larvatus: (rock)
As of today, citizens of California no longer need any more of an excuse to be licensed to carry a gun than to be licensed to drive a car.

Plaintiffs in Richards v. Prieto had argued that Yolo County’s Sheriff’s policy, in light of the California regulatory regime as a whole, abridges the Second Amendment right to bear arms because its definition of “good cause” prevents a responsible, law-abiding citizen from carrying a handgun in public for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Yolo County’s policy provided that “self protection and protection of family (without credible threats of violence)” are “invalid reasons” for requesting a concealed handgun carry permit. The district court concluded that Yolo County’s policy did not infringe Richards’ Second Amendment rights and denied Richard’s motion for summary judgment while granting the MSJ of Sheriff Ed Prieto. Today, Justice Diarmid O'Scannlain reversed and remanded this ruling on behalf of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Thus the court granted the plaintiffs’s demands:
  1. Declaratory relief that the “good moral character” and “good cause” provisions of California Penal Code § 12050 are unconstitutional either on their face and/or as applied to bar applicants who are otherwise legally qualified to possess firearms and who assert self-defense as their “good cause” for seeking a handgun carry permit; and
  2. An order permanently enjoining Defendants, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and all persons in active concert or anticipation with them who receive actual notice of the injunction, from enforcing the “good moral character” and “good cause” requirements of California Penal Code § 12050 against handgun carry permit applicants who seek the permit for self-defense and are otherwise qualified to obtain a handgun carry permit under that section.
It’s all over for hoplophobes, but for the shouting.
larvatus: (rock)
And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.
Barack Hussein Obama, 28 February 2014
On the same date, June 23, 1915, he wrote to his life-long friend Owen Wister:
    “Your friend, the English pacifist, turned up. He seems an amiable, fuzzy-brained creature; but I could not resist telling him that I thought that in the first place Englishmen were better at home doing their duty just at present, and in the next place, as regards both Englishmen and Americans, that the prime duty now was not to talk about dim and rosy Utopias but, as regards both of them, to make up their minds to prepare against disaster and, as regards our nation, to quit making promises which we do not keep. Taft, second only to Wilson and Bryan, is the most distinguished exponent of what is worst in our political character at the present day as regards international affairs; and a universal peace league meeting which has him as its most prominent leader, is found on the whole to do mischief and not good.
    “I was immensely pleased and amused with your last Atlantic article (‘Quack Novels and Democracy’) and I think it will do good. I wish you had included Wilson when you spoke of Bryan, and Pulitzer when you spoke of Hearst. Pulitzer and his successors have been on the whole an even greater detriment than Hearst, and Wilson is considerably more dangerous to the American people than Bryan. I was very glad to see you treat Thomas Jefferson as you did. Wilson is in his class. Bryan is not attractive to the average college bred man; but The Evening Post, Springfield Republican, and Atlantic Monthly creatures, who claim to represent all that is highest and most cultivated and to give the tone to the best college thought, are all ultra-supporters of Wilson, are all much damaged by him, and join with him to inculcate flabbiness of moral fiber among the very men, and especially the young men, who should stand for what is best in American life. Therefore to the men who read your writings Wilson is more dangerous than Bryan. Nothing is more sickening than the continual praise of Wilson’s English, of Wilson’s style. He is a true logothete, a real sophist; and he firmly believes, and has had no inconsiderable effect in making our people believe, that elocution is an admirable substitute for and improvement on action. I feel particularly bitter toward him at the moment because when Bryan left I supposed that meant that Wilson really had decided to be a man and I prepared myself to stand wholeheartedly by him. But in reality the point at issue between them was merely as to the proper point of dilution of tepid milk and water.”
—Joseph Bucklin Bishop, Theodore Roosevelt and His Time: Shown in His Own Letters, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920, pp. 385-386



