November 12, 2013
March 27, 2013
The renewed debate on gun debate has sparked a meta-debate over whether one particular argument – that criminals don’t obey gun laws – is a valid one. On one side, a recent article by James Schlarmann of the aptly-named “Political Garbage Chute” has been making the rounds lately, suggesting that the argument can never be valid for gun control or anything else. On the other, Jennifer Townsend and others maintain that a law followed only by the law-abiding is a waste of everyone’s time, or worse. Elliot Fladen splits the baby, arguing that “criminals don’t follow the law” works for malum prohibitum (bad because prohibited) crimes but not for malum in se (inherently bad) crimes. In my view, “criminals don’t obey laws” is a valid argument, but one whose value is often overstated. Further, as I will explain below, it is more useful for the gun debate than it is for most other issues of contention.
First, let’s dispose of the living, breathing strawman that is Schlarmann. While concerns about compliance (or lack thereof) may not be dispositive, this doesn’t mean lawmakers should dismiss them entirely. Of course not everyone will comply with any new law, and of course that doesn’t mean all new (or old) laws are bad. But it’s one thing to have a law some people won’t comply with, and quite another the pass one that no one will. And by “no one” I don’t mean literally no one, but none of the target population we ought to care about. National Prohibition had a 100% compliance rate among teetotalers, and everyone who didn’t drive in the 1970s and early 1980s was in full compliance with the national 55 mph speed limit, but both laws became national jokes, and were rightly repealed as a result. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really make a sound? If Congress or the Legislature passes a new law and no one complies with it, is it really a law?
On the flip side, while concerns about compliance (or lack thereof) may not be something legislators should dismiss entirely, this doesn’t mean they are dispositive. Take, for example, the death penalty debate. Liberals frequently claim the death penalty is not a deterrent. If they are correct, surely no lesser penalty can deter, either. Yet I have never heard even the most ardent liberal argue that laws against murder should be repealed, if for no other reason, then because locking up a person who has committed a murder in the past may prevent him from committing more murders in the future. So there can be a value to having a criminal law on the books, even if no one is deterred.
At first blush, this would seem to support Elliot’s malum prohibitum / malum in se distinction, as murder is an inherently bad act, while merely owning the instrument in question is not. Locking up or executing pepple predisposed to commit murder will surely result in fewer murders, which is unambiguously a good thing. Locking up or executing people for possessing Tiddlywinks will surely result in fewer people owning Tiddlywinks, but what’s the point? Similarly, locking up people for possessing firearms will result in fewer people owning firearms, but if that effect is only seen among those least likely to misuse them, it again seems to be a useless exercise.
That said, not all malum prohibitum laws are as silly as bans on Tiddlywinks, let alone as silly as gun control. While some “date rape” drugs may be prescribed to certain individuals for other, legitimate purposes (Rohypnol, a.k.a. “roofies,” have been prescribed for insomnia), there is no legitimate reason for the rest of us to have easy access to them. As surely as a person not deterred by the stiff penalties for murder won’t be deterred by the relatively lax penalties for merely possesing the gun, surely no potential rapist would be deterred by the relativity lax penalty for merely possessing the drug. Still, if a violent felon on parole is found in possession of a firearm, or if anyone is found in possession of date rape drugs at a bar, with no medical justification, would it not make more sense to lock them up now rather than waiting around until someone actually gets hurt?
Constitutionally, we have a right to bear arms but not roofies. Ignore that for now. The policy reason for banning roofies but not guns is because guns are useful tools for good and evil, while unprescribed roofies are useful tools for evil alone. Gun control creates a balance of power problem that is essentially nonexistent in most other debates. For any topic, the “criminals won’t obey this new law” is as good as the NRA slogan, “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” Try it on for size:
- When murder is outlawed, only outlaws will commit murder. Good, we need as few murders as possible.
- When date rape is outlawed, only outlaws will rape their dates. Good, we need as few rapes as possible.
- When date rape drugs are outlawed, only outlaws will have date rape drugs. Good, unprescribed date rape drugs are useless to the rest of us, anyway. Try fending off a rapist with a roofie.
- When bananas are outlawed, only outlaws will get enough potassium.
- When large sodas are outlawed, only outlaws will piss off Michael Bloomberg.
