Caravan Of Ghouls

Michael Bloomberg’s “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” – aka the “Tragedy Exploitation Tour” – will be stopping in Minneapolis (where else?) next week:


On Wednesday at 10:00 AM, the No More Names bus tour will be stopping in Minneapolis to read out the names of those killed by gun violence and to demand action from our leaders.

Will you join us?

Here are the details:

What: Minneapolis No More Names Rally

When: Wednesday, July 31st, 10:00 AM

Where: US Federal Courthouse Plaza
300 South 4th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415

The bus departed from Newtown, CT six months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, commemorating those killed with guns — and determined to turn the tide on six months of inaction from Congress.

In each state where the tour stops, it’s up to supporters like you to speak up for laws that protect our communities from future tragedies.

So please join us at the rally on Wednesday:

Thanks for all you do,

Mayors Against Illegal Guns

P.S. — We are planning to read the names of those killed by gun violence in 25 states across the country. But the bus will only keep running with your support. Please pitch in $33 or more today:

I can’t make it Wednesday – duty calls.

But I think an ideal counterdemonstration would be this; for every name read off that was killed by someone who’d never obey any gun law, no matter what it was – someone with a demonstrable criminal record, for example – someone shout out “killed by a criminal”.

If I could make it, I might hold up a sign that reads:



I might need some help holding that one.

Retail Indicators

I was talking with a friend of mine in the retail business the other day. She works at a store in Uptown Minneapolis.

“Minnesota leftybloggers must be working on stories about a vaguely sexual scandal involving a conservative woman” she said.

“Why?”, I asked.

“Because I can’t keep Jergens or paper towles in stock”.

I had no idea what she meant.  Continue reading

Doubting Thomas

“I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter. Now I wake up and ask myself, ‘Who do I hate today?’” – Helen Thomas

The Grand Dame of the Washington Press Corps files her last report.  Will they regret giving her so much deference?


The memoriams to Helen Thomas have thus far ventured no where near hagiography-status, due largely to the anti-Semitic statements and acrimonious questions that defined her later years.  But to follow Thomas’ career trajectory is to follow the style and influence of the mainstream media.  Thomas admirably fought her way into the newsroom, asked probing questions with at least a veneer of respect (hence, her concluding remarks of “thank you, Mr. President” after every presidential press conference), and then devolved into a caricature of an angry, biased reporter holding some extremely ugly and racist views.

Indeed, it would appear that most of Helen Thomas’ biography resides in her later years as she viewed American foreign policy through a Star of David lens, leading even prominent liberals to ostracize her.  Much of the coverage of her passing, from news reports to her Wikipedia page, focus largely on her 2010 comments on Israel, declaring that Israelis should “go home” to Europe and the United States.

Thomas’ start in the media was anything but controversial.

The daughter of Lebanese immigrants, Thomas worked as a reporter for the United Press in 1943 on “women’s topics” – essentially fluff articles on baking and clothing.  It wasn’t until the mid-1950s, after having written the equivalent of Washington gossip columns, that Thomas was able to cover major federal agencies and far more noteworthy news items.  From her post as the head of the Women’s National Press Club and later a White House correspondent during the Kennedy administration, Thomas was able to get women a greater role in journalism – having previously been denied access to organizations like the National Press Club and events like the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Worthwhile accomplishments, to be sure.  But having spent most of her professional life fighting for acceptance, even once Thomas was in the door, she couldn’t stop her role as an endless antagonist to those she personally disagreed with.  Thomas was most certainly not an “example for journalists,” although her behavior of biased reporting and lack of decorum has definitely been followed by many current reporters.

Thomas’ defenders often claim she was a bitter pill to politicians of all stripes.  Of course, Thomas’ White House harangues for Democrats typically involved criticizing them for not moving further left, as she once famously declared that Barack Obama was not liberal.  Bill Clinton “personified the human spirit” while George W. Bush was the “worst president in history.”  When Thomas joined the Hearst Syndicate in 2000, whatever restraint she had held before vanished, hence her above quote about being able to “hate” whomever she pleased.

From trail-blazer, to provocateur, to angry activist with a byline – does that not also describe the evolving role of the mainstream media in the past 60 years?  Thomas was unfortunately another trendsetter in the end – a forerunner of the mixture between opinion and reporting; of a style of journalistic coverage that smears ideological opponents and debases politics regardless of facts.  Stephen Colbert might recoil at the thought, but Helen Thomas was one of the originators of the “truthiness” that Comedy Central’s mock conservative loves to sling at others.

I’m a liberal, I was born a liberal, and I will be a liberal till the day I die. – Helen Thomas

Berg’s Eighth Law Is Also Iron-Clad And Universal

The American Left is obliging enough to give me a world of confirmation that Berg’s Seventh Law (“When a Liberal issues a group defamation or assault on conservatives’ ethics, character or respect for liberty or the truth, they are at best projecting, and at worst drawing attention away from their own misdeeds”) and its various corollaries are pretty much dead-on reflections of human nature filtered through leftist politics.  Berg’s Seventh gets most of the attention. 

But Berg’s Eighth Law has had its place in the sun this past few weeks. 

The law reads “American liberalism’s reaction to one of “their”constituents – women, gays or people of color – running for office or otherwise identifying as a conservative is indistinguishable from a sociopathic disorder”.  And the left here in Minnesota’s been flying their evidence like a battle flag this past few weeks.

From Ryan Winkler’s “Uncle Tom” jape, to the flurries of racist hatred facing every ethnic-minority conservative, from Michelle Malkin to, lately, Larry Elder (and don’t get me started on the political misogyny shown to conservative women), it’s been a banner couple of weeks for lefty bigotry. 

I, for one, have a dream; that my children will grow up in a world where they’ll be judged not by the political label that Media Matters and “ThinkProgress” put on them, but on the contents of their hearts…

Economics Is Hard

Democrats are starting to get defensive about the DFL’s Democrat Tax Orgy.

How defensive?

Sally Jo Sorenson, one of the very few Minnesota leftybloggers that doesn’t deserve to be under police surveillance, took time off from her busy schedule of amending incoming comments to have a screaming, body-function-control-losing cow tweet:

MNGOP troll blames “DFL anti-biz MORONS” in 2013 for June 2011 Unline [sic] relocation choice #mnleg #oops #stribpol

The linked blog post notes that a Republican tweep blamed ULine moving its warehouse to Wisconsin on Governor Dayton’s warehouse tax, when ULine actually started making its plans for the move in 2011.

Well.  I guess that crunches it.  I’m going to have to draft a pained concession.  Bear with me a moment.

Ms. Sorenson,

Great point.  That rhetorical “oops” on Twitter completely invalidates the entire case against raising taxes in a recession.  With that, I guess we have to admit the DFL tax orgy, notwithstanding the fact that Democrat tax orgies never ever ever work, will not only have no effect, but will set the state’s economic blender to “puree”.  All by its lonesome. 

All because a Republican tweep bobbled a date on one event.  We sit corrected, and admit abject defeat.

Oh, wait – your entire point is invalidated too, because you misspelled “ULine”. 

I guess we’re both completely utterly wrong!

Don’t have a cow!  Or a melt-down!  Or go all emo on us!  It’s just a misspelling – albeit one that completely invalidates – by your own “logic” – your entire argument, whatever it is. 



Of course, Sorenson missed the memo (or perhaps just isn’t being paid to fret about such things) about Navarre packing up shop and heading for Texas.  Or Red Wing Shoes and Laurence Transportation moving their warehouse plans across the Mississippi.  Or the other warehouses around Minnesota that are not-so-quietly eyeing locations across one river or the other.  None of those count…

…because of that darned Republican tweep bobbling the date for “Unline’s” plans.

That’s all it takes, apparently, to prove an economic plan unimpeachably correct. 

Of course, 2011 was a date we had a Democrat governor back into office promising a raft of business taxes.  And when the Republican party showed signs of unravelling; for those paying attention, 2011 was full of messages that Minnesota’s tax future was going to be a departure of some kind from the relatively conservative past; at the very least, the future promised uncertainty (and delivered it!).  Businesses hate uncertainty – they plan years, not weeks, ahead; perhaps the folks at “Unline” were more on top of the situation than we knew.

Or maybe not.  And it doesn’t matter, because it’s moot point.  Because once a “Republican troll” gets a date wrong, the entire argument is over!

Continue reading

Open Letter To Badge-Carrying Journos

To: “Badge-Carrying” Journalists
From: Mitch Berg, uppity peasant
Re:  Here’s My F***ing Badge

Two whom it may etc etc,

Over the past 11 years or so, not a few journos have asked “citizen journalists” to show you their “journalist badges”.

I haven’t eaten Cracker Jacks in years, so I don’t even know how I’d get one.

