The Lefty Libertarian

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Saturday, October 12, 2002
4:27 PM 
We stand at a pivot point in history.

In some ways, we all do, in every day of our lives. But these days are special. Our world hangs in the balance, as it always does, but now it's our turn to tip it one way or the other, by action or inaction.

A big part of this is belief, faith. We only have so many facts, and the grey zone between truth and lies is 90% of our world. Are the Iraqis trying to blow us up? Is President Bush a hopelessly corrupt tool? We don't, and can't know for sure. We do not have enough data.

How you fill the gaps between your datapoints: that's the key to all simulation, to all thought.

I've spent a lot of time in the darkness. I've been reading Rummel's stuff on democide, sketching in my own mind the outlines of what would happen here if those social forces arise.

I don't like it.

Now I feel a turning. Having looked into the darkness, I want to envisage a different future. One filled with hope, light and life.

Here's how it goes: Lessig wins Eldred Vs. Ashcroft and the entire cultural content of the 1960s enters into the public domain on the spot. All of the Beatles. All of the Doors. All of LOVE. All the movies, all the art. But especially all of the music.

And it changes us.

Suddenly being reconnected to the protest against the vietnam war - to this mysterious outpouring of love which threatened all established powers with turning the world into a garden - to the vision and hope of humanity freed - to a spirituality which manifested as community, sharing and love - to the presence of god in every child, Vietnamese, Iraqi or American.

The seventies was a hangover, the 80s a bad dream, and the 90s a slow reawakening.

This is the twenty first century. It is a time of light, life and hope. Don't believe anybody who tells you differently.

4:17 PM 
Lessig's report of what happened before the supremes.

I'm so excited about this I can't say a word.

10:38 AM 
Awww, shit.... Looks like we might have managed to destabilize Pakistan (yes, they do have nuclear weapons) in our efforts to round up Mullah Omar and bin Laden (the President hasn't said bin Laden's name in public in seven months. Perhaps that's because we failed to catch him after swearing we'd have his head on a plate).
But the main surprise in Thursday's poll was a stunning performance by a grouping of firebrand Islamic parties, which tapped anger over the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan to virtually sweep the board in two conservative western provinces.
"We will stop the ongoing pursuit of Taliban and al Qaeda when we form the government," he said. "Taliban and al Qaeda members are our brothers."
Now this? This sucks. Nuclear-powered muslim fundamentalism is the VERY LAST THING IN THE WORLD WE WANT and it looks like our inept administration is well on the way to producing it.

BushCo: lousy at peace, worse at war, just say no in November.

10:24 AM 
WorldRun. Anybody remember that? Click on the link, you'll see a map of the world with current news events indicated with icons. Apparently it parses newsfeeds to prepare this thing in real time. Pure brilliance. Somebody get these guys som money to hire a graphic designer, and wire the back end to Google News!
[via Boing Boing's Guest Bloggers]

9:42 AM 
Next topic: those manic monkeys in the White House.

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America

The National Strategy For Homeland Security

Over the next few days I'm going to be reading these august documents and trying to make some sense of what's going on. I'd invite you to join me and post your thoughts on the subject. Let's try and encourage some democratic debate on the stated policies of our government.

Anybody want to join me?

Although not an official document, the ever-popular Rebuilding America's Defenses is fairly short and worth a look first, just so you can see where these guys are coming from.

It's a challenging task: these documents are long, wordy and written in Presidentialese, but I think we really owe it to ourselves to get informed enought to take part in this debate.

Let's read the official strategy of the Government together. It'll be fun. We'll learn something.

Probably a lot of things we'd rather not know, but then, that's the point of this isn't it. To be informed citizens of our Republic. Blog away.