Note that there are some aspects of the gun debate where “only criminals will comply” becomes as silly for guns as it is for roofies. Take, for example, the ban on undetectable “plastic” guns. Unless you are planning on breaching security of some courthouse or airport, what use is a “plastic” gun to you? Similarly, the ban on certain individuals from owning firearms is a reasonable concept, even if the criteria themselves could use some work (lifetime for nonviolent felons seems over the top). So generally, the “criminals won’t obey X” argument is only a strong argument against X if it’s also a problem that non-criminals will.
January 20, 2013
Safe handling of a firearm is not rocket science. All you need to do is follow the four basic rules:
- All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are. In other words, don’t do this:
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. In other words, don’t do this:
- Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. In other words, don’t do this:
- Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified. In other words, don’t do anything this guy would:
July 3, 2012
Lawmaker salary: $14,000.
Vote-counting machine: $200,000
Overriding a veto because your legislator fracked up: Priceless.
May 8, 2012
Here’s how I’m voting this morning, and why.
- President: Romney. Yes, Gingrich and Santorum are still on the ballot, apparently because Gingrich and Santorum merely “suspended” their campaigns rather than formally ending them. Paul is still on the ballot, as he’s not in it to win it, just to complain. My favorite candidate of all is No Preference, but I don’t think he has a good chance of securing the party nomination, either. Let’s get on with the program. Romney’s the nom’nee, voting for anyone else on the Republican ticket is a farce.
- Governor: Pat McCrory. Not necessarily the most conservative candidate, but probably the most competent, and certainly the most conservative electable candidate. Better to win with McCrory than lose to the Carolina Strangler.
- Lieutenant Governor: Dale Folwell. Never heard of any of these guys, following GRNC guide by default.
- Auditor: Rudy Wright. Fern Shubert is mostly a one-trick (immigration) pony politically, though in fairness she has also worked as an auditor for … um … Arthur Andersen. But at least she is a CPA, which is more than I can say for Greg Dority or Debra Goldman. That leaves us with Rudy Wright and Joseph DeBraggar. Both have formidable credentials as auditors, but as a four term mayor of Hickory, Wright comes with strong political experience as well. So while I’d gladly support either in the general, I’m giving Wright the nod in the primary.
- Commissioner of Agriculture: Bill McManus. Incumbent Steve Troxler’s second term as been a mixed bag, and his primary challenger’s message of limited government is a welcome alternative.
- Commissioner of Insurance: James McCall. From viewing their web sites, it’s clear McCall is actually interested in insurance issues, and has specific plans for reforming insurance in this state. It’s equally clear the other two are garden variety politicians who view the Commissioner of Insurance as just one more elective office to use as a springboard to somewhere else. [Causey responds.]
- Secretary of State: Mike Beitler. Libertarian candidate in 2010, this time he wants to win. The GRNC endorsement can’t hurt, either.
- Superintendent of Public Education: Ray Martin. In this survey only two of the five Republican candidates, Martin and Tedesco, endorsed both school vouchers and merit pay, the two most important issues to me as far as education is concerned. But when it comes to other issues, Martin is the only candidate who would allow unmarried couples to adopt, extend anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation, and even allow physician assisted suicide. Easily the most libertarian of the bunch. He probably won’t get the nomination, but it won’t be for want of my vote.
- Treasurer: Steve Royal. Never heard of any of these guys, following GRNC guide by default.
- State Senate (Dist. 33): Stan Bingham. Solid, GRNC-backed incumbent. Why change a winning game? Then again, if for some reason you think Eddie Gallimore or Sam Watford would be better, no need for the usual worries about electability. No Democrat filed in this district so whoever wins today’s primary will win the seat.
- State House (Dist. 80): Jerry Dockham Solid, GRNC-backed incumbent. Why change a winning game?
- Board of County Commissioners: NOTA. Can’t find enough information about any of these guys to vote intelligently; leaving this one blank.
- Constitutional Amendment One: No. Totally unnecessary for preserving traditional marriage, counterproductive for everything else.
- Constitutional Amendment Two: Yes. Just kidding, there is no Amendment Two.
UPDATE: Either I voted, or someone else who knows my real name and street address did. Close enough! I ended up voting for Jarvis and Shell for County Commissioner, mostly to reward them for taking the time to have their people come out to the polling place. I left the third race blank, so the computer tried to talk me into voting for someone.
May 6, 2012
Sec. 6. Marriage.
Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.
For starters, I should note that I originally supported California Proposition 22 in 2000, along with the identically worded Proposition 8 in 2008, even while opposing Virginia’s broader amendment in 2006, and plan to vote against North Carolina’s on Tuesday. Here’s why.