But as a blogger, here’s my “badge”:  In the SCOTUS case of Lovell v. Griffin (1938), Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote for a unanimous Supreme Court:

“The liberty of the press is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. These indeed have been historic weapons in the defense of liberty, as the pamphlets of Thomas Paine and others in our own history abundantly attest. The press in its connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.”

Given that we uppity bloggers are the ones that actually “defend liberty”, I think that settles that.

That is all.

Our Racist Alternative Media

A comment I got off-line from a neighbor got me thinking a little more about (I puke a little in my mouth to say it) last week’s bizarre little Nick Coleman blog post.

I focused on his fabrication of facts in re the cancellation of an open carry event scheduled in conjunction with the “Open Streets” event in Minneapolis this past weekend.  Coleman – the current “Executive Editor” of lefty videoblog “The Uptake” – essentially created a story from pure vapor; in the original latin, I believe the term was “de anus“. 

But there was another aspect to the story that should draw even more brickbats – including from “Uptake” readers and putative “progressives” that actually think about what their “movement” says and how they say it.

Here’s Coleman from his piece last week – starting with his ofay classist jape:

Imagine how reassured you would feel when hundreds of bearded guys from Andover and Elko show up in North Minneapolis or the Summit-University area of St Paul (“Open Streets” events will take place in both of those communities later this summer) with Bushmasters and Brownings slung over their shoulders or Glocks and Rugers hanging from their paunches.

That Minneapolis and Saint Paul are full of vapid Prius-driving government-employed Saint Olaf grads with infinite senses of social entitlement and who’ve never had to confront the notion that there are people out there who disagree with and live life differently than you, in ways other than skin color and sexual orientation isn’t up for debate. 

But here’s the interesting bit:

Here’s a neat mental exercise: Try to imagine hundreds of inner-city residents carrying weapons at the Andover Family Fun Fest, July 13. Just because they can.

Now, as I noted last week, to Coleman – as dork-fingered and inarticulate a Studs Terkel-wannabe as has ever occupied space in a newsroom – “inner city” means “black, Latino and Asian”.  And maybe not Asian. 

And so I’d love to know what Coleman had in mind when he imagined “hundreds of inner city residents” with guns out in the suburbs. 

Is he envisioning an apples-to-apples comparison – hundreds of black, latino and asian citizens over the age of 21 with carry permits and clean criminal records and passed training classes on their resumes?  People among the 140,000 Minnesotans with valid carry permits (the application doesn’t collect ethnic data) who are several orders of magnitude less likely to commit any crime than the general public? 

People like the ones I ran into at Gander Mountain at their Carry event over the winter?   Responsible, adult citizens exercising their legal right to own and carry firearms (once deemed suitably responsible under this state’s legal code) who happened to be black, Latino or Asian?  People that I – who have lived in the Midway for 25 years, but am apparently too Anglo-Scandinavian to qualify as “inner city” – would have no qualms mingling with, armed or not, because they’re just like me – a rigorously law-abiding citizen?

Or is Coleman – grandée and resident-for-life of leafy, lily-whiter-than-Lakeville neighborhoods like Tangletown and Crocus Hill – picturing do-rag-clad teenage thug wannabees, Los Reyes with face tattoos and Hmong tough guys in “rice rocket” Honda Civics – the cliche du jour “inner city” caricature among our media’s pallid chanting classes?

If it’s the former, then I have to ask Coleman; do you think a carry permittee who happens to be black or latino is a better, more reliable citizen than your “paunchy, bearded” honky walking cliches?  Do you have any statistics to bear that out?  (Because the real stats show they’re exactly identical).

If it’s the latter, I have to ask The Uptake; do you accept this form of racism from your staff?  Especially when you layer it atop the giggly homophobia that’s been Coleman’s stock in trade for his entire career?

Because if Bradlee Dean or Jason Lewis or Michelle Fishbach had made a jape about “inner city” residents, or about how living on a submarine can turn people gay because “You have the hot cot thing going on there”, you’d be baying at the moon. 

I know, I know.  If moral consistency were a “progressive” value, “MoveOn” and Sandra Fluke would never exist as media figures, and the “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” would be utterly silent.  Asking is a purely academic exercise.

Bearish On The Bird

Is Doug Kass right about the stock market?

Who knows?  I mean, given the almost-unanimous pollyannaism that’s broken out in the parts of the financial media that get quoted on the MSM, I’d suspect contrarians are right just based on knee-jerk hunchism. 

But when it comes to Twitter, I think he’s got a point; Kass is giving up on the popular social media site:

“Unfortunately, there are many haters in the social blogosphere, who, perhaps because of their own issues, drown out the many good people who want a value-added investment experience by learning more and enjoying a healthy dialogue in real time.”

Twitter has become dominated by people whoarewhat Laura Billings warned bloggers were a decade ago; a combination of raving loners and paid human (give or take) copy-and-paste-bots who clog all discussion with ranting or recirculated drivel. 

“Unfortunately, there are many haters in the social blogosphere, who, perhaps because of their own issues, drown out the many good people who want a value-added investment experience by learning more and enjoying a healthy dialogue in real time.”

Time for a companion book to James Surowiecki’s huge hit of about eight years ago;The Idiocy Of Crowds.

Doakes Sunday: Accounting

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Here’s a boring little article about a minor accounting change, but I can imagine the headlines:

Conservative version: Homeland Security held accountable, must report before buying more ammunition.

Liberal version: House Republicans leave American children defenseless against terror.

Joe doakes

Oddly, Nick Coleman and Alex Jones’ versions would both go “Connect The Dots, People!”

Justice Is Blind – But Berg’s Law Sees And Knows All

I’ve added a new corollary to “Berg’s Law” – especially in light of events of this past seven months and the doddering, bobbleheaded liberal punditry to which Real Americans have been subjected.

It’s the “Fugelsang Corollary to Berg’s Seventh Law of Liberal Projection” (Berg’s Seventh reads “When a Liberal issues a group defamation or assault on conservatives’ ethics, character or respect for liberty or the truth, they are at best projecting, and at worst drawing attention away from their own misdeeds.”)

It reads as follows:

The Fugelsang Corollary To Berg’s Seventh Law – a liberal who uses “I’m happy with my penis size” as a conclusion to a debate on the Second Amendment doth protest too much.

The thing about Berg’s Laws are that they are, in actual practice, absolute and inviolable.


A liberal acquaintance of mine on Twitter told me yesterday that this bit spelled out the case against the NRA “in a logical way”.

It’s by John Fugelsang.  Now, I do try to seek civil conversation, but Fugelsang is becoming to the left what Bob was to Baghdad; people who quote or cite Fugelsang are justly derided as ninnies; he’s best ignored completely, or as we conservative bloggers say, “Billied”.

But since the lefty tweep took the trouble, let’s show all the ways in which this piece (transcribed below) does not lay out any case with any logic.

It’s almost too densely-misguided to even “fisk” in the classical sense.  For starters, let’s stick with calling out the individual misstatements, evidence-free chanting points and distortions in blue.  Like this:  {Chanting Point!} 

Maybe you’re someone who, like the majority of Americans, supports the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, but you feel kind of creepy about the weapons-grade cretins who run the NRA and do all they can to keep Americans {Ad-hominem – name-calling!} safe from any gun laws that might keep Americans safe.  {Assertion made without evidence; not a single gun law proposed would have “kept” a single American “safe”}

Well, you’re not alone. And this is why: loving the Second Amendment while opposing the NRA is every bit as natural as loving Jesus while opposing Westboro Baptist Church.

Let’s take a break here.  This is straight out of Saul Alinsky.  Linking a mainstream organization of regular Americans – five million of us – with the “God Hates Fags” church?  Seems a stretch.

In fact, Wayne LaPierre’s fake constitutional rights lobbying group  {Perhaps Fugelsang would favor us by telling us how the lobbying is “fake”?} that gun manufacturers use to buy off congressmen actually has quite a bit in common with the revoltingly fake Christians of Westboro.   {The “Buy Off” meme is an interesting one; we’ll come back to that…} 

You see, Westboro is to Christianity what Jesus was to ignorance, hatred and inbreeding. They travel the country holding these vile, un-Christian protests at the funerals of anyone evil enough to live in a land that doesn’t stone gay people to death, Leviticus-style. They don’t want to hate gays — they’re just doing it because God commands them and they’re only following orders. It’s like Nuremberg, but with very bad teeth.

There’s a sign that Fugelsang’s piece is targeted at the insufficiently bright; he has to explain who Westboro – the church that pickets soldiers’ funerals – is.

These guys don’t picket outside gay bars or gay bathhouses or gay dance clubs or Lindsey Graham’s Senate office. Just places guaranteed to cause the most outrage possible – like funerals. Then when someone tries to stifle them, they engage in First Amendment lawsuits.  