9:29 AM 
Ok, barring anything revolutionary happening in the blogosphere, I'm done with guns. I'll be glad to continue conversations and refine my position, but I'm bored with the topic. It's pretty easy, you know? You read the democide stories, you wonder if it could happen here, and the decision tree is pretty simple:
  1. Do you believe that Government sometimes turns on The People and massacres them?
    No: 2, Duh!: 3
  2. Read Rummel and start over, or go home because you're an idiot.
  3. Do you believe that there is a zero chance of that happening where you live, within your expected lifespan or that of your offspring?
    Yes, we're safe here: 4, No, there's a tiny chance it could happen here: 5.
  4. Ok, one name: Jose Padilla. Held indefinitely without trial on Presidential say-so, against our every consitutional principle. Do some reading and get back to me. While you're at it, cover the Gulf of Tonkin, Operation Northwoods and Pearl Harbor. Let me know how safe you feel, OK?
  5. Do you believe that having 10% of the populace armed with, say, a rifle each would make any difference in the event of a democidal scenario?
    No, the Army or Brownshirts or Whoever would overwhelm us: 6, Yes, and what's more I'd rather die trying, 7.
  6. Fair enough, you might even be right. But don't deprive others of their right to try.
  7. So, welcome to the Folks Who Think The Second Amendment Means Something Club. Glad to have you aboard.

I mean, yes, this essentially self parody and oversimplification, but that's essentially it.

Given our history of democide in the last century, and the role that disarming the populace has played in those slaughters, I believe it is the right of all adults to arm themselves against this turn of affairs. Although the odds of it happening again are very, very small, nobody can say there is no chance whatsoever, and therefore the Second Amendment should be respected.

And that's it. That's all I had to say about guns.

Friday, October 11, 2002

9:08 AM 
UPDATE: If you're coming in from Instapundit, you might like this guided tour of the blog.

Tim Dunlop talks more about the Australian experience of Government and Guns. Tim lives in the DC area, so he's got a sniper wandering around in his area shooting at apparently random members of the public.

Props to Tim for being able to have a reasoned discussion about guns at a time like this

I want to bring two aspects of this discussion to the surface. Tim says:
Thus, for a whole bunch of historical reasons, we have a much more benign--I'd actually call it positive--attitude towards government. In fact, the state was often seen as a positive good, a bulwark against the uncertainty of isolation and, in the decade before federation (1890-1900), a source of order and stability in a country being damaged by a depression and the perceived threats inherent in frontier existence--attack from without and attack from within.
This is really interesting to me. I can imagine that in a vast, sparsely populated nation, strongly modeled after Britain, a lof of the American experience must look totally foreign and rediculous. It's really good to see it from the outside!

I think the Australian government really is, at this point in time, considerably more benign than the American government. Your faith and trust in it may not be foolish.

We have an enormous army, huge intelligence services, a history of things like COINTELPRO (organized suppression of political debate using the intelligence services) and, as I've mentioned below, various and sundry presidential lies, schemes and evasions to drag us into wars. We have ample historical and current reasons to distrust and fear our state.

The Framers were really trying to create a country in which the individual would be free, and as they said again and again and again in different ways, they were always haunted by the spectre of the government turning against the people and did all they could to prevent it.

Yet we still ended up in a situation where people have been pulled off the street on the President's say-so and jailed indefinitely (Jose Padilla, lest we forget). Note that we may never see the evidence against Padilla and he could remain in jail for the rest of his life. Without trial.

I can certainly see your point of view, Tim: Americans are pathalogically distrustful of their government. Alas, we're finding that even this level of distrust has not been enough to keep the beast in constitutional chains.

I really want to come back to the case against Jose Padilla. We do not know what this man has or has not done. There has been no examination of evidence, no trial, nothing. He could be innocent - there may have been a mistake, a mix-up, and there is no due process of appeal to correct it. We have every reason to distrust a government that acts in this way.

Perhaps things are just better in Australia! Different government, different appropriate response.

The second point I want to address is the democide figures: 160 million people killed by their governments in the 20th century, four times more than were killed by war - giving roughly a 1% chance of any human who lived in that century would be murdered by their government [go see the figures].Now, please read the story of what happened in Turkey (just under 2 million murdered):
The government then turned to Armenians in the civilian population. First, to make their victims defenseless, the government denied Armenian citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Soldiers and police were assigned the task of confiscating weapons. Homes were ransacked, and many Armenians suspected of having weapons were tortured. In fear, some Armenians acquired weapons, just so they could have something to turn in to the authorities, thus avoiding torture.

Second, the Turk government rounded up the leaders of the Armenian community in Constantinople- those most likely to speak out and be heard. These people were deported into the nation's interior, where they died similarly to the Armenian soldiers.