First, my own views on the subject have shifted over the years. While married, and not anticipating divorce, I used to be for traditional marriage, but neutral on domestic partners and civil unions. The rationale was something about babies vs. bathwater: why compromise the genius of millennia of Anglo-Saxon over a a social experiment the gays themselves didn’t even want more than a generation ago? My error was assuming family law was at least almost as sensible as the areas of law in which I practice. One divorce later, I now know nothing could be further from the truth. That bathwater is way nastier than I ever imagined it was, so nasty I can safely assume that if there ever was a baby in there to begin with, there certainly isn’t one now. Further, many of the aspects of family law I find so distasteful are the product of a bygone era in which men provided for women, who in turn were unable to provide for themselves. Many social conservatives won’t attack that inequity because deep down inside, they still long for the old world order upon which it is based. Feminists won’t attack it either, because however unfeminist its origins, its effect in the modern world is to systematically favor women. I can think of few better ways to expose family law for the farce that it is, than a few high-profile divorces among gay couples, where the “woman” claiming lifetime alimony is another man! If that’s the catalyst we need to prompt the reforms that were long overdue anyway, so be it.
Second, I continue to believe strongly that legal marriage ought to be defined by legislatures, not the Constitution or the courts. All three marriage amendments stripped courts and legislatures alike of the power to legislate. I didn’t much care about that with Prop 22, as California’s voter initiative law allows voters to easily reverse themselves anytime they want, just as a legislature could. Nor did I object to Prop 8 as a constitutional amendment, as the California Supreme Court had left voters with no choice but to make this a constitutional issue. Not so Virginia or North Carolina, both of whose amendments require(d) only a simple majority on election day, but would require a much more grueling political process to be repealed or amended later.
Third, while Amendment One is sold as a protection against runaway courts, its language, like that of so many other marriage amendments, goes much further than that. If real concern was to prevent judicial meddling, this is all we would have needed:
Sec. 6. Marriage
Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to require this State to recognize any domestic union other than a marriage between one man and one woman.
Instead, we’re offered a much broader initiative, which bars not only courts but the General Assembly itself from either broadening the definition of marriage or crafting any potential marriage substitutes in the future. Bad idea.
Fourth, I’m not aware of NC courts taking the activist approach that is typical of liberal states like CA or MA, and thus find concerns about judicial activism overblown. Bear in mind that as a state constitutional amendment, Amendment One can’t do anything about federal courts, or even its own NC courts while interpreting federal laws. Could a court rule that “[n]o person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws” (NC Const. Art. I, Sec. 19) guarantees a right to gay marriage while “[n]o State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (U.S. Const. Amend. 14 Sec. 1) does not? Stranger things have happened, I suppose, but now that courts are finally weighing in on what (if anything) the Fourteenth Amendment has to say about gay marriage, I think that position is becoming increasingly untenable. Yet that is the only position under which Amendment One will do anything for traditional marriage at all. If both provisions are held to require gay marriage, the federal Constitution wins and Amendment One won’t do anything. If neither is construed that way, we didn’t need Amendment One to begin with.
Lastly, while I think I have offered some pretty good arguments for voting against Amendment One, I’d be remiss if I didn’t identify some very bad ones as well. Contrary to what you have seen in the ads, Amendment One will not make it legal to beat up your girlfriend, skip out on child support, or affect your rights as a parent in any way. These laws do not depend on marriage now, nor any other “legal domestic union” that does not even exist now. They won’t start depending on it on Wednesday. No, it won’t affect your ability to privately contract for any marriage like benefits you may desire; the second sentence of the amendment expressly preserves that right. No, it won’t take away your domestic partnership benefits if you are employed by anyone but the government. There is a real concern that it might cause problems for government employers and employees, an issue likely to end up in the courts sooner rather than later. My guess is that domestic partner benefits will remain a viable option for any employer, including government acting as a market participant, but it is just that, a guess, and certainly not a slam dunk. Worst cause (plausible) scenario: government employers have to find some way to get a little creative, e.g., offer health benefits to all persons who happen to be living in a particularly household, whether they are in a domestic relationship or not.
UPDATE: William Teach has more.
January 28, 2012
Here’s what Elliot Abrams, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs under Reagan, wrote about what Newt allegedly said about Reagan and his policies toward the Soviet Union:
“Measured against the scale and momentum of the Soviet empire’s challenge, the Reagan administration has failed, is failing, and without a dramatic change in strategy will continue to fail. . . . President Reagan is clearly failing.”