The President’s first note to Berlin about the sinking of the Lusitania, the “strict accountability” note, was followed by a second in a tone so different that it drew from Elihu Root the memorable observation:
    “You shouldn’t shake your fist at a man and then shake your finger at him.
    Taft had humorously described Bryan’s statesmanship as: “Chautauquan diplomacy.
    Roosevelt had described the President’s foreign attitude as: “Waging peace.
Owen Wister, Theodore Roosevelt: The Story of a Friendship, 1880-1919, Macmillan, 1930, p. 344
larvatus: (rock)
Extrait d’une lettre adressée à M. le chevalier de Rossi en Saint-Pétersbourg, le 15 (27) août 1811.     From a letter addressed to Mr. the chevalier de Rossi in Saint-Petersburg, 15 (27) August 1811.
2o Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite. De longues réflexions, et une longue expérience payée bien cher, m’ont convaincu de cette vérité comme d’une proposition de mathématiques. Tout loi est donc inutile, et même funeste (quelque excellente qu’elle puisse être en elle-même), si la nation n’est pas digne de la loi et faite pour la loi.
    Jadis le czar de Géorgie sortait tous les matins à cheval pour rendre la justice : il parcourait lentement les rues de Tiflis. Les plaideurs arrivaient, et disaient leurs raisons. Le czar donnait et faisait donner des coups de bâton à celui qui avait tort ou trop tort. Un Géorgien disait dernièrement, le plus sérieusement du monde, à mon frère, qui me l’a écrit : Eh bien ! Monsieur, on a remarqué que ces princes se trompaient très-rarement. Ils regrettent donc très-sincèrement cette vieille justice de rue ; et quant à la nouvelle que les Russes leur ont portée, qui procède par forme, par délais, par écriture, ils ne peuvent pas la tolérer, ils en sont malades ; et qui leur rapporterait la bâtonomie leur ferait un plaisir infini. Il y a chez nos vieilles nations d’Europe mille finesses que je crois très-fort au-dessus des Russes, du moins tels que je les connais dans ce moment. Le recours direct au souverain (ou la plainte) est une idée enracinée dans le plus profond de leurs cœurs ; et même, pour l’honneur de la souveraineté, elle est plus ou moins naturelle à tous les hommes. Je ne crois pas que l’opinion publique puisse être violée sur ce point. Il n’était pas malaisé, ce semble, de trouver le moyen qui aurait tout sauvé, en donnant seulement à la plainte, lorsqu’elle aurait été admise, la force de renvoyer la cause au plenum (ou chambres assemblées, suivant notre style).
Every nation has the government that it deserves. Lengthy reflection, and experience acquired at great cost, have convinced me of this truth as if it were a mathematical proposition. All law is useless and even fatal (however excellent it may be in itself), if the nation is not worthy of law and made for law.
    In the days of old the Czar of Georgia went out every morning on horseback to dispense justice; he slowly traversed the streets of Tbilisi. Litigants came and pleaded their cases. Armed with a cudgel, the Czar pummeled, and had pummeled, whoever was out of line or in the wrong. A Georgian recently spoke in all earnestness to my brother, who related his words to me: Well! Sir, they say that these princes very rarely erred. Thus they very sincerely regret this old street justice; and as for the new kind that the Russians have brought to them, which proceeds formally, slowly, and in writing, they cannot tolerate it, they are sick of it, and whoever would restore baculonomy to them, would deliver them an infinite delight. There are thousands of refinements in our ancient European nations, which I consider a great improvement over the Russians, at least as I know them at this moment. Direct appeal to the sovereign (or complaint) is an idea deeply rooted in their hearts, and as a credit to sovereignty, it even is more or less natural to all men. I do not believe that public sentiment could be violated on this point. It was not difficult, it seems, to find a way that would have saved everything, just by giving the complaint, once it was admitted, the force to refer the case to plenum (or elected assemblies, according to our custom).
— Joseph de Maistre, 1753 – 1821
larvatus: (rock)
Kremlin papers reveal Lenin the head banger


