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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thanks.

I appreciate the kind words and commentary on the post immediately to the south. And, yes, love you too, brother.

I'll have more to say when I have time and energy. We just found out our ATM number was swiped. No money was lost, thank God, but it's still a pain in the tuchus for such things as, say, auto-debiting. Also, we have friends in need of prayer for a child (I need to be vague), so storm heaven or keep them in your thoughts, as is your wont.

For the curious, and a happier bit of news, I've broken 1000 entries on LibraryThing. A neat feature is the Legacy Library function, which shows which books you share with famous people. Walker Percy and I get along reasonably well, sharing even very obscure titles.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Being marginalized in the culture war.

This is not directed at the people of good faith who I have spoken with about firearms since Sandy Hook. Hopefully, you know who you are. But I do have to unburden myself, and unfortunately in a burdensomely-verbose manner.

It doesn't matter, but I didn't sleep for shit in the ten days after the Sandy Hook massacre. I was up until at least 1 am every night, trying to distract myself from the horror of the butchery committed by that evil garbage. It's not much, but my wife made sure to send a card to the Newtown priests facing the horror. When I started talking about the issue, I expressed my interest in solutions like smaller magazine capacity, biometric safes and trigger locks and the like. Productive, civil conversations. Or so it seemed.

As it turned out, none of that mattered. The tone changed from one of wanting to prevent another Sandy Hook into a two-months hate against gun ownership in general and NRA members in particular. Solutions fell by the wayside, and de-legitimization began in earnest.

You see, I'm an NRA member. As is my wife. We do not own a Bushmaster, nor any other semi-automatic weapon. However, we collectively own several firearms. Including--as will be set forth below--a completely-legal, bona-fide military weapon currently used by our military right now. Unlike what [damnatio memoriae] used at Newtown.

Nevertheless, because of our membership in Satan's Own Rifles, prominent people of culture hope we get shot. Hope really hard! [Which strikes me as an odd spin on the Hope™ being offered in 2008, but I digress for the first time.]

After all, we sponsored the slaughter--just in time for Christmas.

It didn't stop with mere award-winning novelists and actresses who remain unshunned by polite society. No, the Sons of Morrow nodded sagely, comparing the problem of gun ownership to slavery, Jim Crow and the KKK, and finally--ta-da!--Nazism. The inevitable fraudulent reporting for a good cause followed, and we can no doubt expect more in time.

Support for ethically-questionable carnival barkers with plummy accents also came from respectable soapboxes. Why? Because the barker doesn't show "cultural sensitivity" for the peons. He also doesn't show the good sense God gave cabbage, so I'm actually happy with Piers leading the charge. Forward! Oh, and by the way, Britain is not necessarily less violent than the U.S., despite tightening its gun laws over the past generation.

By the way, having a limey speak for your cause is effective unless you're talking about firearms. Then it conjures up Paul Revere, Redcoats, and buried Francophilia. I can say "Limey," by the way--some of my Dad's family came over from Kent in the late 1800s.

For my money, the Journal-News, a nasty little suburban newspaper in New York, won the prize. It decided to embark on a shame campaign, creating a searchable database of gun owners--legal permit holders, mind you--for all to see. Inaccurate as all hell, it also may have led to burglaries. As they always say, can't make a revolution without breaking a few kulaks.

Finally, President Dronestrike weighed in with an admittedly-decent statement from his speech-writing staff. Unfortunately for those who haven't mentally-suppressed his record, it was the irony equivalent of a heaping bowl of horseradish, bleu cheese and anchovy ice cream.

Far worse than the secular lefties doing what they do was Catholics joining the full court press. Leading with a correspondent of Mark's issuing what he no doubt thought to be a call to reason together. Alas, Mark's left-Catholic correspondent failed to note the juxtaposition of (1) condemning conservative, gun-owning Catholics for caricatures of their well-meaning opponents with (2) a bit of rhetoric two paragraphs later broad-brushing them for indulging in Red Dawn-inspired survivalist fantasies.

Your reality-based-community hard at work.

But that wasn't sufficient. In addition, Mark's Correspondent the went all CDF and questioned the Catholicism of the gun owners he patently dislikes--and apparently fears.

Somehow, it got even better. And by that, I mean much, much worse. In the comment thread, after announcing I was an NRA member and was (then) interested in some kind of solution (like biometric locks), one fellow piped up with Absolute Moral Authority and declared that he worked in the NRA's "dream world": some violent, unnamed inner city.

At that point, I drew back. In this environment, it is apparently necessary to state the obvious, so let me do so--such is not my "dream world." Far from it. I politely excused myself from the conversation, recognizing an unbridgeable gulf. Face slaps will do that.