With most of the Armenian men out of the way, the populace stripped of their weapons, and their leaders exiled or dead, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were defenseless. The government then moved in to kill. Moving from village to village, police and soldier's gathered together the Armenian males, marched them out to some secluded spot, and slaughtered them.
Although this kind of history is not commonly talked about in the gun rights community (most people don't have the historical breadth to talk about anything other than Constitutional Intent and perhaps the Holocaust), Rudy Rummel puts the whole thing in a new light: 160 million dead, killed by their governments, all over the world.

How do you respond to those historical factors, Tim? Are they relevant to how much trust we put in Government? Are they relevant to the gun rights discussion?

Rummel also says that democracies don't do this. In America, our question these days is "do we actually live in a (functioning) democracy?" - remember that our current President lost the popular vote, and won Florida, the state ruled by his brother and the pivot of the whole election, on a dodgy mix of ballot miscounting and striking fifty thousand black voters from the rolls.

When you live with these kinds of questions, and know the history of states slaughtering their populations, it's very hard to trust government at all.

Question for you, Tim: do you see why I'm less trustful of Government? If so, can you think of anything people should do beyond:
  1. Trying to keep the democratic process healthy.
  2. Preparing for the worst if it becomes diseased.

I'd really like to hear your thoughts,


8:12 AM 
US Plans to Occupy Iraq. OIL OIL OIL OIL FNORD.

Yawn. Rebuilding America's Defences. The National Defense Review. The American Empire. Blah blah blah. Congress and the Senate say "Sure, Mr. Bush. We've read all about your plans for an American Empire, and we approve!".

Hell, they even bought off Jimmy Carter with the peace prize.

For the humor impaired, that's a joke. Just like our Government.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

11:36 AM 

Democide in the Soviet Union: 62 million people killed

The Soviet Union exemplifies the dictum that government is a mechanism by which depraved people legitimize their depravity. As an all-powerful state, the Soviet government attracted the most depraved people who then unleashed the worst depravity. Stalin is unique only in surpassing all others in this regard.

The Soviet death toll- those murdered in cold blood by people working for the Soviet government- exceeds, nearly doubles, the combined total of people killed in all of the 20th century's wars.

  • Millions were sent to the Gulags, Soviet concentration camps, where perhaps 20% of all prisoners died. Countless others suffered the drug-torture of the so-called "psychiatric hospitals," where resistance was legal proof of the need for more "treatment."
  • In 1919, hundreds of thousands of Don Cossacks were slaughtered in wholesale murder.
  • In the 1930s, the Soviet secret police issued death quotas to its regional departments. The quotas were filled with indiscriminate killing. Mothers who came to police headquarters to inquire about their arrested sons could be taken outside and shot to help fill the quotas. Children were murdered for the crimes of their parents.
  • From 1932-1933, five million Ukrainian peasants died in forced starvation. The Soviet government stationed troops to actively prevent anyone from escaping the famine. Doctors and relief supplies were kept out by force. The famine was a long, deliberate plan to make people dead by creating and maintaining conditions in which they could not obtain food.
  • From 1930-1937, Soviets carried out the systematic murder of 6,500,000 "kulaks," lower middle class peasants.
  • From 1937-1938, perhaps a million Communists were murdered by Stalin in the Great Terror.
  • In 1949, deportation and genocide of some 50,000-60,000 Estonians.

Go read the rest

Anybody got any good ideas? I'm pretty fucking depressed.

You know? Right-to-bear-arms == right-to-die-fighting. If this shit really is in our nature.......

I don't know. I just don't know. Reall, I mean... go, read. The turks. The germans. The poles. The chinese. The japanese. The cambodians. It really is fucking endless. Anybody got a brilliant idea? We could sure use one.


9:55 AM 
More on arms and liberty.

I'm pretty close to calling this topic done. If you're just joining the thread now, here's the basics:

Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et. al. killed something like one hundred million of their own citizens, not counting those expended fighting foreign wars.

Presidents Roosevelt was warned that the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor and allowed it to happen so that the USA would join World War II.