Lenin, one the most powerful leaders of the last century, was a problem child who slammed his head on the ground to demand attention, claims a new biography.
    Details of Lenin’s troubled early life were discovered in the handwritten memoirs of his elder sister Anna, which had been censored after his death and stored in sealed vaults under the Kremlin.
    The disclosures will further unravel the official account promoted by the communist government, which portrayed him as a saintly purist, far removed from the weaknesses and foibles of ordinary men.
    The memoirs reveal that the young Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, later known as Lenin, had short, weak legs and a large head that made him top heavy and caused him to fall over. He was unable to walk until he was three. When he fell over he would bang his head on the ground in frustration. “The wooden structure of the house made it into an echo chamber and the floors and walls resounded as the little fellow went on crashing his head on the carpet — or even the floorboards,” wrote Anna, who was six years older.
    Lenin’s parents were deeply concerned that he would end up mentally retarded. As well as his headbanging habit, Lenin had boisterous and destructive tendencies which upset his cultured family. “It was such obsessive behaviour that the family were very worried,” said Robert Service, author of the biography which will be published later this month.
    “He was very noisy and extremely disruptive as a child.”
    At three, he stamped all over his brother’s collection of theatre posters. His parents gave him a papier-mâché horse for his birthday but he twisted its legs off one by one. After Lenin’s death in 1924, anything that might have been perceived as even mildly critical was censored. As the Communist party developed the cult of Lenin, personal details vanished. His sister abandoned the drafts of her memoirs, which contained frank details of his personal life that she knew would not pass the censor. They remained locked in the Kremlin until discovered by Service after the fall of the communist state in 1991.
    “What has been brought out is how spoilt the little brat was by all the women around him,” said Dominic Lieven, professor of Russian history at the London School of Economics. “This family correspondence gives you an awful lot of little insights into the hatreds which boiled up inside him, as well as the strength of his personality.”
    Service has played an important role in uncovering the Kremlin’s secrets since he was granted access to its archives. Three years ago he revealed that Lenin kept his mistress in the Kremlin alongside his rejected wife.
— Tom Robbins, The Sunday Times (UK), 12 March 2000
larvatus: (rock)
Writing for The London Review of Books, David Bromwich summarizes the state of our union:
Since the prosecutions of whistleblowers, the abusive treatment of [Bradley] Manning and the drone assassinations of American citizens have been justified by the president and his advisers, a dissident in the US may now think of his country the way the dissidents in East Germany under the Stasi thought of theirs. ‘The gloves are off.’ Nor should we doubt that a kindred fear is known even to the persons who control the apparatus.
I offer the following thoughts in the nature of commentary.

Shortly after 9/11 Dick Cheney proclaimed that it will be necessary for us to be a nation of men, and not laws. Shortly after Edward Snowden disclosed the scope and extent of NSA surveillance, giving the lie to its sworn denial by the parties responsible for its execution, Barack Obama sought to reassure us that he wasn’t Dick Cheney. That is right, in so far as the limited surveillance of foreign communications advocated and implemented by Cheney, has been extended to all Americans under the Obama administration.

In the wake of Snowden’s disclosures, Obama has sought to reassert “the system of checks and balances” around NSA surveillance and to “set up and structure a national conversation” on cyber surveillance and civil rights. Ironically, up to now, the system of checks and balances has been stymied, as the Supreme Court shut down the last attempt to adjudicate the legality of NSA surveillance for want of standing. In other words, it found the plaintiffs unable to prove their injury by snooping so secret that it couldn’t be publicly acknowledged. Snowden has single-handedly removed this obstacle to judicial scrutiny. He cannot be faulted for the crimes he committed in doing so, just as he cannot be faulted for taking our manly overlords at their lawless word. In a system whose executive branch has arrogated the unalterable authority to execute its citizens without a trial, whose courts have renounced their power to deny any warrant or check any prosecution in the matters of national interest, an individual willing and able to expose the abuses of power under the color of authority, has every right to place himself above the law, even as the state loses its authority over a challenger to its corruption. That’s what it means to live in a nation of men, and not laws.

Eighteen years ago, Claire Wolfe observed: “America is at that awkward stage when it’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.” I am grateful to Snowden for increasing our odds of fixing the system from within, before our bastards are fit to get shot.
larvatus: (rock)
What are the five biggest lies?
    “The check is in the mail.”
    “I won’t come in your mouth.”
    “Some of my best friends are Jewish.”
    “Black is beautiful.”
    “I’m from your government, and I’m here to help you.”
— Blanche Knott (Ashton Applewhite), Truly Tasteless Jokes, 1983, p. 104



“I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.”
— William F. Buckley Jr., Yale alumnus, Rumbles Left and Right: A Book about Troublesome People and Ideas, 1963, p. 134
larvatus: (rock)
Charles Simic asseverates, without adducing a shred of evidence or articulating a scintilla of argument, that the chief mission of NRA and other gun lobbies is “to drum up business for the 1,200 gun makers in this country”. Let’s see how his claim holds up.