Then you’ve got the NRA. And please understand, when we talk about the NRA, we’re not talking about their members. {Oh, heavens, no!} In Frank Luntz’s 2012 poll of NRA members, 87 percent said they believed Second Amendment freedom went hand in hand with preventing gun violence. That’s responsibility.

But you wouldn’t know that from the group’s leaders. Under the stewardship of Wayne LaPierre, or as I call him, “Il Wayne,” the NRA has become the front for gun manufacturers, the guys who’ve cashed in big time since Newtown.

So much “wrong” packed into two paragraphs.

Where precisely does Fugelsang think the NRA gets its leadership?  Who does he think elected, and re-elected, LaPierre?  The members – whom current events show to be among the most engaged, informed voters (especially on gun issues and the NRA itself) out there.

And the “Front for Gun Manufacturers” meme is one that the left bruits about without ever showing what the problem is.  It’s as if gun manufacturers, staring at legislation that would in many cases actively destroy their market – between the various confiscations, limits and price hikes that the bills would impose on the law-abiding and the law-abiding alone, don’t have a right to take up common cause with the biggest nationwide organization that’s on their side?

If someone tried to ban NPR, you don’t think Volvo or Patagonia or Starbucks would pony up for the defense?

They’re the reason why in America it’s now easier for a civilian to buy lots of weapons designed to kill lots of people really fast than it is for you to remember your old MySpace password.  {What the hell is he talking about?  This is just barking lunacy} 

But while they’re protecting profits, they’re also juicing up profits through fear-mongering mailings about how Obama’s coming to confiscate your weapons.

Here’s a little tip, Skeeter: The fact that you’re able to heavily arm yourself while publicly calling Obama a gun-grabbing tyrant is pretty much proof that he’s not.

And there’s your proof that liberal never have to learn how to debate conservatives.  I’ve heard that last bit countless times, even here in Minnesota during the session; if a noxious provision – a useless and price-gouging background check, a magazine restriction with a confiscation provision – hasn’t been signed into law yet, it doesn’t exist, so shut up about it.

But only if it’s about guns.  Not like abortion, or defunding NPR, or defending traditional marriage, the very whisper of which is cause to rally the liberal troops.

By opposing background checks at gun shows — checks supported by 90 percent of Americans — the NRA guarantees that guns can be legally bought through the gun-show loophole by felons or third parties who sell to felons. And then those legal guns just kind of disappear, get sold a few more times, and when the cops recover those weapons years later from a killing that wiped out a playground full of kids, the NRA can say, “Look, illegal guns! Background checks wouldn’t have stopped anything.” See, who needs the black market when you’ve ensured that bad guys can get guns freely on the open market?  {In junior high writing class, the story would then end “And Then I Woke Up”.  The scenario exists only in John Fugelsang’s imagination} 

Background checks only infringe on your Second Amendment rights if you’re a felon, a terrorist or criminally insane. And if you’re all three, you probably already work as an NRA lobbyist. {Not just an ad-hominem, but a really stupid one} It’s all about the money.

Westboro ignores the teachings of Jesus and takes one line of Leviticus out of context to justify their homophobic evil.

The NRA ignores the Second Amendment’s “well regulated militia” part and takes one line out of context to justify their blood-soaked greed.

The NRA ignores nothing – “well-regulated” meant “can hit what it shoots at” in 1787, and it still does.  But Fugelsang, like every liberal who skis this well-worn rhetorical slope, ignores the whole “right of the people” bit.   In his blood-soaked ignorance.

OK. It’s time for the home stretch.  The part where Fugelsang – who has become one of the  lefty alt-media’s name-brand public intellectuals, their sine qua non of debate – closes his case with eloquent logic, a command of fact, and calm reason:

Homophobia is an insult to God, and opposing gun safety is an insult to living people.  {That’s right!  If you smear the label “gun safety” on a polished turd like Michael Paymar’s background check bill – which will never deter a single crime – you love death!}

These groups are both rackets and they’re both doomed. Because the WBC has made untold Americans realize, “Hey, I don’t want to be like that.” {The NRA’s membership has increased by over a quarter since Newtown} 

And now, the deal closer – the all-important final sentence: 

And Wayne LaPierre’s complete indifference to the consequences of gun proliferation makes more NRA members realize every day, “Dude, maybe I’m OK with my own penis size.”

All that buildup…for a dick joke?

(I could throw in a “Berg’s Seventh Law” reference here, but that’d be gratuitous)

Here’s the scary part:  it’s no dumber than most of the left’s arguments.

But John Fugelang?  Not so much.

Like Lidocaine For The Cerebral Cortex

After Nanny Pelosi says the calls to investigate Attorney General Eric “Let’s send guns to the narcotraficantes and bug the AP” Holder is about “Voter Suppression”, Rep. Trey Gowdy, bless his heart, did something politicians almost never manage.

He told the truth (emphasis added):

“It’s really beneath the office of a member of Congress to say something that outrageous, and the fact that she was once the speaker is mind-numbing,” Rep. Gowdy told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren.

“I have heard a lot in my 16 years as a prosecutor. I couldn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth,” he added.

Gowdy calls Pelosi mind-numbingly stupid

I don’t know what was wrong with her when she said that. But I would schedule an appointment with my doctor if she thinks that we are doing this to suppress votes this fall. That is mind-numbingly stupid,” Gowdy said.

He wasn’t the only one:

Jim Hoft of the Gateway Pundit reminded readers that “Pelosi also said Democrats brought down the deficit after they increased it by a trillion dollars.”

“She’s either mind-numbingly stupid or a chronic liar, or both,” Hoft wrote.

I beg to differ.

What she said – almost always says, in fact - is mind-numbingly stupid.

But she’s speaking to the new Democrat base – the people who think a seven-second, Alinskyite sound bite is, in fact, fact.  People whose idea of “checking facts” has devolved into “checking to see what my favorite left-leaning source says they are”, which is two steps up from Duckspeak.

Groundhog Year Part III: In Plain Sight

In Eric Black’s three part series about the Second Amendment a few weeks back (part 1, 2 and 3), Black – writing in the MInnPost, which operates in part through the generosity of a big grant from the anti-gun zealot Joyce Foundation – notes the not-exactly-earthshaking conclusion that the Second Amendment can confuse people.

Ooh! Confederates! That must mean the MinnPost is writing about bitter gun-clinging Jeebus freaks again!  Seriously, MinnPost – I’m never letting you live this down.

And the underlying themes of his series were – as I read ‘em – that the Second Amendment is:

  1. Linguistically and legally inscrutable
  2. Confusing
  3. Obsolete.

We’ll address the first two of these today.

Black notes the definitions that vex a surface-level reading of the Second Amendment:

What’s a militia? If you aren’t in a militia, does this have anything to do with you? Or perhaps (and this is roughly the current Supreme Court interpretation) what if “militia” is just an 18th century word for all the able-bodied males in a state who had better have access to arms in case their state needs them to secure its freedom…But if “militia” doesn’t refer to an organized group, what’s “well-regulated” doing in there?

It’s a good question.  But it’s hardly a new one.

For much of US history, it didn’t need an answer – since hardly anyone questioned the notion that Militia meant…

…both.  The Militia Act of 1903 codified what had been followed in practice since the Militia Act of 1792; the the Militia was composed of…:

  • The Organized Militia – the National Guard and the Naval Militia, and…
  • the Unorganized Militia – every able-bodied male between 17 and 45 years of age who wasn’t a member of the Organized Militia.  In other words, everyone.  Including Eric Black.

But even answering “it’s in the law!” misses the most important point.

The answer to the question “What does the Second Amendment really mean?” started taking its currently definitive shape with the publication, about 20 years ago, of “The Embarassing Second Amendment“, by Dr. Sanford Levinson.  At the time, Levinson was a professor at the U of Texas School of Law; the article appeared in the Yale Law Review.

Levinson was and is an arch-liberal with portfolio, who described himself then and now as a card-carrying ACLU member who was very uncomfortable around the notion of civilians owning guns.   He’s no mossy originalist; he’s called for a Second Constitutional Convention.

The article – about 80 pages, half of them footnotes – is a highly detailed analyis of the textual, historical, structural, doctrinal, prudential and ethical history of the Second Amendment, its related case law, and analysis of all the above.

And the conclusion was all wrapped up in the title; Levinson, unabashed anti-gun liberal that he is, is embarassed to conclude that the “NRA” was right, and the gun-grabbers were wrong.

It came out a solid decade and a half before the Heller decision, but it was one of the key waypoints on the path between the silly, collectivist post-Miller-decision miasma and the Court’s curent stance on the issue.  It was the argument that started even arch-liberal Laurence Tribe on his path from dismissing the originalist interpretation (as Levinson notes in the article) to acceptance that the Amendment is in fact a right “of the people”.

The road to Heller and McDonald started with Levinson’s article.

