or fewer people in a job. Not enough bricklayers means rising salaries and too many means lower salaries. The trend continues until the number of people doing the work roughly matches what is needed at the market clearing price and the people are generally satisfied with the compensation.
So what does that tell us about the US distribution of population in the labor market? The distribution of compensation is highly skewed and madly demanding more people get into the job of running companies. It’s highly lucrative work that on balance tends to create labor demand. Our lack of labor demand and the resulting salary stagnation are not a harmless consequence.
But people aren’t rushing into the CEO business anywhere near the numbers necessary to drive compensation down. It’s not like the current crop of CEOs is uniformly magnificent and we simply cannot do better. The wrecked companies littering the corporate landscape around the country are a testament to that. And failure at being a CEO would seem not to carry the same penalties as a spectacularly public malpractice for a doctor or lawyer.
So why has CEO production not drawn attention of the same people addressing the “IT shortage”? Why doesn’t the CEO grooming process create more candidates that drive costs down? Why is shareholder value being squandered in so many cases in highly compensating a stream of short lived, not very good chief executives, who drive the company into disaster time and again?
There’s something wrong with our CEO system.
Cross posted Flit-TM
Normal Legislative practice:
Vote for this must pass bill even though we’ve loaded it with pork barrel spending and changed a few bits of unrelated legislation into it. You’ll hurt the country worse if it doesn’t pass.
Tea Party terrorism:
Vote for this continuing resolution to fund the government while we change/defund the Affordable Care Act.
See the difference?
Cross posted on Flit-TM
Sometimes you come across a comment that passingly mentions a central truth that you just want to climb up on a roof and shout it out to the world. That! Pay attention to that!
Trent Telenko comments on his own excellent post:
Reality lives in the details.
You have to know enough of the details to know what is vital and to be able to use good judgement as to which histories are worthwhile and which are regurgitated pap.
No one has bothered to do that with MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area, especially as it relates to the proposed invasion of Japan.
Yes, reality lives in the details and we are living in a world that both has more of those details available and has fewer of those details capturing our attention. We leave important details unexamined and fixate on the exciting but unimportant details of celebrity and titillation.
What makes the situation supremely frustrating is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Computers are both becoming cheaper and more powerful. We’re deploying new technologies such as the Semantic Web to fix it but the progress is agonizingly slow.
This Politico story on Benghazi led me to consider the question of what would need to be in place to stop the “we need you to stop talking about this until everyone forgets” strategy.
Early on while everybody is still upset in the first flush of outrage, the executive branch needs to give a time estimate of how long it is going to take to get to the bottom of it all and once they blow that deadline, a critical mass of ordinary people need to have that come up as sort of a reminder. The blowing of the deadline should be its own, separate scandal. Congress should organize hearings at the deadline so that when the administration blows it, they can get as much information as has been learned since then, monitor the resources and energy placed in the scandal to determine if they’re slow walking the thing, and get a better date.
With President Obama inserting himself once again into the Trayvon Martin killing, now ruled self defense by a Florida jury, President Obama now is calling for us to answer the question “how we can prevent future tragedies like this”. The President thinks that “[w]e should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis.”
I suggest that what is needed is Trayvon’s law. This unwritten, heretofore unconceived legislation would have changed that encounter so that Trayvon Martin would be alive today.
So what would Trayvon’s law look like? I haven’t a clue because I think that what led Trayvon Martin into that encounter with George Zimmerman has a thing to do with guns or gun violence. But no doubt others will have legislation to suggest. It would be decent and just to consider Trayvon Martin and aim changes to the law so that he would be alive today had that legislation been passed a decade ago. But what would it look like?
During the process of putting together Citizen Intelligence, I sometimes run into some things that are quite simple, but are worth remarking on. I’ve decided to put them up here as an irregular series.
Out of the ~89,000 governments in the United States, ~55,000 of them bond, or borrow money, about 61% of the total. That means 34,000 do not. Which of your governments live within their means and spend all their tax money on providing services and which of them have an invisible drain installed siphoning off unnecessary interest payments to Wall Street? How many of them could, with minimal inconvenience, add a few more percent in services or cut a few percent off their tax bills simply by not bonding or reducing their bonding to large capital items instead of borrowing for operations?