In 2012, according to an analysis by business research firm Hoovers, the gun and ammunition industry in the U.S. generated an estimated $6 billion in revenue. In comparison, Exxon Mobil alone generated $482 billion, with WalMart coming in at $469 billion. Outside of the oil and gas and retail industries, we find Apple at $156 billion, closely followed by General Motors, General Electric, and Berkshire Hathaway at $150, $147, and $144 billion. In the general scheme of things, the aggregate revenue of the U.S. gun industry would place it around relative pipsqueaks on the order of Hershey and Kodak.

If the strength of the gun lobby is owed to the industrial base of its suppliers, why don’t we hear about the politics of chocolate bars or film stock unfairly dominating American lunch counters and movie theaters? Could it be that NRA, in deriving nearly half of its revenues from individual membership dues, functions as a legitimate conduit of public interest, no less so than the Supreme Court of the United States, in affirming the individual right to keep and bear small arms that are commonly used for self-defense and appropriate for service in the militia, including Simic’s bugaboos, “not only hunting rifles but also military-style murder weapons and even hollow-point rounds that are banned in warfare”? Is it possible that Simic bemoans this publicly disclosed and thoroughly litigated state of affairs for want of journalistic integrity that begins with accounting for the financial data and studying the legal rulings of our court of last resort?

As witness Dan Baum interpreting the politics of guns in terms of “the power of the individual in relation to the collective, and the extent to which each of us needs to live by the permission of the rest”, an American liberal need not be a nanny statist. Likewise Seventh Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner, self-identified as a “pragmatic classical liberal”, who invalidated under the Second Amendment an Illinois law, the last in the land to forbid most people, though not politicians, from carrying a loaded gun in public. Simic’s demagogical legerdemain is far more plausibly attributable to intellectual dishonesty than political convictions.

Crossposted to [info]larvatus and [info]guns.
larvatus: (rock)
“No law-abiding citizen in the United States of America has any fear that their constitutional rights will be infringed in any way,” Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday, 21 February 2013. “None. Zero.”

“I would never inculcate a base and envious suspicion of any man, especially of those who have rendered signal services to their country. But there is a degree of watchfulness over all men possessed of power or influence, upon which the liberties of mankind much depend. It is necessary to guard against the infirmities of the best as well as the wickedness of the worst of men. Such is the weakness of human nature, that tyranny has perhaps oftener sprung from that than any other source. It is this that unravels the mystery of millions being enslaved by the few.”
—Samuel Adams, Letter to Elbridge Gerry, 23 April 1784
“For it is a truth which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are commonly most in danger, when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.”
—Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 25, 21 December 1787
“In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover, and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate, and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe their minds must be improved to a certain degree. This indeed is not all that is necessary, though it be essentially necessary. An amendment of our constitution must here come in aid of the public education. The influence over government must be shared among all the people. If every individual which composes their mass participates of the ultimate authority, the government will be safe; because the corrupting the whole mass will exceed any private resources of wealth: and public ones cannot be provided but by levies on the people. In this case every man would have to pay his own price. The government of Great-Britain has been corrupted, because but one man in ten has a right to vote for members of parliament. The sellers of the government therefore get nine-tenths of their price clear. It has been thought that corruption is restrained by confining the right of suffrage to a few of the wealthier of the people: but it would be more effectually restrained by an extension of that right to such numbers as would bid defiance to the means of corruption.”
—Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-1785
larvatus: (MZ)
If the NRA today seems fixated on the notion that the left is out to confiscate Americans’ legally acquired firearms, that’s because 15 years ago, advocates wanted to do exactly that.

Let’s try rephrasing this ideologically laden statement under alternative assumptions about the way whereby public appearances reveal the underlying political reality:

If the NRA today understands that the left is out to confiscate Americans’ legally acquired firearms in the long run, that’s because 15 years ago, advocates were candid about wanting to do exactly that.

It beggars belief to suppose that the immediate goals of advocacy exhaust the long term agenda of the advocates. Why should anyone take formerly avowed banners at their word insisting that henceforth they will be content with limited regulation?
larvatus: (rock)
Barack Obama was against gay marriage before he became all for it. Wayne La Pierre was in favor of legislation mandating background checks for private party gun sales before he became all against it. When the facts changed, they changed their minds. What do you do, ma’am?