And he started from the same question Eric Black did: what does “well-regulated militia” mean?

In textual terms – the strict reading of the words?  Not much help there: “The text at best provides only a starting point for a conversation. In this specific instance, it does not come close to resolving the questions posed by federal regulation of arms. Even if we accept the preamble as significant, we must still try to figure out what might be suggested by guaranteeing to “the people the right to keep and bear arms;” moreover, as we shall see presently, even the preamble presents unexpected difficulties in interpretation.”

But in historical terms?   Things are clearer:

Consider once more the preamble and its reference to the importance of a well-regulated militia. Is the meaning of the term obvious? Perhaps we should make some effort to find out what the term “militia” meant to 18th century readers and writers, rather than assume that it refers only to Dan Quayle’s Indiana National Guard and the like. By no means am I arguing that the discovery of that meaning is dispositive as to the general meaning of the Constitution for us today. But it seems foolhardy to be entirely uninterested in the historical philology behind the Second Amendment.

I, for one, have been persuaded that the term “militia” did not have the limited reference that Professor Cress and many modern legal analysts assign to it. There is strong evidence that “militia” refers to all of the people, or least all of those treated as full citizens of the community. Consider, for example, the question asked by George Mason, one of the Virginians who refused to sign the Constitution because of its lack of a Bill of Rights: “Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people.” 48 Similarly, the Federal Farmer, one of the most important Anti-Federalist opponents of the Constitution, referred to a “militia, when properly formed, [as] in fact the people themselves.” 49 We have, of course, moved now from text to history. And this history is most interesting, especially when we look at the development of notions of popular sovereignty. It has become almost a cliche of contemporary American historiography to link the development of American political thought, including its constitutional aspects, to republican thought in England, the “country” critique of the powerful “court” centered in London.

One of the school’s most important writers, of course, was James Harrington, who not only was in influential at the time but also has recently been given a certain pride of place by one of the most prominent of contemporary “neo-republicans,” Professor Frank Michelman. 50 One historian describes Harrington as having made “the most significant contribution to English libertarian attitudes toward arms, the individual, and society.” 51 He was a central figure in the development of the ideas of popular sovereignty and republicanism. 52 For Harrington, preservation of republican liberty requires independence, which rests primarily on possession of adequate property to make men free from coercion by employers or landlords. But widespread ownership of land is not sufficient. These independent yeoman would also bear arms. As Professor Morgan puts it, “[T]hese independent yeoman, armed and embodied in a militia, are also a popular government’s best protection against its enemies, whether they be aggressive foreign monarchs or scheming demagogues within the nation itself.” 53

Which gets us into the third of Black’s conclusions, which we’ll come back to later in the series.

As to the notion that the “Right of the people to keep and bear arms” refers to a National Guard that the founding fathers didn’t envision:

Consider that the Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of he people to be secure in their persons,” or that the First Amendment refers to the “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It is difficult to know how one might plausibly read the Fourth Amendment as other than a protection of individual rights, and it would approach the frivolous to read the assembly and petition clause as referring only to the right of state legislators to meet and pass a remonstrance directed to Congress or the President against some government act. The Tenth Amendment is trickier, though it does explicitly differentiate between “state” and “the people” in terms of retained rights. 42 Concededly, it would be possible to read the Tenth Amendment as suggesting only an ultimate right revolution by the collective people should the “states” stray too far from their designated role of protecting the rights of the people. This reading follows directly from the social contract theory of the state.( But, of course, many of these rights are held by individuals.)

(If you haven’t read Levinson’s entire piece – you need to.  It’s one of the most politically influential law-review articles in recent history – and it’s not a bad read, either).

As to “well-regulated?”    Levinson doesn’t address it directly – in the parlance of the 1790s, it meant “can do the job”, or “can hit their targets”, a definition that’s changed in the past two-odd centuries -because it’s irrelevant.  It’s a right of the people, necessary to the preservation of a free state.  It’s a secondary question at most, in the lee of the real question “what is a right of the people?”.

As noted in Heller, it’s not an absolute right; states can ensure that people who aren’t good citizens, felons and the like, don’t get guns.  They can legislate the types of guns, within reason; the whole “can you get a flamethrower or a cannon” argument is a strawman, although it’s worth arguing on its own merits (if I’m a law-abiding schnook with a .380 or a shotgun, why wouldn’t I be with a howitzer or a bomb?).

The “What does the Second Amendment Really Mean?” argument – like the “The Second Amendment existed to protect slavery!” argument we dispensed with a few months back – is a manufactured controversy, a re-hashing of questions that were answered literally decades ago among those who pay attention to the issue.

But the gun control movement rarely makes its appeals to people who pay attention to the issue.

Up next – probably Tuesday – the notion that the Second Amendment is just plain obsolete.

Groundhog Year, Part II: The History Of An Illusion

As I noted about a week back, being a Second Amendment activist for any length of time – I started in the late eighties – is a little like being Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day; every time the argument cycles, you wind up answering exactly the same questions.  Over and over and over.

Some of the questions -”aren’t you compensating for something?” – are stupid conceits.  Some – “isn’t a gun in the home many times more dangerous to the owner or people he knows than to criminals?”, or “wasn’t the Second Amendment put in place to protect slave holders?” – are well-worn, long-debunked tropes that keep coming back, just like the villain in the last two minutes of a monster movie.

And others?  Well, despite both sides’ oversimplifications, they keep coming back because the Second Amendment is a complex issue, full of historical, linguistic and legal nuance.

Notice I said “complex”.  Not “inscrutable”.  Because it’s Groundhog Day, and everything, including answering nearly all the questions, has happened before.  Maybe several times.

Eric Black – one of the phalanx of deans of Minnesota political journalism – wrote a series a few weeks back at the MinnPost (which is the recent recipient of a big grant from the Joyce Foundation, an anti-gun group that lavishly funds anti-gun astroturf groups around the country).  The first of the three parts, “The Second Amendment is a Mess“, came out probably three weeks ago.

Confederate soldiers. With guns. Be afraid; your betters have declared that the Constitution is all about slavery.  Except the First Amendment, and of course the emanations of penumbras that give us abortion.  But I digress.  Prejudicial? Do you think?  The MinnPost ran this in a piece about the Second Amendment, and I’m never going to let them live it down.

In stating the case that the Amendment is “a mess”, Black writes:

…the interpretation of any law must start with the actual language of the law as enacted. So, for today, let’s just put the text of the Second Amendment under the microscope. Here is its full text:

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.

It’s a marvelously unclear statement, to modern sensibilities – and yet for some reason it defined a policy, more or less, through nearly 200 years.  Until the 1960s, nobody really questioned that the “…right of the people” in the Amendment meant anything different than “of the people” meant in the First, Third or Tenth Amendments.

We’ll come back to that.  I’ll return to Eric Black…

…while noting that I’m getting that feeling Bill Murray had during the last three-quarters of Groundhog Day; it’s deja vu:

It’s a disaster. Seriously. Here’s just a sample of problems it presents.

What’s a militia? If you aren’t in a militia, does this have anything to do with you? Or perhaps (and this is roughly the current Supreme Court interpretation) what if “militia” is just an 18th century word for all the able-bodied males in a state who had better have access to arms in case their state needs them to secure its freedom even though they might not actually “belong” to what we 21st century-types would recognize as a militia, like a National Guard unit that you actually joined and were trained by and that actually has a command structure.

A fair point…

But if “militia” doesn’t refer to an organized group, what’s “well-regulated” doing in there? Who gets to decide whether the (actual or theoretical) militia you are in is well-enough-regulated to trigger (no pun intended) whatever impact the militia clause has? Who is doing the regulating? The state? The United States? The (non-existent but theoretical) organization of all the gun-owners in the state acting as self-regulators?

…and a vexing one.

Indeed, Black’s series seems to focus on three allegations about the Second Amendment:

  1. It’s linguistically and legally inscrutable
  2. It’s confusing
  3. In an era where the US has a standing military, it’s obsolete.

But the first two were rendered null and void nearly a generation ago.    And the third exhibits a myopia about history, to say nothing of the Constitution, that needs to be actively fought.

But none of them are new. Indeed, it’s been nearly 20 years since the first two points were put out to pasture among people who are serious about the issue of the Second Amendment.

As to the third?  Stay tuned.

We’ll come back to that on Thursday.

Open Letter To Speaker Thissen

To:  Speaker of the House Thissen
From:  Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re:  Vote NOW!  For the Children!

Speaker Thissen,

You’re taking a lot of flak for pulling Rep. Paymar’s gun grab bill from the agenda.

Representative Paymar

You’re getting the flak from the usual crowd; astroturf checkbook advocacy groups whose executives are also their entire membership; “faith” groups of the type PJ O’Rourke once described as “having faith the same way some people have halitosis”, the smug preening “faith” of the church that has adopted government as a sort of Executive Assistant to God.