A well-meaning Catholic I respect declared in a different forum that firearms were like the Ring of Sauron. Which means that firearms are not merely near occasions of sin, but are inherently evil. Thus, I am keeping the weapons equivalent of a stack of Hustlers in the house, which will eventually lead me to do something heinous unless Gollum shows up in time to bite my trigger fingers off.

With that, I realized that that I am up against an irrational response.

What we are dealing with instead is the necessary moral revulsion about massacre being channelled toward a scapegoat--one substituting for the unfortunately-dead trigger-pulling shit. Unfortunately, let's admit the following--not all such revulsion is free from impure motives.

It has been aided and abetted for political ends by the Left, and gladly directed toward a convenient, culture-war scapegoat despised by the same and easily-demonized. Bitter clingers, anyone?

That I can handle. As I said above, it's who the Left are and what they do. They hate guns. Contrary to soothing voices claiming otherwise, pols do want to confiscate firearms. Right, Governor Cuomo? Right, NY Dems? Right, Senator Feinstein? Right, Rep. Muhlbauer? Right, Chief Lansdowne?


What I cannot abide is brothers and sisters in the Faith donning the garb of the Holy Censor, playing the caricature game and leavening it with anathemas.

Like this charming bit of moral bullying in the combox: Gun owners are reluctant about untested technological fixes because their mindset is "I don’t care and I won’t help." Fantastic bit of soul-discernment there, Matty! That must be it.

Or could it be that gun owners are worried about things that might make their tools (because that's what guns are) inoperable when they need them to work? Especially after weeks of being shit on by people who can't conceal their contempt?

Nah. Easier to diagnose the hidden bad faith in the callous pricks you dislike. By the way--spiritual direction might not be your forte', MD.

Or, behold: this invocation of Tom Tomorrow's tired caricature of NRA members as an as-obvious-as-gravity moral trump card that only a fool or a knave could disagree with. I mean, really--my friend Zach Frey is one of the most reasonable people I've ever met. Way more reasonable than me. (Which is actually intended a compliment and not damning-with-faint-praise.) Yet asking the feverishly anti-NRA Ms. Clark to consider an alternative view is irrational, "self-parodying," "made-up crap." Well, I stand refuted. And she has her halo to admire, which, I imagine, is nice.

In the face of this avalanche of OUTRAGE! driven by Absolute Moral Authority™ I am left shaking my head with my arms folded. I have no response when people demand solutions of me: how am I supposed to respond to a rhetorical lynch mob?

It has gone beyond a search for solutions to Sandy Hook. It has become a firestorm of caricatures, marginalization and demonization. Even the children have to be warned away from the Evil I Represent. I decline to validate it, thank you.

If you really want to talk--with good will, and not to posture or advance an agenda, here is my plea: attempt to understand (1) firearms and (2) the Second Amendment.

[As an aside, government officials, please don't send your legislative fist careening toward my tonsils, call it "dialogue," and expect me to sit quietly. Just a thought.]

Let's try this: which beloved cultural icon told the Kansas City Star the following about living by herself?


 [S]he is not afraid to live alone, keeping pistol by screen door and shotgun in her bedroom. "I know how to use them both."

--Laura Ingalls Wilder, in 1955, age 88. Citation: Library of America Edition of The Little House Books (2012), Vol. 2, p. 824.

I don't think she was talking about hunting from the house when she mentioned the firearms.

In other words, there's a long tradition of gun ownership in this country, and you'll find it in the oddest places. Please include studying up on personal firearms--the variety, how they work, etc., as you start weighing in on the subject. So much of the rhetoric flying about is bogglingly ignorant, and almost proudly so. Let me try an analogy: a friend speaks with you about her desire to share the Gospel with Muslims, and says "Could you fact-check me on this? Here's what my studies have revealed about Muslim worship."

Muslims gather together every Wednesday in buildings called 'synagogues.' They bring baskets of flowers which they place before a statue of their god 'Koran,' and proceed to prostrate themselves repeatedly before the statue while a woman recites from 'Muhammad,' their holy book. Oh, and they're kinda nasty.

Where to begin? Besides begging her to study up on Jainism instead?

A lot of the rhetoric surrounding firearms is like that, badly distorted where it isn't laughably false or incomprehensible. So please, please read up. For example, Darwin offers a sound primer on "assault weapons" here.

A lot of what I have been reading suggests that the speaker regards weapons as evil in and of themselves, a death-totem to be avoided with superstitious horror. Hence the Ring analogy. But it's also seen as a "madness" to want to own one. Some of the questions about the need to own a Bushmaster come across a little like Carrie Nation asking why anyone needs to have any alcoholic beverage, much less a variety.


"Why don't you put down the demon rum and have a nice cup of tea instead, dear?"