Joining the NRA in defending a system in which it is perfectly legal for someone to buy a dozen assault rifles and then sell them with no background checks in a parking lot, is a cinch in view of the eternal recurrence of gun ban proposals complemented by the gun ownership records produced by the proposed background checks. Democrat dreams of gun confiscation are a gift that keeps on giving to the advocates of gun rights.

The main fact that has changed in the fourteen years since Wayne LaPierre spoke in favor of mandatory background checks for private firearm sales, is the recognition by the SCOTUS of the right to keep and bear arms as fundamental and Constitutionally protected. The prevailing understanding of the Second Amendment is that it protects an individual right to keep and bear those, and only those small arms that are commonly used for self-defense and appropriate for service in the militia. This is consistent with gun control, e.g. through licensing concealed carry of handguns or registering the ownership of machine guns. But outright bans on ownership and carry have been off the table since Heller and McDonald. Nonetheless, we are witnessing renewed, if foredoomed, attempts to ban certain kinds of guns, including the AR15 platform, which in the wake of the 1994 AWB became America’s most popular rifle, i.e. the epitome of an arm subject to protection under the Second Amendment. As a self-anointed Constitutional expert, our POTUS saw himself fit to rescind the enforcement of DOMA well in advance of a SCOTUS ruling on its constitutionality; whereas in the instant matter he sees himself fit to push for legislation that expressly conflicts with its existing rulings. Under the circumstances, making every firearms transfer subject to Federal supervision, would create a database apt to be exploited in further attempts to infringe the right to keep and bear arms.

Despite all that, as a resident of California long compelled to submit my gun transfers to scrutiny by Big Brother, I could see myself compromising on this matter — but only if I got something in return. Reviving the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, passed by the House of Representatives in November of 2011, only to be killed in the Senate, would be a good starting point. Time and again, poll after poll has shown that Americans want politicians in Washington to compromise. Where is their compromise on gun rights?
larvatus: (rock)
Omer Bartov, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of genocide, recounts its lessons to Salon:
Just imagine the Jews of Germany exercising the right to bear arms and fighting the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht. The [Russian] Red Army lost 7 million men fighting the Wehrmacht, despite its tanks and planes and artillery. The Jews with pistols and shotguns would have done better?
As a matter of fact, though nowise limited to pistols and shotguns, my Jewish father and his brother did a lot better inflicting disproportionate casualties upon the Wehrmacht on behalf of the Red Army. By contrast, owing to the Soviet policy of victim disarmament, they were unable to resist the emissaries of their triumphant State, dispatched to convey them to the GULag after the closing of international hostilities.

Is Professor Bartov making the point that in so far as my family and my kind are powerless to resist la raison d’État on our own, we might as well put our trust in our democratically elected princes, and learn to relax and enjoy their periodic infringements of our fundamental rights? Or is his reference to having been a combat soldier and officer in the Israeli Defense Forces, and knowing “what these assault rifles can do” meant to suggest to the contrary, that we Jews ought to arm ourselves with the deadliest small arms available, in consideration of two millennia of oppression and genocide visited upon our ancestors?

Arms, kept and borne individually or institutionally, aren’t a panacea. Thus France was heavily armed, but quickly succumbed to the Nazis, whereupon she used her arms to round up French Jews for extermination on their behalf. Would I and my likes be morally, physiologically, or economically better off armed or disarmed on the occasion, or in the anticipation, of the next Vel d’Hiv roundup?
larvatus: (rock)
Michael Feld points out that “to the extent that the 2d Amendment authorizes citizens to arm themselves against a potentially tyrannical government, whether Federal or State, it simply confounds reason to restrict such arms to small arms, and not to include the shoulder-mounted anti-helicopter missle launchers that drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan; and like that”.