President Johnson knew that the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, but still used it as an excuse to start the Vietnam War.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff asked the President allow them to murder Americans in terrorist attacks and pin the blame on Cuba to justify an invasion.

Our Official National Security Strategy is, more or less, Total World Domination - to be the only remaining military power of consequence, and to do as we like.

All of this is simple historical fact. I've seen some push-back on my stance about guns in relation to these facts, but so far nobody has queried the facts themselves.

I've also argued that a population armed with rifles could make a significant difference to the progress of any democidal (democide: Government killing it's population) regime. I've also argued that the right to bear arms is part of our system of checks and balances, just like an independent judiciary, and should be viewed as similarly sacred.

Now, I want to briefly outline how I think the presence of an armed population might affect the rise of fascism in America: or in any other country.

  1. An armed populace requires an Army to put down.
    If the army is not willing to do the job, then the Dictator is unable to get their orders carried out and has lost control. Likely the Army will get rid of the dictator themselves.

  2. Conversely, a disarmed populace requires only Police to be controlled.
    If the populace can be controlled without loss of life on either side, because you can simply point a gun at them and tell them what to do, they are vulnerable to much smaller, much less fanatical groups taking control of their lives.

  3. An armed resistance means no member of the Fascists is safe.

  4. An armed populace can spread even the resources of an Army too thin to be effective
    In the USA, the standing army is what, two million people? Less than 1% of the population. Rifle for rifle, if we had 10% firearms ownership, they would be outnumbered ten-to-one. Even if the population could not defeat them, the ability to fight a war both domestic and foreign is beyond our current means. NOTE: I'm not suggesting this could ever happen. But I am trying to say that domestic firearms ownership is constitutionally vital - that it removes certain powers from the grasp of government permanently.

  5. If you are certain to die, you can die fighting, with dignity and meaning if you are armed.
    Even if every Jew, Gypsy, Homosexual or Freemason killed in the Holocaust had killed only one tenth of a German each, Hitler would have been deprived of 1.3 million soldiers. How much more quickly would he have been defeated if no part of Germany was safe for Nazis because of partisans?

  6. An armed populace can choose to die fighting or to submit. A disarmed populace has no such choice: regardless of their treatment, submission at gunpoint is the only course of action. [yeah, plus/minus Ghandi]

  7. An armed populace is a deterrent against a Totalitarian, Democidal State, in the same way that a pistol is a deterrent to a mugger

This is, in essence, why I think the right to bear arms is politically significant.

I could not give two hoots about rights to self defense against criminals and the like. I think the evidence one way or the other is marginal and offset by tragedy of all kinds. I could be convinced to think differently pretty easilly, but to me it's small potatoes compared to the democide story. I view the effect of guns on crime, and the tragedies of armed psychos and accidental shootings to be small beer compared to the hundred plus million dead.

You may say that it could never come here - just remember this: Jewish veterans of World War One lived in Germany and thought they were safe because they were decorated war heros, integral parts of an integrated society. They died in the camps like everybody else.

President Bush has LEGALLY locked away American citizens without charges, without trials and without legal consultation, flouting ever constitutional principle we have. Are you so very, very certain that it could never come here?

I'm not sure I have anything else to say on the topic. You either see the history, say "yes, it is possible that within the span of my life, or the life of my children, or their children, that we could see a US Fascism and have to fight for our lives against it!" or you say "no, everything is fine, even if the Presidents lie to us, the Army wanted to bomb us and blame Cuba and the Black Budget is the size of Mt. Fuji. We'll always be safe, and the Government will protect us".

Do some background reading. Verify the stories of government betrayal, and learn more about what happened all over the world in the last century.

Then decide: do I want the right to be armed, or do I want to be defenseless?



Wednesday, October 09, 2002
11:59 PM 
The Guardian on Bush distorting information to justify the war on Iraq
Officials in the CIA, FBI and energy department are being put under intense pressure to produce reports which back the administration's line, the Guardian has learned. In response, some are complying, some are resisting and some are choosing to remain silent.

"Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements and there's a lot of unhappiness about it in intelligence, especially among analysts at the CIA," said Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's former head of counter-intelligence.
Mr Albright said sceptics at the energy department's Lawrence Livermore national laboratory in California had been ordered to keep their doubts to themselves. He quoted a colleague at the laboratory as saying: "The administration can say what it wants and we are expected to remain silent."
Let's be clear here, shall we?