A group of anti-gun zealots.  They’re frowning because someone – I bet it was the second guy from the right, in the glasses – forgot to invite anyone that wasn’t a white, Volvo-diving, NPR-listening, alpaca-wearing pre-1970 Saint Olaf graduate.  Courtesy of the Joyce-Foundation-supported MinnPost.

And while I wouldn’t ordinarily dignify any of these people with considered ridicule – because in this case, they’re people using their invincible ignorance in service of a lie – I think they have a point.  I’ll take this quote from this story, from MinnPost (which is funded in part by a grant by the Joyce Foundation, an anti-gun zealot group):

The Minnesota Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, which encompasses the main people and organizations working for firearm regulation in Minnesota, staged a rally/press conference on Friday to demand Thissen allow the measure to come up for a vote.

 “It seems to me that Speaker Thissen is trying to protect the caucus,” said Sami Rahamim, whose father, Reuven Rahamim, was killed in the Accent Signage shooting last year.

Rahamim posed a tough question for Thissen and the rural Democrats who tanked the gun-control bill: Does the DFL House caucus need protecting, or “hardworking citizens like my father?”

I know – the Accent Signage shooting both takes attention away from the fact that violent crime (outside North Minneapolis) has been in free fall for 20 years.  And the anti-gunners are using Rahamim and the searing images of that horrible shooting to distract from the fact that nothing in any of the bills that the DFL has been pushing would have prevented the Accent shooting in any way whatsoever – that, indeed, the only thing that might have would have been a guy in the plant with a gun and the will to resist, whether a guard or just a regular schnook with a carry permit.

But never mind that, Speaker Thissen; the real point is coming up:

Advocates for more regulations stressed that polling shows the public supports such measures as universal background checks, which would regulate the private sale of firearms at gun shows and over the Internet, among other avenues.

That’s right, Speaker Thissen.  Ignore your lying eyes, which showed you Greater Minnesota hates your bill.  Ignore the polls that show support for your bills was an uninformed mile wide and an inch deep (gun control is a vital issue to 4% of the voters); never mind the historical fact that the last time the MNDFL crusaded against the law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, you lost the House.

But no.  The people who carried the water

 “With the will of the majority behind us, we believed our state would pass a universal background check bill” this session, said Jane Kay, of Moms Demand Action [heh heh] for Gun Sense in America. “That has all been swept aside.”

Heather Martens [DFL Rep. HD 66A], executive director of Protect Minnesota, which lobbied lawmakers extensively on the issue, said Thissen should bring the measure up for a vote, even if it is doomed to fail.

“I think he has a responsibility to reconsider that decision,” she said.

And for once, notwithstanding the fact that she has not uttered one substantive word of truth in her public life, I agree with Representative Martens.

You need to bring this to a floor vote, Speaker Thissen.  And you need to do it immediately.    Because it’s the right thing to do.  Do it for the children.  You owe it to them.

And you need to bust some knuckles in your caucus to make sure they vote the party line too.   Get everyone in the DFL caucus to vote the Metrocrat conscience, and do it this week.  None of this “voting their constituency” BS;  make sure Joe Radinovich and Zac Dorhold and Steve Howe vote the most enthusiastic “yea” they can manage.

And smile for the cameras when you do.  Thanks.

That is all.

War Pigfords

The New York Times – the apogee of American journalism, yessirreebob – has reported that a government program started under the Clinton Administration to settle discrimination claims by black farmers in dealings with the Agriculture Department was rife with fraud.

It started out as a small, measured payout.   The Justice Department thought it might wind up costing less than they’d feared.

They were wrong.

On the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling, interviews and records show, the Obama administration’s political appointees at the Justice and Agriculture Departments engineered a stunning turnabout: they committed $1.33 billion to compensate not just the 91 plaintiffs but thousands of Hispanic and female farmers who had never claimed bias in court.

The deal, several current and former government officials said, was fashioned in White House meetings despite the vehement objections — until now undisclosed — of career lawyers and agency officials who had argued that there was no credible evidence of widespread discrimination. What is more, some protested, the template for the deal — the $50,000 payouts to black farmers — had proved a magnet for fraud.

“I think a lot of people were disappointed,” said J. Michael Kelly, who retired last year as the Agriculture Department’s associate general counsel. “You can’t spend a lot of years trying to defend those cases honestly, then have the tables turned on you and not question the wisdom of settling them in a broad sweep.”

You haven’t seen me say this often on this blog, but read the whole NYTimes piece.

And then ask yourself – where have you seen it before?

Oh, yeah – Andrew Breitbart covered it.

Two years ago.

And the paid leftymedia – led by Soros’ pet reporterettes at Media Matters – has spent the entire time since claming it was a symbol of conservative racism.

Nothing To See Here

Sally Jo Sorenson of Bluestem Prairie is – I’ll say it again – one of the tiny list of Minnesota leftybloggers who don’t deserve some sort of police surveillance.

But that doesn’t mean she knows how to tell a complete story – or do much beyond apes John Stewart lite snark at the C-squad level.

About a week back, she took a dig at Senator Dave Osmek and his take on the “Marriage Equality” bill while speaking to a class in Glencoe, in a post titled “Among school children: Sen. David Osmek misrepresents marriage bill in Glencoe class visit”.  Osmek said he opposed Same Sex Marriage on First Amendment grounds.

Sorenson (with a little emphasis added by me):

He must have missed this part of the senate bill. It’s right at the top:

363A.26 EXEMPTION BASED ON RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION. Nothing in this chapter prohibits any religious association, religious corporation, or religious society that is not organized for private profit, or any institution organized for educational purposes that is operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious association, religious corporation, or religious society that is not organized for private profit, from:

(1) limiting admission to or giving preference to persons of the same religion or denomination; or

(2) in matters relating to sexual orientation, taking any action with respect to education, employment, housing and real property, or use of facilities. This clause shall not apply to secular business activities engaged in by the religious association, religious corporation, or religious society, the conduct of which is unrelated to the religious and educational purposes for which it is organized.; or

(3) taking any action with respect to the provision of goods, services, facilities, or accommodations directly related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of its religious beliefs.

And then this bit here, with more emphasis added: 

Or maybe this language in the bill:

Subd. 2. Refusal to solemnize; protection of religious doctrine. Each religious organization, association, or society has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine, policy, teachings, and beliefs regarding who may marry within that faith. A licensed or ordained member of the clergy or other person authorized by section 517.04 to solemnize a marriage is not subject to any fine, penalty, or civil liability for failing or refusing to solemnize a marriage for any reason.

I mean, that’s mighty big of the legislature, not unilaterally abrogating the First Amendment and all.

And if you’re not  a church, a religious educational non-profit or, I dunno, a supplier of rabbinical wine or communion wafers?

If  you’re, say, a baker?  A photographer?

Of course, Osmek did actually say…

“I’m afraid it will eventually inflict on religious institutions,” said Osmek. “The pilgrims came here for religious freedom, and we need to respect that.”

But let’s get past the idea that laws, or even the Constitution, actually protect law-abiding people acting in their own conscience, or that the First Amendment actually protects my right to hold government to ccount, or free association, or the right to decide how my children are raised, or the Second Amendment by itself protects my protect my family and property as I, a law-abiding tax-paying citizen, see fit, or that the the Fourth really guards from unreasonable searches and seizures, or the Fifth absolutely protects due process and the right to face my accuser in court, or the Tenth really enumerates powers.  It takes the Constitution and rigorous vigilance.

And it’s not that the left doesn’t see this, although the primary rights for which the left is universally, rigorously vigilant are the “rights” to expel un-gestated fetuses and make dung paintings of the Virgin Mary.

Osmek said that domestic partners are already given benefits by many businesses and corporations, and feels it best left to the private sector to create its own definition of domestic partnerships. . . .

So businesses get to define two committed people’s relationship? Would any married couple accept that?

It depends what marriage is, to you – doesn’t it?

If marriage is a religious thing to you, then you don’t care what government says about it.

If it’s about getting the same rights and benefits that guy/gal couples get, then why would anyone care? Put another way – “so government gets to define two committed peoples’ relationship?  Why would any couple accept that?”

If it’s about showing society who’s boss?

A Confederacy Of (Those Who Want You To Be) Dunces

One of the worst aspects of our current hyper-polarized political climate is that many institutions that the American people used to rely upon for something close to objectivity and reliable, politically-untinted information have turned into partisan propaganda.

Journalism is long gone, of course; the notion of the “objective” media died among anyone who pays attention nearly four decades ago.  The civil service bureaucracy is largely beholden to the big government unions.  Clergy at all too many mainline Protestant and Catholic churches are air-headed liberal chanting-point-bots.

And now, the left is trying to co-opt science – or at least how the public perceives science.