The prevailing understanding of the Second Amendment is that it protects an individual right to keep and bear those, and only those small arms that are commonly used for self-defense and appropriate for service in the militia. Thus brass knuckles and sawed-off shotguns—ungood; handguns and machine guns—doubleplusgood. This is consistent with gun control, e.g. through licensing concealed carry of handguns or registering the ownership of machine guns. But outright bans on ownership and carry have been off the table since Heller and McDonald. Accordingly, I support and expect the reopening of the NFA registry, closed since May of 1986 for newly manufactured machine guns. It never got closed for destructive devices, but the Constitutional bounds of regulating civilian ownership of recoilless gun and rocket-propelled grenade launchers remain to be litigated. I for one do not wish their official distribution to civilians to proceed along the lines whose most prominent success story began with Ronald Reagan’s approval of providing Stingers to Osama bin Laden’s mujahedin confederates in March of 1986, pursuant to the original program finding signed six years earlier by Jimmy Carter.
larvatus: (rock)
I deny any predictability in politics, but there are many hurdles on the way to enacting any new Federal gun control laws:
  1. Economics: we have enough guns to arm each American citizen, resident alien, and illegal immigrant. Confiscation without compensation is politically impossible, whereas confiscation with compensation would be economically ruinous. Besides, the state of global economy leaves little room for compounding the Congressional constipation that hold captive any possible means of its resuscitation, by yet another polemical bottleneck.
  2. History: though I am far from the absurdity of their right wing anarchism, I admire the panache with which the Tea Party has commandeered the House of Representatives in the wake of the enactment of Obamacare. Moreover, our elected officials are by law old enough to remember the Republican Revolution ushered in by the 1994 AWB, and preponderantly most mindful of remaining in office. Any other motives they might have would be trumped by concerns for reëlection.
  3. Law: the SCOTUS rulings of the last four years imply that keeping and bearing effective small arms in common use is Constitutionally protected, and their regulation cannot be upheld but by passing at least the intermediate scrutiny test, through showing that it furthers an important government interest in a way that is substantially related to that interest. Black rifles and handguns, the most likely targets of gun banners, are especially unlikely to pass this test in virtue of their utility and ubiquity. (Ironically, the former ascended to their status of the most popular long guns in the U.S. as a result of the 1994 AWB.) Update: Moreover, Justice Roberts’ reading of the Commerce Clause in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. ___ (2012), appears to leave as little room for the Congress to debar Americans from owning certain goods, as it does for it to require their purchase of broccoli.
  4. Stupidity: no idea is so sensible that our political debate cannot dumb it down fatally, and will not do so inevitably. Ideas most likely to elicit a consensus, such as criminal liability for unsafe storage of firearms, can and will be reduced to prospective measures repugnant to most gun owners, even as they remain inadequate to most nanny staters.
That said, the Gun Ban Games will be loads of fun to live through.
larvatus: (rock)
Of course the Connecticut shooting spree is a uniquely tragic event, and it is vital that we never lose sight of the human tragedy involved. However, we must also consider if this is not also a lesson to us all; a lesson that my political views are correct. Although what is done can never be undone, the fact remains that if the world were organised according to my political views, this tragedy would never have happened.

Many people will use this terrible tragedy as an excuse to put through a political agenda other than my own. This tawdry abuse of human suffering for political gain sickens me to the core of my being. Those people who have different political views from me ought to be ashamed of themselves for thinking of cheap partisan point-scoring at a time like this. In any case, what this tragedy really shows us is that, so far from putting into practice political views other than my own, it is precisely my political agenda which ought to be advanced.

Not only are my political views vindicated by this terrible tragedy, but also the status of my profession. Furthermore, it is only in the context of a national and international tragedy like this that we are reminded of the very special status of my hobby, and its particular claim to legislative protection. My religious and spiritual views also have much to teach us about the appropriate reaction to these truly terrible events.

Countries which I like seem to never suffer such tragedies, while countries which, for one reason or another, I dislike, suffer them all the time. The one common factor which seems to explain this has to do with my political views, and it suggests that my political views should be implemented as a matter of urgency, even though they are, as a matter of fact, not implemented in the countries which I like.

Of course the Sandy Hook massacre is a uniquely tragic event, and it is vital that we never lose sight of the human tragedy involved. But we must also not lose sight of the fact that I am right on every significant moral and political issue, and everybody ought to agree with me. Please, I ask you as fellow human beings, vote for the political party which I support, and ask your legislators to support policies endorsed by me, as a matter of urgency.