The Administration is pulling a Gulf of Tonkin here: fabricating the evidence to justify a war.

I don't know what to do about this other than to speak out; to try and inform my few-dozen readers that, "Hey, this is going on. It's happened, with President Johnson and President Roosevelt for Vietnam and WW2. I don't know how we stop it, but the first part of any action is informing people that we have a problem".

We have a problem: the President is lying to us to try and start a war. Pass it on.

10:52 PM 
Nathan Lott on reparations[via the Armed Liberal]

Some libertarian or other (can't find who on a cursory search) suggested that we pay reparations to black people who got a second rate education during the period that government funded schools were segragated.

This makes (some) sense to me - if we're to have reparations, let's start here. This instance has some great advantages over other forms of reparations:
  • A clearly identifiably responsible party which still exists: the Federal Government
  • Living people affected by the maltreatment: those who got a second rate education.
  • A wrong for which a financial value can be estimated with some hope for fairness: a lousy education.
This makes sense to me. I do not think it would be at all morally questionable to compensate these people for getting a shitty education when white kids were getting a better one.

Is it a priority? I don't know. But I think that the reparations movement should start here, and deal with more complex cases later, if at all. It avoids the near-metaphysical questions about corporate responsibility and the debt to the descendents of slaves - all of which is likely to become so bogged down as to help nobody, or to open such a can of worms as to feed all the lawyers America can train for two or three generations.

Question: does anybody know who had this idea? Browne? I can't find a reference, but if you know, please email me at the address on the top left. Thanks!

11:07 AM 
Scott Wickstein is taking me to task about guns. grin.
This is one of the more ludicrous things I have ever read to be perfectly honest. The notion that armed civillions can adequately resist a tyrannical government is one of the more precious myths of the gun loving types (To be fair, The Lefty Libertarian favours gun ownership for ideological reasons, not because he's a gun hugger).

But really, think about it, chaps. A state that is insistant on oppressing it's citizens isn't going to be deterred by a few riflemen. For the record, the only instance of a armed citizen's revolt in US history is the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, which was put down swiftly enough.* And the American government in the 1860's was democratic enough, but when challenged by the Confederacy, it was quite willing to devastate half it's own country to keep it together. What chance do you think a sturdy band of armed burghers face against the modern US Army? To my mind, the notion that an armed citizenry can defy a tryannical government determined to impose itself is as likely as the US Government repealing the second amendment.
Ok. This is, on the surface, a pretty good argument.

As long as you don't know very much about war.

I'm not a military historian. I'm not an expert. But let's take a quick look at a few recent conflicts and see how a poorly armed population did against a large, well prepared army:Now, all morality aside, I think we can agree that a vastly inferior force can make life very, very, very uncomfortable for a much larger one. There's a lot of history. It usually agrees. Intereting just how much of our history is about way. Anyway!

Guerrilla tactics work, but you need the basic materials. Do you think that if every Jew and Homosexual and Gypsy and Freemason in Germany had owned a rifle, the Holocaust would have been possible? No. As I said below, enough people armed with rifles make it simply impossible: rather than an oppressed populace, you get a populist uprising or a civil war. I don't think you've even begun to answer that point.

Think about it this way: assume a force of 1000 troops. How large a city can that number of men control if the populace is disarmed.

I'm going to suggest the number is upwards of 50,000. Two soliders at every intersection, and a couple of hundred in reserve to handle any uprising.

Now rethink that: arm one citizen in ten. That city of 50,000 people out-guns the soldiers by five-to-one. Occupation is impossible. What part of this is hard to understand?

An armed populace means that oppression is difficult and expensive, both in men and materials and morale. A disarmed populace makes oppression easy: you point your guns at people, and tell them to go.

Yes, an outright war may still be lost: if a government is willing to bomb it's people from the air, or gas them, or use tanks, small arms make much less of a difference. On the other hand, Armys in the field require huge civilian support to keep them supplied with ammunition and food. If those civilians require armed guards to make them work, and those guards keep getting picked off by partisans??? I'm sure you get the general idea.