Note: Updated to make it clear that this is not about the classic large capital expenditure items that most would agree are legitimate projects for bond financing but rather borrowing that could be foregone and where, in some jurisdictions, they manage their cash flow well enough to do without the borrowing.
Real social taboos cost you hits in the blogosphere. The persistent reduction in hit count every time I touched the subject of gay marriage finally twigged me to the fact that secular marriage has an entire set of cultural taboos associated with it and if you touch them, people run away. Your hit counts drop. Try analyzing why you have secular marriage at all and people suddenly turn dense, obtuse, and conflate religious with secular marriage at every opportunity. No fear, I won’t go into it in this post. This is more of a meta commentary.
Gay marriage advocates have skillfully deployed those taboos to achieve what they want, a change in public consensus regarding marriage that is playing out in the slow motion avalanche in favor of gay marriage. They are winning in large part because nobody wants to discuss to consensus what is secular marriage for. It’s too icky.
Once secular marriage’s split from religious marriage norms becomes large enough, courageous believers are going to dive into the ick and explain it, in great detail. There will be Catholics, Muslims, Jews as well as others explaining what they haven’t had to explain before because of the prior consensus that, if not perfect, was at least close enough to their beliefs to be acceptable. Social conservatives who look like your grandparents will be talking about sex, about dominance, about female and male emotional frailties that generally only come up in rare “moment of clarity” fashion for most people. It will be the biggest orgy of social transgressiveness to happen in decades and the traditional tribes of social transgressiveness are going to be running for the door with their ears plugged up crying out “la-la-la I can’t hear you” in an absolutely clarifying display of hypocrisy.
I can’t wait.
In all the brouhaha over Snowden’s betrayal of his NSA obligations and his country I have yet to see a serious analysis outlining the full problem with this information. The nature of the information, how and why it becomes classified. Non-classified information gathered without a warrant but not accessible without a warrant is an interesting category. Why such information should be classified at all is an under-covered question though most people understand intuitively that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the government’s approach.
In general this information has been accessible to lawyers in legal cases, ie not classified but has had short accessibility lifespans. Traditionally it has been fairly quickly thrown away because it is too expensive for private companies to maintain that volume of metadata for very long. Test cases are now underway where lawyers who have been turned down by the phone companies as their copies have been overwritten are now seeking the NSA’s copy in an effort to defend their clients from federal criminal prosecution. Criminal law discovery rules are rushing headlong towards a collision with the national security state.
It is not at all clear that such information should be classified at all and that the first serious crime in the Snowden case might have been committed by as yet unnamed bureaucrats who improperly classified this information to begin with, possibly leading to unjust criminal convictions and obstructing justice for years now. Overclassification is a major issue of long standing in US governance. It creates legal jeopardy where none should exist and impedes government oversight crucial to the functioning of the US system of government.
At trial (assuming there ever is one) the government bears the burden of proving that the information was properly classified in the first place. But long before this affair ever sees the inside of a court room, we need to hash out whether this classification was proper or should see the light of day.
In an interesting aside regarding security preparations for the 2013 Bilderberger meeting, it came out that a number of no parking signs put up to prevent “vehicles parking on the verge of the Old Hempstead Road” were fraudulent, no law banning parking existed. This is something of a public service the Bilderberger group has provided to the citizens of Watford. Their government is perfectly capable of just making stuff up and restricting liberty on a fraudulent basis. This would not normally be something that would come to light. After all, who checks such trivial matters that the no parking signs on a particular street or verge are actually backed up by legislation establishing that parking is not allowed? You’d have to be a moral cretin to endanger the legitimacy of the state over so small a matter. Yet such moral cretins seem to be in power in Watford. How would you know whether they are not in power in your neck of the woods? It is not so easy to tell.
Sometimes it’s the dog that doesn’t bark that is interesting. The Benghazi attack talking points and their morphing from a discussion of Al Queda terrorism into a witch hunt against a dodgy film maker was designed to protect someone. The question is who? Who was worth embarrassing the US diplomatic and intelligence corps and discrediting us with the Libyan government who knew what was going on? The two popular figures are Barak Obama because, as President, he was in charge and Hillary Clinton because, as Secretary of state, she had responsibility over embassy security. But we all seem to be overlooking a third possibility. Vice President Biden was explicitly put on the ticket to give gravitas and experience to guide President Obama in sticky situations where he might not have experience. What if, 4 years into Obama’s presidency, Biden was still fulfilling that role and he took charge and completely blew it?