One of the cultural left’s favorite conceits is to try to wrap itself in the trappings of “science” – or, like the Wizard of Oz, at least enough trappings to keep the ignorant in line.

And I’ve seen few more brazen examples of this than Susan Perry’s interview in the MinnPost last Tuesday with Dr. Steven Miles, who Perry credits as “a professor of medicine and bioethics at the University of Minnesota”.

The list of titles lends credibility to Dr. Miles’ responses.  And apparently Ms. Perry thinks that’s enough.

As we’ll see, it’s not.

Establish The Boogie/Straw Men – Perry opens the door for the de rigeur nod to Alinsky:

MinnPost: Do you believe that public-health officials are doing enough to reduce gun violence? 

Before Dr. Miles gets to his answer, I’d like to draw your attention to Berg’s Seventh Law: “When a Liberal issues a group defamation or assault on conservatives’ ethics, character or respect for liberty or the truth, they are at best projecting, and at worst drawing attention away from their own misdeeds.”

 Dr. Steve Miles: No, I don’t, and partly it’s because they’re hamstrung. Since 1996, the NRA, which also functions as an anti-science institution, has cut U.S. funding for gun-related research from a public-health perspective by over 95 percent. So, in terms of impairing the types of data collection and data analysis that’s necessary to do a public-health perspective, we’ve currently wound up in a situation where the science itself is impaired.


“Racist”.  ”Anti-Woman”.  ”Bigot”.

They’re all slurs that the cultural left uses to try to cow conservatives into silence and compliance.

But the public health community impaired its own science decades ago by allowing itself to be co-opted into an arm of the gun control movement.  ”Public health research” is paid for by anti-gun groups (a fact that’s never reported by a media that seems to have lost interest in afflicting the intellectually and politically comfortable).  Indeed, an amazing preponderance of “academic inquiry” into the Second Amendment is paid for by anti-gun organizations like the Joyce Foundation – legal, political, and academic, across the board.

As to the actual “science” that Dr. Miles is flogging?  We’ll come back to that.

Facial Absurdities – Next, Miles turns to the left’s canonical notion that without guns, everything would be juuuuust fine:

MP: What do you think will most surprise your audience on Wednesday about gun-violence statistics?

SM: Clearly, everybody understands that having a gun available increases the lethality — that is, the deadliness — of the suicidal impulse. If one has a suicidal impulse and there is a gun available as opposed to a knife, then the suicide attempt is much more likely to be lethal.

I’ll give Miles this much:  everyone knows that mental illness and guns don’t mix.

But availability of guns has little to do with suicide rates.  The suicide rate in the US is statistically identical to that in the UK, with its celebrated gun ban.  It’s a shade below Cuba, where only police and the military have guns.  It’s 15% lower than Hong Kong, where guns are not part of the culture; a little over half those of China and Japan, where civilian guns are strictly banned.

One – or Dr. Miles – could reply “but that’s a matter of cultural differences”.  And then one would be onto something,  something that applies across the gun control debate.

We’ll come back to that, too.

What’s so interesting is that it’s also true for homicide. The idea advanced by the NRA people is that homicides are basically done by monster criminals. But what really seems to be going on is that as the number of guns increases, as more houses have guns, as the gun saturation in the society rises, it’s the availability of guns that turn ordinary interpersonal disputes, including domestic disputes, into lethal events.

And if sheer availability of firearms were the dispositive factor in determining whether disputes turned lethal, then the streets of DC and Chicago would be relatively placid, and rural Montana, Utah and North Dakota would be shooting galleries.

But the opposite is true.

And in fact one could note that murder in, say, Chicago - where guns are legally illegal – is far from evenly distributed; some neighborhoods are as safe as suburban Fargo, while others are vastly more dangerous than Baghdad.

And one could fairly note in response that parts of the rural South – where guns are generally very available – have fairly liberal gun laws and high rates of violence.  But cities in those same areas are often quite statistically placid.

So when Dr. Miles says…:

So homicide looks very much like suicide in being gun-prevalence-driven.

…one must add “except when you look at actual facts and stuff”.

And?  And?  AND?  – One of the left’s favorite tactics in the gun debate (as with so many debates) is to give an emotionally-chilling (and thus manipulative) factoid with no context whatsoever.

Right on cue: 

MP: One of the statistics in your presentation that jumped out at me was the high number of American children who die in gun accidents. As you note, the accidental gun death rate is 11 times higher among 5- to 14-year-olds in the U.S. than the combined rates of 22 other high-income developed countries.

Hm.  That must be some number.

SM: It’s a very sad number.

And I’m sure when we see that number – the number of children killed in accidents – it’ll make our hearts ache.

When you have a gun in the house, for kids there is a 16-fold increase in the risk of a lethal accident involving a gun.

Oh, my.

So what’s the number?

So, despite what everybody says about gun education and gunlocks, it just doesn’t work.

Hm.  OK, so I’m sure the number will bear this out.

What’s the number, again?

A gun in the house is an accident just waiting to happen.

So you say, Dr. Miles.  So what’s the number?

MP: As you also note in your presentation, the NRA…

Er, huh?

What’s the number?

According to the CDC, in the entire US, in 2010 (the latest numbers the CDC provides), the number of kids below 15 killed by firearms was…

And yep, every one of those deaths is a tragedy.   Education and gun locks are no guarantee, but they do help.  So does training gun owners in general.

But as a “public health” issue, accidental firearms deaths come in well below:

  • Drownings (832)
  • Accidental poisoning (220)
  • Fires (372)
  • Car accidents (forget about it; 1432)

And about the same as the number killed in falls (74).

And so I have to ask (since no “journalist” ever will) – while, as a parent, I recoil at even one  child dying in an accident, I have to ask; what was Ms. Perry referring to when she said “One of the statistics in your presentation that jumped out at me was the high number of American children who die in gun accidents?”  Tragic, yes.  High?


Schools Of Red Herrings Say “Huh?” – Miles next goes after the notion of armed self-defense with a hearty “I know you are but what am I?”

MP: As you also note in your presentation, the NRA often says that guns prevent their owners from becoming crime victims. In fact, they claim that huge numbers of gun owners find themselves in situations each year in which they are forced to use their weapons to defend themselves and their families.

SM: I spent some time tracking that down. [And by "some", Miles apparently means "not a whole lot".  But I'm getting way ahead of myself - Ed.] Mostly, they cite an article from 1995 by Kleck and Gertz, which cites 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year. But the Cato Institute — which is an anti-gun-control conservative group — took a different approach. What they did is [search] eight years of news clippings. They found only a few hundred events over those eight years — somewhere around 450 or so. That’s a long way from 2.5 million.

This paragraph presents its “data” so very, very misleadingly that if I were a teacher grading Dr. Miles’ paper, I’d swat him on the knuckles with a ruler and have a word with him about intellectual honesty.  To try to introduce him to the subject.

Let me count the misstatements, frauds and lies in the above statement:

  1. Only Two Sources?  – Miles cites Kleck (whose seminal 1991 work Point Blank has been the main source for all sides in the debate), and an article by Cato – and that’s it?  Our choices are 2.5 million a year or 450 over eight years?  No reference to the FBI (which estimates about 80,000 deterrences a year)?  Or even Kleck critic David Hemenway, who attempted to “invalidate” Kleck with an estimate of between 55,000 and 80,000 defensive gun uses per year?
  2. Misstating Cato - Cato’s research was of a completely different scope and intent than Kleck.  While the research leading to Point Blank was a detailed, academic, scholarly investigation of national figures (Kleck is a professor of criminology), the Cato piece was a glorified blog post, and admitted as much: “it is important to remember that news reports can only provide us with an imperfect picture of defensive gun use in America”; the Cato piece also notes that “Gun control proponents cannot deny that people use guns successfully against criminals, but they tend to play down how often such events take place. The purpose of this map is to draw more attention to this aspect of the firearms policy debate”.

So Miles’ approach – compare an informal survey of news coverage to a detailed, peer-reviewed study of the subject – is academically ludicrous as well as intellectually void.

When one looks at the number of justifiable homicides — which does not include, for example, instances when citizens deterred a crime — even so, one is talking about less than 100 a year. So these events where there is a defense-of-gun use are actually extraordinarily rare, especially when one puts it in the context of somewhere around 30,000 gun deaths per year.

Miles is either ignorant, or lying.  The FBI puts the number of defensive justifiable homicides at over 200 per year.

And why so bloodthirsty?  Isn’t deterrence better than killing?

The Slow Steady Drip - Miles next moves to the case for turning doctors into agents of the state, and the Joyce Foundation:

MP: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians talk at least once a year with parents about the danger of guns. Why is that important?

SM: I think one of the things that’s important is for us to de-sanctify guns.

Their words, not ours.