Additionally, the force of will required to mount a full scale war against the people is much, much harder to find that that required to circumscribe their liberties to the point where they are obedient servants of the government, and nothing else.

Bottom line: do you believe that Hitler, Stalin or Mao could have existed, could have done what they did to their nations, if a goodly percentage of the people had been armed?

10:38 AM 
Bertelsmann totally supported the Nazis. A lot of my Jewish friends won't buy products from corporations which had strong Nazi ties. I can't remember the entire list, but it's pretty large and rather scary. Guess this adds another one to the list. [via Metafilter]

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

8:07 PM 
The Armed Liberal talks about his position on self-defense firearms. Good post. I'm with it qualitatively, but quantitively, in terms of absolute conservation of life, I'm still unconvinced about self defense firearms. Of course, absolute conservation of life is a LOUSY way of making decisions.

But that, as they say, is a post for another day.

5:28 PM 
One open question in my mind is: are gun arguments about self-defense relevant? I, personally, am very ambivalent about the self defense arguement. I'm sure about the anti-tyranny properties, but when we start talking about self defense alone, I'm not sure that the balance of life swings towards the gun lobby: I think readilly available handguns probably kill more than they save, all in all.

Britain really is safer than the USA. Tim Dunlop explains the Australian experience, which I haven't extensively researched, but from his data looks pretty clear cut - cutting gun availability reduced all kinds of undesireable effects.

From a pragmatic, rather than a constitutional view, I could support a ruling that people can own any kind of firearm, but they may not be used except at ranges or on private property. Things like concealed carry are for self defense, not for defense against tyranny, and I'd be very willing to trade that in for the restoration of the gun rights of the populations of New York and Chicago, who are currently, blatantly illegally, disarmed.

I think that Israel and Switzerland are both worth bringing up in this context, particularly Switzerland, where army reservists (most of the population!) have rifles. I need to do some reading on the subject, so that's a topic for another day.

In the meantime, all constitutional factors aside (hey, it works for the Government!) - I think that from a pragmatic viewpoint, I'd be happy enough banning handguns and only allowing rifles. It's not constitutionally kosher, but I'd be willing to settle for that. Either approach could cut gun violence massively, without leaving the populace defenseless against state oppression.

I'm willing to compromise right up to the point where people cannot defend themselves against tyranny. But no further. I'm scared that in the aftermath of the sniper incident, the facts I've outlined belowabout Presidential and Military betrayals of the American people will be forgotten, brushed aside - and we'll continue the rampant dismantling of our constitutional democracy.

2:53 PM 
Looks like there's a general karass forming up here to debate the middle ground on guns and liberties: William Burton (and more), Tim Dunlop, and the Armed Liberal.

We all seem to be, broadly speaking, reasonable chaps. I'm probably the least reasonable of the bunch.

This is really becoming a critical issue for us in our society. We've fudged around the Second Amendment for years, never really deciding what it means, tied up in argument over which definition of Militia is relevant and so on.

I think the time has come for us, as a culture, to really take another look at this: the times have changed - military, rather than criminal, violence on American soil is now a reality, and we don't know which way to turn. Let's re-examine this from a position of principle, rather than grasping at loose straws.

I'd like to ask everybody involved in this debate to try, as we hash this out, to make the principles from which their suggestions emerge explicit. Try expecially to flesh out your chain of thought, and to highlight questionable assumptions. Not just in an "ass covering" way, but to really try and speed up and improve the quality of the discourse here.

I'm going to try and follow my own advice here, and in the next couple of days, write up my "chapter and verse" on the subject. Hope I get to read some more great arguments before then.

Monday, October 07, 2002
8:35 AM 
Ok. It looks like this is going to heat up a little, so I'm pulling this from the body of my post to the top:

Roosevelt let Americans be killed to get us into World War II.
The Army planned a huge domestic terrorism campaign to start war with Cuba.
Johnson lied to us to start the Vietnam War.

I'm suggesting that, given these historical facts, gun ownership is an important. I'm not blind to the problems gun ownership causes, and I'm not going to suggest anybody is wrong to hate and fear firearms.