Frankly, I don't want a Bushmaster. But I know people who own semi-automatic weapons, and they work just the same. Why do they have to have those features/look that way? Well, why don't we start mandating that all high-prestige, high-performance cars (e.g., Corvettes, Ferraris, Benzes, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Porsches, etc.) sold in the U.S. are required to have Pollockesque hot pink/hunter orange paint jobs and giant unremovable Hello Kitty stickers on the hoods? Why? Well, what social purpose do such vehicles serve? They only guzzle fuel or drive up insurance rates, either through reckless driving or expensive repairs. Q.E.D. Plus, you know--class warfare bonus points.

Which brings me around, at long last, to my war firearm. It's a Mossberg Model 500 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. It looks a lot like the one pictured in the upper right-hand corner of the link. It is absolutely indistinguishable from the one used by our armed forces, with two exceptions: It carries one less shell, and has a different trigger guard. It fires the same projectiles. With one trigger pull, a double-aught buckshot load will discharge 9 projectiles, called pellets, in a cone-shaped dispersal pattern. The Bushmaster only fires one, in a straight line. You want to talk high-capacity magazine? My Mossberg has one, to the tune of 54 projectiles.

Sure, magazine reloads and the like, but the fact remains that my currently-legal shotgun--used by our armed forces--is capable of worse horrors than a Bushmaster. Which is why I--and other gun owners--get worried when other firearms are targeted. Horrific to contemplate, we worry about the reaction if someone misuses our firearm of choice. In my case, I doubt the feigned respect for shooting sports and hunting associated with shotguns would last long.

Finally, please study up on the Second Amendment. It truly isn't about hunting, though that was a presumed corollary. Self-protection, yes--but in a broader sense--protection from tyranny. It's neither fun to think about, nor lightly to be thought about. Nor should one be tossing about the idea that the government is tyrannical at the drop of a hat. Especially when one is unhappy about who happens to head that government.

Nonetheless.

The Founders were flawed men, but despite being over-represented by Deists, they seemed to have a grip on the idea of Original Sin. They built a system that was meant to restrain and channel the worst impulses, and a handy reminder that they rule only with the consent of the governed is embodied in that Amendment. Sure, that requires inculcation of certain virtues, but it's hardly impossible. More to the point, armed resistance to tyranny has a solid Catholic pedigree. It's not the first resort, I know. Far, far from it. But it's there.

And one last word--the recognition of the individual rights theory (the only credible reading)--turns five years old this year. It was a razor-thin vindication, and it hangs by the health of one justice. Until it gets ingrained, and some level of respect within the bar, gun owners are going to be twitchy. If you think things are unpleasant now, an overturn of Heller would be Roe Redux.

Anyway, this has gone on long enough. I'm exhausted.

In so many ways.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sums it up.


Hat tip to Jeff Goldstein of the indispensible Protein Wisdom.

I don't like being on the other side of the cultural divide from people I like, but there you have it.

More soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's not just me, is it?

My eldest son looks like Freddie Mercury in this shot, right?






Taken in a coin-op photo booth last summer, during our annual family film excursion, this time to see Brave.

This means something...

It's a sign.

It's so *Me* when you think about it.

I have a new calling:



[Click on the image to see the opportunity more legibly.]



Friday, January 18, 2013

Hooray for Hooters!

I could not resist that title. Not even a little.

And here is why.

You can find compassion, understanding and basic decency in unexpected places.

Of wars and rumors of wars.

Yeah, let's sell this swine more advanced weaponry. Good intentions, and all that.

Just think of Morsi as Arab anti-Semitism's newest wet nurse.

Quick reminder: McCain would have been no better.

Going to be a long, miserable century, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Fast and the Furious: Cairo Drift.

We're handing over advanced technology to another cartel of thugs.

Psst--Morsi should be denied a tank permit:

Nearly three years ago, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood delivered a speech urging Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists. In a television interview months later, the same leader described Zionists as “these bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”

That leader, Mohamed Morsi, is now president of Egypt...

It worked so well in Mexico, I guess.

Time to start spreading the rumor that we have an off-switch for our military equipment like the Cylons did in the Galactica reboot. 

Pleased to meet you--I see you've met my favorite cartoon man.

I never would have imagined, but guess who does the voice of Phineas and Ferb's father from the titular animated series?

Richard O'Brien, the creator and star (Riff Raff) of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.






Not Gorbachev in a Pizza Hut commercial, but on that side of the Head Asplode meter.





Monday, January 14, 2013

A nation of status, not laws.

A follow-up to the David Gregory empty gun magazine law violation discussed below:

1. 105 people were arrested in DC for violation of the same law in 2012.

2. Gregory's wife is a social friend of the DC Attorney General.

In the meantime, our national government is planning to impose more such laws on the citizenry.

The unconnected citizenry, that is.

The moral of the story.



My new favorite turn of phrase.

"I switched my mind."