 We should treat a gun like we would any other risk factor for injury. We know that tobacco is a risk factor for injury, and we ask about it, even though there is no medical use for tobacco. We recognize that the non-use of bicycle helmets is a risk for injury, and so we ask about those. And we should ask about guns because this is an important way to protect the public health.

And in the first two cases, doctors and their data have been used to further political as well as scientific ends.  There’s neither a constitutional right nor any especially emotional imperative to ride without a helmet; smoking is filthy and dangerous, but while the public health case against the practice is justifiable, the political infringements on free association, property rights and individual choice are precisely why many gun-owning liberty-conscious people are pushing back at “scientists” poking into our personal data…

…to feed an attack on something that is a constitutional right.

The Conservative War On Straw - Boogeymen!  Boogeymen!

MP: Rush Limbaugh has said that this makes doctors “deputies [and] agents of the state.”

SM: Rush Limbaugh and his partners have made many claims [about the Affordable Care Act] that are not scientifically based, including death panels and all the rest of it, and this is just more of the same.

Managed Care is “death panels”, and who the hell cares?

Miles does!

I think the issue here comes down to anti-science. In many ways, the pro-gun groups, including the NRA, act like other industrial anti-science groups, such as the tobacco lobby and the soft-drink manufacturers when they were trying to defend soft drinks in school. What these groups do is construct false facts, and they do their best to prevent real science from being done. That’s what we’re seeing with gun violence as well.

But as we’ve shown throughout this piece, it’s Dr. Miles who’s constructed “facts”, omitted more, and beggared the notion of intellectual inquiry in his appeal to ignorance and incuriosity.

Bonus question:  Does it ever occur to Susan Perry to press Miles on any of this?

Or is that not what she’s being paid for?

The Emperor’s New Polls – What Are Words For?

Yesterday, we looked at a piece by Joe Loveland in the Twin Cities leftyblog Wry Wing Politics.  WWP rates my ultimate endorsement for a leftyblog – its author isn’t in line for a harassment restraining order and remedial logic class.

That’s all to the good.

But he cited a series of media polls about the public’s opinion on Universal Background Checks, listed off the top-line numbers…:

  • CNN/ORC (89% support background checks)
  • Quinnipiac (91% support background checks)
  • Morning Joe/Marist (87% support background checks)
  • CBS (90% support background checks)
  • Fox News (85% support background checks)
  • ABC/Washington Post (90% support background checks)
  • Pew/USA Today (83% support background checks)
  • University of Connecticut (69% support background checks)
  • Gallup (91% support background checks)
  • Associated Press-GfK (84% support background checks)

…as dispositive evidence that the public overwhelmingly favors universal background checks.

And unlike many leftybloggers, Loveland knows that polls aren’t, themselves, iron-clad.  He takes a whack at a pre-emptive defense of the results:

For those who quibble about question wording, these polls all asked the question a bit differently.

“A bit differently”.

Let’s take a look at the questions asked in the individual polls that Loveland cited:

  • CNN/ORC (89%) - The 89% response came from asking if the respondent supports background checks “If the buyer is trying to purchase a gun from a gun store or other business that sells guns”.  Other questions came in much lower.
  • Quinnipiac (91%) - ”Do you support or oppose requiring background checks for all gun buyers?”
  • Morning Joe/Marist (87%) - ”Do you support or oppose legislation that would require background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows?”
  • CBS (90%) - ”Do you favor or oppose a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers?”
  • Fox News (85%) - There were several questions; the one getting 85% was whether the respondent favored ”Requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers, including those buying at gun shows and private sales”
  • ABC/Washington Post (90%) - ”Would you support or oppose a law requiring background checks on people buying guns at gun shows?”
  • Pew/USA Today (83%) - Asked if the respondent supported “making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks”.
  • University of Connecticut (69%) - asked if the responded supports “a law which would require background checks before people – including gun dealers – could buy guns at gun shows”, which is, by the way, borderline-incoherent.
  • Gallup (91%) - “Require criminal background checks for all gun sales”
  • Associated Press-GfK (84%) – Asked if US should  ”Establish a federal standard requiring background checks for those trying to buy guns at a gun show”
  • Strib ”Minnesota Poll”/Mason Dixon (72%) – “Do you support or oppose a universal background check on all gun sales, including those sold at gun shows?”

Loveland’s right.  They’re a “bit” different, all right.

And yet they are all exactly the same.  The questions – all of them – float a high-level proposal  (“Should we have background checks at gun shows?”) with no further context.

Like the pro-gun-control push poll from the 1980s I cited yesterday, which showed 85% of the people “supported gun control”, it was a hopelessly broad question – a gauzy proposal that gave the less-informed respondent no context that would help them actually understand the issue beyond the top-level sound bites – far from enough information to give an informed answer.

Valid questions on the subject, questions that provided the context needed for informed answers on the subject, would go something like this:

  • “Do you support universal background checks at gun shows knowing that the checks create a paper trail leading to every gun and gun buyer in the country – which is de-facto registration?”
  • “Do you support universal background checks, even though criminals don’t subject themselves to background checks of any sort?”
  • “Do you support universal background checks, even though violent gun crime has dropped by over 40% in the past 20 years, and the drop has accelerated over the past five years, after the sale of 70 million firearms in the US?”
  • “Do you support universal background checks, knowing that in California similar legislation has added about $100 to the cost of every firearm, pricing poor people out of the market for guns to defend themselves, their families and their homes?”

Yeah, I know – there’s bias in the wording of my questions; I’d be happy to work with a poll writer on the actual verbiage. But sometimes you need a biased question to lead you to the truth, and sometimes an “unbiased” question, like the polling questions, are biased by omission (and the uncritical reporting on them is biased by commission).

At any rate, I’m going to hazard an informed guess here; if people know the real-life consequences of “universal background checks” (they oppress the law-abiding, hamper the poor and are useless in preventing violent crime), the results might just drop below “landslide” levels.

Because the fact is, people know this already.  Second Amendment rights have expanded over the past twenty years, and violent crime has plummeted.   Obama’s gun-control push has largely fizzled; “background checks”, useless as they are, are about all that’s left, outside the gun-grabber liberal havens on the coasts.

Anyway – back to Minnesota, and Loveland’s assertions:

For those who argue methodology, these polls all reached a different randomized sample of respondents, and relied on different methodologies.

Perhaps they did; the geographic, demographic and ethnographic details weren’t included in any of the links Loveland provided.   

For those who worry about sponsorship bias, these polls were sponsored by a wide variety of news outlets and academic institutions.

And yet the questions they uncritically asked were all nearly exactly identical.

For those who stress that polls are blunt instruments, these polls did not find slim margins that conceivably could be slightly off.

That’s correct.  They found overwhelming support for a hopelessly broad question that, by its nature, filtered all possible context from the results that were reported.  

Of course, this isn’t just about polling “science” to Loveland.  The mission is to try to undercut the Minnesota GOP, which has been gratifyingly solid on Second Amendment issues this session.  (In-line thought bubble: Where the hell was that sense of purpose last session on the freaking stadium? Or in 2011 on the budget negotiations? Hello?)

Make no mistake, on the issue of universal gun background checks, Minnesota Republicans are choosing to represent the will of NRA lobbyists over the will of the overwhelming majority of Minnesotans, including gun owners, Republicans, Independents and Greater Minnesota citizens.

“NRA Lobbyists” are the great lefty boogeymen.  The heavy lifting on gun issues this session, as between 1995-2005 in passing Concealed Carry, has been GOCRA – the most successful grass roots group in Minnesota politics, and the grass-rootsiest successful group in Minnesota politics to boot.  It has no paid lobbyists.  It has no paid anything.  It’s an email mailing list and over 20,000 Minnesotans who write letters and make phone calls.

Legislators report that phone calls and emails against the DFL’s gun grab legislation run about between 50-100:1 against the gun grab supporters.

And Minnesotans are voting with their feet; 135,000 Minnesotans now have their carry permits, and at current pace there will be 200,000 within a year.

None of those figures gives you any more context than the questions in any of the polling Loveland cites.  Or, to be fair, any less.

Frankly, Minnesotans, Republicans just aren’t just not that into you.

And given that the “you” really doesn’t exist outside of a push-poll wording card trick, they’ve got the right idea.

The Emperor’s New Polls: “Your Client Is Obviously Guilty!”

Wry Wing Politics” is one of the painfully small group of Twin Cities leftybloggers who don’t expressly deserve to be under police surveillance.

But that doesn’t mean WWP and its author, Joe Loveland, know how to take apart a complex issue, or dig beneath the hood of a lefty propaganda meme, better than the babbling bobbleheads at Minnesota Progressive Project.

Vide this piece about the polling claiming to show Minnesotans and Americans are lock-step in favor of universal background checks.  Loveland thinks the polls show it’s not even a debate anymore.