I am suggesting that they are very important parts of our system of checks and balances, and the right to bear them should be viewed with the same respect as the existence of an independent judiciary. I know that's not going to be a popular opinion but it's important to speak out on the why of firearms ownership.

In my mind, the only thing which justifies the cost of the right to keep and bear arms is defense against tyranny. You won't hear the NRA talking about that much, but it's the fundamental argument: 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..

Anyway, I wrote what follows in a pretty agitated state. I've had a chance to think it over and I still think the same way. But I wanted to summarize, make it easier to see the soul of my position. Here's the original post.

I was going to write something about the shootings in Maryland, but Tim Dunlop really has it all covered. It's really good analysis. It's a long series, and the first post is here.

There are three things I'd like to add.

Firstly, rifles kill with awful certainty and effectiveness.

This is not a detour. I've exhastively discussed, governments turn on their citizens from time to time, often causing wholesale slaughter. I keep bringing up the examples (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc) simply to remind people. People often have a pet theory of why this happens, and why America is different, but I've yet to see any convining hypothesis which applies to all known cases of democide. There is no convincing theory, so you'll get no reassurance from me.

As the MD sniper has illustrated, a hunting rifle is an awful, fearsome weapon when turned against a human being.

At this point you can interpret that two ways. Either you can say "and so, we must take firearms from the populace and make sure that only the Police and Army have them", or you say "and so we must ensure that the right of the people to bear arms must never be infringed, to protect us from tyranny of every sort".

I'm of the second stripe. A few dozen men (or women, for that matter) with rifles can make any form of oppression of the populace in an area difficult and deadly. Enough people armed with rifles make it simply impossible: rather than an oppressed populace, you get a populist uprising or a civil war. All ugly things, but much less ugly that being killed by the secret police, starved or gassed. Remember: we lost a hundred million people to this kind of stuff in the last century. That's a sizeable percentage of the human population at the time. I don't understand why people don't take it more seriously, to be honest.

Were a dictatorship to arise in Britain, the people could be herded up like cattle. Were a dictatorship to arise in America, they would have to fight for every inch of territory they wanted absolute control over.

If you believe it could never happen here, please continue with your day. If you wonder, perhaps, if the civilized, western Germans, the ancient culture of the Chinese - if these could turn to this sort of horror - could we too? If you wonder that? Buy a rifle and learn to shoot it well. A decent rifle can be had for less than you would think, and if fascism comes (remember that we already have citizens indefinitely detained without trial: Jose Padilla and others) at least you'll get a chance to die on your feet.

I'm not a whacky conspiracy theorist. We have incontrovertible historical evidence that President Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbor and allowed it to happen. We have incontrovertible evidence that the Joint Chiefs of Staff - the highest military body we have - asked the President for permission to kill American citizens to forment war with Cuba. We have incontrovertible evidence that President Johnson knew that the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened.

Please, see this. Look at the awful truth: we cannot trust our Government and they will lie to us and expend our lives to start wars which we do not want. They lie to us, allow us to be killed, expend us as resources in war. This has to change: we need to find a better way. I don't know what that way is, but we cannot go on like this. We must not go on like this. Somehow we must change our relationship to power so that the power we aggregate in the form of the government is never, ever able to destroy us.

Ai. I've become some sort of dreadful one trick pony. Sorry about that. I just think that this is the most important truth of the moment, and people will not see or refute it. If you know better, why this is wrong please, please let me know. It scares the hell out of me.

So, anyway, back to this bastard with the rifle in Maryland.

Second thing is this: if he stops now, we're never going to catch him. Simple. Never-going-to-catch-him.

It's a pretty horrible thought. That somebody could do this and get away with it. In the past, things like this have always been done by mentally deranged people; folks who intended to die in the process. This guy is trying, very hard, not to get caught or killed.

Finally, if and when they catch him, it's going to be a matter of luck. Somebody will see the van, or they'll have a flat tire, or a police sniper will be looking the right way at the right time.

I'm pretty sure there's going to turn out to be a political dimention to all of this. I don't know what, but nothing about this patteren of activity fits what we've seen from psychos with rifles before. This looks much more military in general style.

And that's very, very disturbing. I don't know what else to say, really.