It would be a fitting memorial.

larvatus: (rock)
Was there ever a police state power not beloved by The New York Times? Oh yeah, you can blabber about the raison d’État all you want, but not prepare to resist it in earnest.
larvatus: (rock)
I thank the social media commentariat for clarifying that school slashings perpetrated in China by mad people, are providentially mitigated by good laws that forbid civilan gun ownership, curtail political dissent, subdue public assembly, ban weird religious worship, and harvest valuable organs of executed enemies of the state. But in light of my brief career as a dissident in a totalitarian state, using China as a moral or jurisprudential authority for honoring and upholding our Bill of Rights appears on a par with advocating sex with virgins as a cure for AIDS.
larvatus: (rock)
From: larvatus
Date: December 9th, 2012 12:27 pm (local)
I deny both the premiss, that liberal societies attribute an equal and unexchangeable value to each person, and the conclusion, that the figure of a hero is categorically improper therein. The former is belied by utilitarian reasoning that undergirds every public policy in modern democracies. As to the latter, we live in a country that made a secular saint of MLK after elevating Ike to its highest elected office. More recent examples can be found here.

From: aptsvet
Date: December 9th, 2012 12:43 pm (local)
The problem actually is more complicated than that. One has to defend a deontological position in a world of limited resources. So whether one wishes it or not, one has to recourse to utilitarian methods. Which does not change the validity of the principle. Even morals is not a suicide pact. Perhaps I will make an additional argument in my next essay.
As to the hero worship, examples do not matter, they are simply a way of pandering — could you direct me to a theoretical work? We live in a society subscribing to liberal principles, it does not mean we live in a liberal society.

From: larvatus
Date: December 9th, 2012 04:21 pm (local)
There is no duty to be a deontologist. Aristotelian virtue ethics is but one viable alternative that leaves plenty of room for heroics of all sorts in a society of your choosing. For Hellenic theory of our common ancestry, you might look into the Bernards: Knox and Williams. Likewise religious ethics, both within and without the Abrahamic lineage. On the moral importance of examples, please see Kant’s kasuistische Fragen.

From: aptsvet
Date: December 10th, 2012 07:13 am (local)
Actually, I do feel a duty to be a deontologist, it does not work any other way. At least where interpersonal relations are concerned. And I don’t believe one can treat ethics as a menu: utility today, virtue tomorrow.
Re heroes: personal moral example is something else; traditionally hero is somebody defending strictly parochial values, hardly compatible with the universalist aspirations of ethics.

From: larvatus
Date: December 10th, 2012 07:39 am (local)
I think some positions of social responsibility morally require a shift in deliberative criteria. The interrogator in charge of a “ticking bomb” scenario would fail his fellow citizens if he were to forgo otherwise blameworthy means of extracting information about defusing it from the terrorist in his custody. This is an instance of the common law doctrine of necessity that depending on circumstances can excuse acts both unlawful and immoral under normal conditions.
The notion that “strictly parochial values” are incompatible with the universalist aspirations of ethics highlights the necessity of Kantian casuistry. Thus: “Vedete come muore un italiano!” Generally speaking, a broad range of preferential treatments for members of one’s tribe, family, nation, or confession can readily pass the law of nature criterion. In this context, Bernard Williams took issue with the impersonal nature of moral systems. According to him, the idea of fairness and impartiality must have a limit, and in justifying one’s partiality in terms of impartial principles, one is in a sense removing the justification one already has — ‘she is my wife’. To specify some principle as to why and when is is permissible to show such partiality is to undermine the reality of oneself as a related and so moral being.

From: aptsvet
Date: December 10th, 2012 08:14 am (local)
On the “ticking bomb” issue: I find Nagel’s argument (in Mortal Questions) more convincing. Whoever tortures another human being and for whatever reason, should not pretend that he acts morally — even though the state ordering such a treatment may have used the best utilitarian logic.
On the second issue I would not dispute your point, I simply would like to emphasize again the term “strictly”. “She is my wife” is a passable argument; “she is my wife and perish the world” isn’t. Samson slaughtering the Philistines with an ass’s mandible doesn’t take their interests into account altogether.

From: larvatus
Date: December 10th, 2012 08:46 am (local)
As Saul Kripke might have retorted, whoever tortures another human being for reasons of necessity is acting schmorally. It bears notice that Kant interpreted “fiat iustitia, pereat mundus” as “es herrsche Gerechtigkeit, die Schelme in der Welt mögen auch insgesamt darüber zu Grunde gehen” [let justice reign even if it wipes out all the villains in the world]. Along these lines, slaughtering the Philistines in a just war serves their best legitimate interests in the best possible way.
larvatus: (rock)
Yes, but I understand the loyalty of Obamites. If I had bought an adorable puppy that grew into a cur who eats up what he shits all over the place each time he takes a break from shoving his muzzle up my friends’ crotches, I, too, might have tried to explain away his evolution as lovable and forthright learning and reacting.