Obama would not want his continued reliance on Biden for urgent matters of national security to come out during his reelection campaign. Biden would be looking to bury the affair and dirty up his 2016 expected rival for the presidential nomination. Clinton would be the logical choice to spill the beans through anonymous leaks and cut outs. She hasn’t yet, which makes the theory less attractive but doesn’t knock it entirely out of consideration. She could have played out the scenario and not liked where it led for her own future regardless of whether it is true or not.
This is speculation but at least some of the media dogs chasing the story should have chased down this angle and asked the relevant questions. None seem to have done it.
For a certain style of geek, the week is not complete without stopping by Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to dip into the mad science world of Girl Genius, a creation of Phil and Kaja Foglio. The series is a three time hugo award winner, twice winning an Eisner award, and three time winner of the Web Cartoonist choice awards. In other words, it’s very good.
But like many of their mad scientist creations, they’ve been let down by a minion, and their domain has expired. You can, however still reach it via IP number. But curses, the actual comic does not use relative addressing so you have to plug that in separately, like this to get Monday’s tasty bit of a world where mad science rules.
North Korea’s official newspaper carried the announcement today. The armistice is no longer in force. We are once again in a state of active war with North Korea.
It is not just us, by withdrawing from the armistice, North Korea has reignited conflict with:
Since the armistice was signed by a North Korean general on behalf of China, somebody should probably ask China what its position is regarding the armistice and its obligations.
The Queen has fallen ill, gastroenteritis to be specific. She has been taken to King Edward VII hospital in London. This hospital bills itself as the leading private hospital in London.
Why is she not staying at an NHS hospital? Gastroenteritis is not particularly complicated or unusual and should be well within the capabilities of any decent hospital facility of the most rudimentary type.
The Queen of England’s main role is to provide an example, a symbol. She is doing so today with the choice of her hospital. But is anybody paying attention?
Edit: Ugh, what was I thinking. I haven’t gotten a post this wrong this decade. I reread Heller, which I apparently desperately needed. Mea culpa. I’ll leave this up as penance, and a reminder that I can be a great fool.
Previous item in series here: I
If you start from zero on the gun debate, a curious fact emerges. The right to arms is recognized in federal and state law as a military right in the form of milita membership via the unorganized militia. Militas are generally limited to men and only up to age 45 or so. So why don’t gun controllers go after the right to bear arms of those who are not covered? Women’s gun rights are only protected under the penumbra of the 2nd amendment. So why have women’s right to bear arms not been put under any specific pressure by the gun control crowd? Common sense and a little thought explains why attempts to control guns like this simply aren’t done and modern case law on this point is rarer than 3rd amendment case law. The ladies need their weapons to defend against both stranger attack and to equalize matters when boyfriend turns to ex-boyfriend stalker. Those over 45 have similar issues.
Those excluded from militia statutes have, theoretically, less protection of their right to bear arms, yet in practice this weakness of protection is never exploited. How did a 2nd amendment penumbra manage to grow up as custom without ever having gone through the judicial process.
Perhaps there have been relevant cases that I missed. Please educate me in comments.
Edit: I should have made clear in the text, and I manifestly did not, that the right to bear arms is a basic human right held by just about everybody that precedes constitutions and laws and is not limited to military service. That pretty much was the point of Heller, that bearing arms is an individual right.
This makes the article something of an exercise in looking at it from the other side’s viewpoint and still finding the gun controller position incoherent. The problem of Miller’s ruling against sawed off shotguns still stands.
The US is ill served by having the gun lobby be the primary defender of the Constitution’s 2nd amendment. The first part of the text is, as the gun controllers correctly note, under analyzed:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The problem is that the gun controllers don’t seriously analyze it either. What is the militia is a question that has yet to be definitively answered. As clear from the statements of the Founders, the text of federal law, the collective wordings of the state constitutions and state laws, the militia is the whole of the people. Membership in the militia is pretty clear. But that doesn’t answer more than who is in the militia. It says nothing about what it is.