Here’s what Newt actually said — in context. Pay attention to the distinction between Reagan and those in his administration. It’s the key to the story:
“The fact is that George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Irving Kristol, and Jeane Kirkpatrick are right in pointing out the enormous gap between President Reagan’s strong rhetoric, which is adequate, and his administration’s weak policies, which are inadequate and will ultimately fail.”
Newt was attacking the people in Reagan’s administration who wanted Reagan to tone down the anti-Soviet rhetoric. These are the same people who wanted Reagan to remove the line “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” from his speech at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987.
Gee whiz, how could anyone have read the transcript of Gingrich’s March 21, 1986 Special Order speech and gotten the quote so horribly wrong? The answer, of course, is that he actually said both. Abrams’s quote appears in the tenth paragraph of Gingrich’s speech (or the third full paragraph of the third column of p. 5886 of the Congressional Record), while the part cited by DeMar is the second full paragraph of p. 5887. And even DeMar’s doesn’t say what DeMar says it says; in it, Gingrich clear attacked Reagan’s policies, not any individuals working in his administration, and certainly not about a speech in Berlin that would not be made until more than a year later. Indeed, far from making this about the faceless, bureaucratic squishes DeMar wants it to be about (who, it should be noted, Gingrich would indeed go after later in the speech), Gingrich further clarified (p. 5887, paragraph 4) that:
The burden of this failure frankly must be placed first on President Reagan; he is the President.
Gingrich also had some nice things to say about the President, and all in all it wasn’t a huge bombshell of a speech that ought to figure high on anyone’s list of priorities in deciding who to vote for in next week’s primaries. But it’s certainly not grounds for calling Abrams a liar simply for recalling different true facts than the ones DeMar wished he had.
January 24, 2012
September 11, 2011
Yes, it is. “Etymology,” on the other hand, is not a synonym for “meaning.”
August 27, 2011
Somehow this birther nut has avoided detection by Wiley Publishing, probably because they make it a pain in the ass for anyone to contact them. If they do find him he can scarcely plead ignorance, as the YouTube version” of this video even carries a disclaimer stating that FOR DUMMIES® is a registered trademark of Wiley Publishing, Inc. I’m sure they’ll find it eventually, though. Meanwhile, go check out that moronic video while you still can.
The factual misstatements in the video are too numerous to explain in detail, so I’ll focus on the most obvious one. Minor v. Happesett was decided in 1875. Chester Arthur, whose constitutional eligibility to the Presidency is identical to Obama’s (both were born on U.S. soil to a U.S. mother and a non-U.S. father, and both had idiot opponents claiming they were born abroad) was elected in 1880. If anyone believed in 1875 that Minor means anything close to what this lying crapweasel says it means, Arthur would never have been a viable candidate. Of course Dean knows this, but doesn’t care. note that there are only two comments posted to his entry, both by people who think he craps ice cream. My own comment, #13, is in moderation:
There is nothing remotely “educational” about this video. It grossly misstates the holding of Minor v. Happersett, flat out lies about Wong not saying anything about “natural-born” (a phrase it actually employs liberally), ignores Article III of the Constitution entirely and generally makes a hash of the entire issue.
Of course you birthers don’t care about facts, but if you did, here is all you really would need to know. If the 1875 decision of Minor v. Happersett really had held that only a person born to two parents is a natural born citizen eligible for the Presidency, Chester Arthur would not have been a viable candidate a mere five years later. It’s not because there weren’t any Chester Arthur birthers out there; there were plenty of them. It’s certainly not because anyone mistakenly believed Arthur’s father was a citizen at the time of his birth; it was well known he was not. No, it’s because nobody, and by that I mean literally nobody, believed that the then-recent decision of Minor v. Happersett meant anything close to what this hack claims it means.
Oh wait, did I say my moderated comment was #13? Why yes, I did. How do you get from only two older, displayed comments to mine being #13? Um….
UPDATE: The lying crapweasel saw this post right away, and responded less than an hour after it was posted. Yet, for some odd reason, three days have gone by and still only the two fawning comments out of 13+ are up. Seems like both this week’s idiot and last week’s know at some level that they are idiots and can’t defend their indefensible positions against anyone who challenges them. At least last week’s idiot, Kevin Lehman, admits that’s what he’s doing.