Then again, dogs don’t boss us around.
“I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street. They’re still puzzled why is it that people are mad at the banks. Well, let’s see. You guys are drawing down $10, $20 million bonuses after America went through the worst economic year that it’s gone through in—in decades, and you guys caused the problem. And we’ve got 10% unemployment.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 12 December 2009
“I know both those guys [JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein]; they are very savvy businessmen. I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 February 2010
“What that means then is that as we try to resuscitate this notion that we’re all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative and thinking what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live. And my suggestion, I guess would be that the trick, and this is one of the few areas where I think there are technical issues that have to be dealt with as opposed to just political issues. I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody’s got a shot.
—Barack Hussein Obama, 19 October 1998
“My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’re gonna be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 11 October 2008
“I’m gonna cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need and for the 5 percent of the folks who are doing very well—even though they’ve been working hard and I appreciate that—I just want to make sure they’re paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 February 2010
“So these investments—in things like education and research and health care—they haven’t been made as some grand scheme to redistribute wealth from one group to another. This is not some socialist dream.
—Barack Hussein Obama, 10 April 2012
“I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 15 February 1996
“Well, what I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it’s not simply the two persons who are meeting.. But that doesn’t mean that that necessarily translates into a position on public policy or with respect to civil unions. What it does mean is that we have a set of traditions in place that, I think, need to be preserved, but I also think we have to make sure that gays and lesbians have the same set of basic rights that are in place. And I was glad to see, for example, that the president today apparently stated that he was in favor of civil unions. This may be a reversal of his position but I think it’s a healthy one. I think, on this, President Bush and I disagree, apparently, with Mr. Keyes on this, because I think that that kind of basic ethic of regard towards all people, regardless of sexual orientation, is a valuable thing.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 26 October 2004
“With respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be able to get married, I’ve spoken about this recently. As I’ve said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.
    At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think—and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 22 December 2010
“After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation,the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President’s determination.”
—U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, 23 February 2011
“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 May 2012
“What I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue simply because I want folks to be investigating violent crimes and potential terrorism. We’ve got a lot of things for our law enforcement officers to deal with.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 23 March 2008
“What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law. I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, ‘Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books.’ What I can say is, ‘Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.’ As a consequence, there haven’t been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 April 2012
larvatus: (Default)
“I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street. They’re still puzzled why is it that people are mad at the banks. Well, let’s see. You guys are drawing down $10, $20 million bonuses after America went through the worst economic year that it’s gone through in—in decades, and you guys caused the problem. And we’ve got 10% unemployment.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 12 December 2009
“I know both those guys [JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein]; they are very savvy businessmen. I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 February 2010


“What that means then is that as we try to resuscitate this notion that we’re all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative and thinking what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live. And my suggestion, I guess would be that the trick, and this is one of the few areas where I think there are technical issues that have to be dealt with as opposed to just political issues. I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody’s got a shot.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 19 October 1998
“My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’re gonna be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 11 October 2008
“I’m gonna cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need and for the 5 percent of the folks who are doing very well—even though they’ve been working hard and I appreciate that—I just want to make sure they’re paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 February 2010
“So these investments—in things like education and research and health care—they haven’t been made as some grand scheme to redistribute wealth from one group to another. This is not some socialist dream.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 10 April 2012


“I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 15 February 1996
“Well, what I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it’s not simply the two persons who are meeting. But that doesn’t mean that that necessarily translates into a position on public policy or with respect to civil unions. What it does mean is that we have a set of traditions in place that, I think, need to be preserved, but I also think we have to make sure that gays and lesbians have the same set of basic rights that are in place. And I was glad to see, for example, that the president today apparently stated that he was in favor of civil unions. This may be a reversal of his position but I think it’s a healthy one. I think, on this, President Bush and I disagree, apparently, with Mr. Keyes on this, because I think that that kind of basic ethic of regard towards all people, regardless of sexual orientation, is a valuable thing.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 26 October 2004
“With respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be able to get married, I’ve spoken about this recently. As I’ve said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.
    At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think—and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 22 December 2010
“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
—Barack Hussein Obama, 9 May 2012

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