What does the militia do? It must do either exactly what the military does or some subset of what the military does. How do you describe what the military does? Well the military has a listing of job descriptions called Military Occupation Specialty Code (MOSC). You never hear either side of the gun control debate discuss which MOSC are covered under the penumbra of the 2nd amendment’s recognition that the security of a free state makes a well regulated militia necessary. The gun controllers get the vapors at the idea that the 2nd amendment even has penumbras while gun groups aren’t much interested in potential penumbras beyond the right to ammunition for those guns they want and other ancillary questions strictly related to the subject of pushing lead downrange.
I would suggest that seriously thinking about what a militia is and what it should be restricted from doing would leave a large body of activities that should be protected by the 2nd amendment but generally aren’t because of the outsized emphasis on the trigger puller protection portion of the text. What are the military missions that are appropriate for the US military that are inappropriate for the militia? That’s a reasonable question. Let’s start with a decidedly non-scary MOSC, quartermaster. The military will occasionally feed the hungry. Does the militia have that right? That seems fairly trivial but yes, they should be able to. But when cities try to stop the feeding of homeless in city parks, is it still trivial?
When you live in a land of very limited laws, such questions do not arise. Of course you can feed the hungry and nobody need think too hard under what bit of the Bill of Rights is usurpation prevented. We exited that territory a few new deals ago. It’s time to start going over the text without skipping parts.
I don’t think George Will meant to be cruel when he wrote his recent article “The Time Bomb in Obamacare?” but he was and it is a recurring conservative mistake. Will focused on the law and the constitution. He found a bomb and he imagines he is a good bomb squad officer by analyzing the bomb and figuring out how it is going to blow up. What he missed, and it is crucial, is the vital step of clearing away the civilians. That is a cruel oversight and hurts the conservative cause. You have to make sure that people understand that there is a bomb and which direction to run so they do not get blown up.
The immediate threat for ordinary people is not Obamacare’s constitutional status, but what it will do to ordinary american’s access to care. Institutions that are caught in the payment squeeze will triage because otherwise they go broke and close, which would maximize suffering. Triage means that the lack of funds will cause them to try to maximize who they can save and cut off who they can’t afford to save. If you are going to be triaged, you need to know and you need to make alternate arrangements to pay cash, figure out how to live without needed care, or get your affairs in order. The later people figure this out, the more pain, suffering, and death Obamacare is going to cause.
Nothing George Will said about the law is wrong. By focusing on the Constitution and the law to the exclusion of the upcoming suffering of the people he ended up reinforcing a pernicious stereotype, one conservatives would do well to lose. Ultimately, the conservative focus on the law and the Constitution has the effect of reducing suffering and increasing the happiness of the people. This approach would be greatly increased in effectiveness if conservatives would directly say so instead of assuming people already knew. A great many people do not know and the conservative brand is suffering for it.
After the Newtown school massacre, a lot of people feel unsafe and want changes. They are right to do so. But the changes we make should actually make us safer, not just make us feel good. So like any full review, we need to start by describing what we already have.
The United States has the premier security system on the planet. It has the largest military, by far and has 50 state militaries in the national guard system. It has overlapping layers of federal, state, county, municipal and special purpose police (like the postal and railway police). It also has an amorphous, poorly documented, little discussed system called the unorganized militia. Naturally, the first thing to look at is the unorganized militia. Efforts to oversee and improve all the other parts are ongoing and permanent. We’re unlikely to squeeze major improvements out of those parts without major increases in expenses that we can’t really afford right now.
The unorganized militia right now, for virtually no taxpayer dollars spent. Its costs are self-funded via license fees and members buy their own weapons, ammunition, and training. It is “bring your own device” defense and gives us somewhere on the order of 2.5 million defensive gun uses (DGU) per year according to the best guesses of the academics who study such things. That’s 2.5 million cases of robbery, rape, murder, and other mayhem that often don’t even make it to the FBI crime statistics because just the knowledge of an armed presence defused a situation and made potential criminals think better of what they were going to do.
Any effort to change the rules under which the unorganized militia arms itself or gets rid of the unorganized militia altogether has to keep an eye on the DGU numbers so they either go up or the other portions of the system pick up the slack as the militia DGU numbers go down. Anything else and we are becoming less safe. This is why conservatives are mad at Sen. Feinstein. The gun control bill she is threatening to introduce will, very predictably, reduce the number of militia DGU and cause more innocent americans to be victims.
cross posted FLIT-TM