And on the surface – as in, the layer that a dust-rag and a spritz of Pledge removes – it looks like he might be onto something:

In politics, presidential candidates who win the support of over 60% of Americans are said to have won overwhelming “landslide” victories. Harding’s 60.3% in 1920. FDR’s 60.8% in 1936. Johnson’s 61.1% in 1964. and Nixon’s 60.7% in 1972. Landslides!

It is so difficult to get 60% of Americans to agree on politics, that such “landslide victories” are considered highly unusual indications of a historically overwhelming level of public sentiment.

So far, so good.  When Americans in all their infinite variety consider all the different issues and perceptions and angles that go into electing a president, a landslide like Reagan’s in 1984 (which, at 58.77%, is mighty close to 60%) is pretty much a mandate.

That’s with what should be a complex decision, like a Presidential election.  Now, you can look at the results of the past two elections and wonder if voters really do put all that much thought into elections, but let’s have some faith in The People and assume that there’s a certain amount of reasoning and, for most people, at least a week or two of thought that goes into elections.

But a public opinion poll? 

In Minnesota right now, Minnesotans of all walks of life, including Republicans, Independents, gun owners and Greater Minnesota citizens, are giving a landslide victory to gun background checks.

Loveland cites the Strib “Minnesota Poll”, which I’ll borrow here:

Pilfered without permission from “Wry Wing Politics”, but with a link back included. Go ahead. Click it. Click the picture. You know you want to.

Now, we’ve gone over this in the past; through most of its history, the “Minnesota Poll” has been a bald-faced DFL propaganda organ, so any conservative is going to distrust but verify their results.

However, I think there’s reason to believe they cleaned up their act in 2012 – the next election will be an interesting one.  So I’m not as inclined to reject the poll because it’s the Minnesota Poll as I used to be.  But they say “trust but verify”, and so I shall:

Loveland thinks he’s closing in for the kill:

The Minnesota Republicans’ point person on this issue, State Representative Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) shrugs off this Star Tribune Minnesota Poll with a cavalier “nobody really believes those polls.”

  • Or this poll — CNN/ORC (89% support background checks)?
  • Or this poll — Quinnipiac (91% support background checks)?
  • Or this poll — Morning Joe/Marist (87% support background checks)?
  • Or this poll — CBS (90% support background checks)?
  • Or this poll — Fox News (85% support background checks)?
  • Or this poll — ABC/Washington Post (90% support support background checks)?
  • Or this poll — Pew/USA Today (83% support background checks)?
  • Or this poll — University of Connecticut (69% support background checks)?
  • Or this poll — Gallup (91% support background checks)?
  • Or this poll — Associated Press-GfK (84% support background checks)?

Before we address the polls, let’s take a quick trip back in time.


When I first started covering the war on the Second Amendment back in 1986, as a fairly newly-minted conservative talk show host on the weekend graveyard shift at KSTP, it was a very different world.  There were eight shall-issue states, and many states and cities with absolute gun bans.

And when I interviewed a woman, Margolyn Bijlefeld of the “National Coalition to Ban Handguns” (which later morphed into either the Brady Factory or the VPC, I forget which), she flogged a set of polling stats that showed something like “85% of the American people support gun control!”

A landslide!

And so I pounced:  the poll leading to that question simply asked people if they supported “more gun control”, with no elaboration.  Yes or no.  No coloration, no flavor, no nuance.

And it was a question that everyone – from the gun-grabbing government-groupie to lil’ ol’ me who favored ratcheting up sentences for gun crimes and keeping them out of the hands of the insane – could say “yes” to, with different reasons and (this is important) with different consequences in mind.  
And when other pollsters added elaboration to the question – telling people what “gun control” actually meant – the numbers changed drastically.  The numbers favoring complete civilian gun bans dropped into (as I recall [1]) the twenties; handgun bans, the low thirties; background checks (in the days before NICS) scored much better; stiffer sentencing for gun crimes scored very, very well indeed.  
And this was right around the high-water mark for the gun control movement, when murder rates were rising toward their highest levels since the 1930′s.  Where do you suppose those numbers would fall out today, after two decades of expanding gun rights and (in an utterly unrelated story, yessirreebob) radically falling violent crime rates?
I’ll give credit to Loveland; he at least knows where I’m going with this, unlike most other leftybloggers:

For those who quibble about question wording, these polls all asked the question a bit differently.

Right.  A bit.

We’ll come back to this tomorrow morning and go through the fallacy of the “overwhelming support”.

We’ll call it “Back to the Future”.  Or that’s what 85% of the writers of my blog say right now.

[1] (I’ve been trying to find any reference to the polls from the eighties; happening as they did back when only Algore had the internet, I’m having not much luck.  If anyone has a pointer, I’d be much obliged)

Oh, It’s That Michele Bachmann Again

Can you imagine what would have happened if Michele Bachmann, rather than Sonia “The Wise Latina Woman” Sotomayor, had said this:

Mr. Olson, the bottom line that you’re being asked — and — and it is one that I’m interested in the answer: If you say that marriage is a fundamental right, what State restrictions could ever exist? Meaning, what State restrictions with respect to the number of people, with respect to — that could get married — the incest laws, the mother and the child, assuming they are of age — I can — I can accept that the State has probably an overbearing interest on — on protecting the a child until they’re of age to marry, but what’s left?

But #crickets.


Universal Means Universal

James Taranto notes that while “Universal Background Checks” will have no effect on crime – serving as they do only to further harass and hamper the law-abiding, and price more low-income shooters out of the market – they will infringe on peoples’ privacy rights.

Currently, Federal Firearms License (FFL)-holding dealers perform these background checks online or via phone.  FFLs, by the way, are pretty tightly regulated; it’s not something you get for the asking.  On the other hand, Universal Background Checks would require all private transfers to get the background check.

And that means everyone:

Currently access to the FBI’s background check system is limited to licensed firearms dealers, who have an incentive not to abuse it lest they lose their license. If it’s opened up to all prospective sellers of guns–that is, to everybody–what’s to prevent someone from abusing it, say by requesting a background check on [Anti-gun WaPo columnist] Greg Sargent, who presumably has no interest in acquiring a gun?

The system only gives a yes-or-no answer as to whether the putative buyer is eligible to own firearms under federal law. But if you’re looking to dig up dirt on someone, a “no” answer on a firearms background check would give you a nice clump of it.

It’d put a big info-trawling tool into the hands of the unethical.

Think that won’t get abused?

Look at the last ten years in the history of Twin Cities’ leftyblogging and ask if you want that crowd to have access to a “there’s trouble here!” flag on every man, woman and child in the country.

The DFL/Media/Anti-Gun Hot Tub Party

When you’re a conservative, distrust of the media – like most large institutions – is part and parcel of the job.

You probably accept that, for whatever reason – from systemic bias to cultural confirmation bias to being paid off by George Soros – that the media has a comprehensive bias toward the left.

And you notice it on some issues more than others.   For example, you notice that anti-gun groups – for example, “Protect Minnesota”, led by Representative Heather Martens (DFL – 66A), a woman who has never, not once, uttered a substantively accurate or true original statement about guns or the Second Amendment – gets breathless, slavish coverage from the Twin Cities media, whose mania for “balance” obscures, in their coverage, the fact that the pro-Second-Amendment movement includes thousands of actual activists, while Martens’ group and the other antis muster…

…well, Martens and about a dozen of her pals.

And it doesn’t take a political rocket scientist (?) to notice that while their groups have virtually no electoral clout, Martens is apparently a big enough cheese among DFLers on Capitol Hill that she gets treated like, well, a Representative herself.

So after the hearings broke up last night, I watched who went where for a bit.

After he got done with the media, Rep. Paymar lit his afterburners and ran for the bleachers to meet Representative Martens and Jane Kay from Action Moms:

Kay, Martens and Paymar, talking about how much clout they have when those Million Moms finally show up. Someday. Honest.

DFL stenographer and former Strib columnist Doug Grow – now with DFL PR shop MinnPost – painted Jane Kay’s toenails:

Grow, Kay

Hey, maybe his story about last night won’t be pre-written!

And at the end of the night, you had pretty much every anti-gun activist in town gathered with the DFL PR coalition:

Grow, Kay, Nick “I’m Not The DFL’s Monkey” Coleman (from “The Uptake”), a staff guy and Martens talking, presumably, about what a bunch of wingnuts their opposition are.

Us gunnies? We had the fun down front:

Second Amendment attorney David Gross mixing it up with an anti who claimed we should “learn our history”, that firearms confiscation had nothing to do with the Holocaust. The anti, by the way, reportedly had walked up to the child of one of the GOCRA members in attendance and said “You’ll grow up to be a better person than your father” at a hearing last week. These people ooze class, don’t they?

Same as it ever was.  Back next week.