Courtesy of my youngest daughter, Elizabeth. She was wearing a lovely red dress to church on Sunday, but insisted on wearing pink glittery shoes with it. When we balked, she sulked for a while, then came around to our way of thinking.

"I wanted to wear the pink shoes, but I switched my mind."

I think we have a new family catchphrase (like we need more, but still).

Curse of the Mandatum.

Notre Dame hasn't won a national championship since Ex Corde Ecclesiae was issued.

Hmmm....

Sharia would be a distinct turn for the better.

Euthanasia moves at a brisk clip in Belgium, this time claiming two 45 year old deaf brothers.

Pretty soon it will become involuntary--it is the way of all progress.




Friday, January 11, 2013

Preview of Coming Attractions.

America's worst municipal leader (and all-time pettiest authoritarian) sinks to a new low, deciding he is going to keep the little people from abusing painkillers.

Offer it up, advises Mayor Ratched:

"[S]o you didn’t get enough painkillers and you did have to suffer a little bit."

Brace yourselves: this is what is in store for the rest of us under Obamacare. Gotta bend that cost-curve downward, no matter who--quite literally--suffers.

As predictable as a metronome.

NBC's David Gregory will not be prosecuted for possessing illegal rifle magazine, "despite the clarity of the violation of this important law."

The laws do not apply to the ruling class, living in their gated, well-appointed compounds, nor to their circle of favored courtiers, like Gregory. Discretion will be exercised to excuse and protect the important.

You, on the other hand, would be staring down the barrel of a vigorous felony prosecution for the same violation of the District's silly statute.

"Equality before the law," my ass.

Proposition: "The collective national IQ peaked in 1967, and has eroded since."

Discuss!

No, I'm grasping towards something like that.

It's a byproduct of cataloguing the books. What strikes me about the America of the 1950s and 1960s is the earnest, serious belief that a general familiarity with matters historical, cultural and intellectual was not only essential, but possible. Durant's Story of Civilization, the Encyclopedia Britannica with its study guides, the Great Ages of Man series, and even rolling on momentum into the early '70s with the Life History of the United States. All general, but well-researched and serious efforts to give the reader a conversational familiarity with a wide range of topics--all because they were worth knowing if one was a well-rounded person. You also saw the flowering of museums, city orchestras, theatrical groups and the like during the same time frame.

Then it ended. The demand dried up, and voila--it was gone. The books went out of print and the arts organizations started to live a hand-to-mouth existence which they haven't, in the main, escaped yet.

Sure, there have been some efforts to push back the tide--Hirsch's Dictionary of Cultural Literacy comes to mind, (hopefully) successful re-funding of museums (the DIA here in Detroit). But nothing like what you saw five decades ago. Nothing like the general presumption that such knowledge is important in and of itself, and is part of a full, well-ordered life. It feels like the fall from, if not a golden age, at least one of silver.

Food for melancholic thought.

A wee bit over-generous.

One of the telling and accurate criticisms of the Second Vatican Council is that it suffered from an almost Pollyanna-ish optimism about human progress.

To wit, DH Paragraph 1:

A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man, and the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty.

Perhaps in 1965, in certain parts of the West. Perhaps. But far from prevalent (e.g., the Communist world), and not for long even in the West. Contemporary man's bestial side came roaring to the surface, and the descent to the depths began.

And in royal news...

...and sorry, House of Stuart legitimists, it has to do with the descendants of the "Import-A-Kraut" policy the English used in the bad ol' days...

...the Duchess of Cambridge's official portrait was revealed.

To less than universal acclaim, he says with English understatement.

It looks like it is getting a slightly--but only slightly--better reception than Graham Sutherland's official portrait of Churchill ("It makes me look like a half-wit," he grumbled), which the Missus eventually destroyed.

I dunno--it doesn't look that bad.

You're still visiting!

Well, thank you. Since I'm as reliable as a rain dance in the posting department.

Just when I think I can go at a steady clip, something of higher priority jumps in. Speaking of which: prayers for my mother-in-law would be appreciated, as she had a health scare, and has since transitioned from independent living to life in a decent group home. It was a turbulent couple of weeks in late November-early December.

I recently de-activated my FB account for an indefinite period, so that should be one less screeny distraction.

I have found another, but it is more pragmatic: I'm indexing the Price Book Archives, and it is a daunting task. I am using LibraryThing, which is superb.

But, Lord--I have a lot--a LOT--of books. Here's my start, which I update with great frequency. Please note it is by entry, which can (and does) mean that there are sometimes multiple volumes (encyclopedias, etc.) grouped under one entry.

And, yes--my Much Better Half has correctly diagnosed that part of my motivation is "a d-ck-measuring contest." Sure--I'm bragging, to a certain extent. But it is nice to have the ability to sort, categorize and just flat-out keep track of books.