Lipstick On A Pig

Gary Horton’s August 5th rant of the week, “It’s Time to Reimagine Law and Order” (link), certainly touched all the bases we’ve come to expect from the radical left recently as they relate to “fixing” our allegedly broken law enforcement system.

Throughout his column Horton repeatedly refers to America’s “incarceration rate” as the rationalization for his position: “Today, America incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation. At 700 inmates per 100,000 residents, we top arch-bad guys Cuba by 30%, Russia by 200%, China by 540%, and repressive Iran by 230%.”

He apparently thinks such communist “paradises” as Cuba et al are going to accurately report imprisonment rates which reflect badly on their utopias. Not to mention that they have euphemistically designated “re-education” camps that aren’t counted as prisons, and in which people aren’t “incarcerated”; they’re “cured”. Also not to mention that in those countries boatloads of people simply… disappear.

When I posted that observation as an online comment Horton replied: “Look at the company we’re not only keeping, but exceeding… When you compare the US to other modern industrial democratic nations, the difference is beyond stark. Canada, Germany, England, Australia…. we are multiples and multiples higher in incarceration. They are not countries gone wild, Brian. They are nice places to live. So – please explain WHY we have this odd outlier outcome – and how can we fix it? How would you fix it?”

But as I responded there, I’m not going to “explain” anything because I reject the entire notion that incarceration rates are meaningful in any way as they pertain to this country. Some people commit criminal acts. If they get caught and convicted in a public trial they get locked up (except maybe in Commiefornia). It’s as simple as that.

If we were talking about some police state in which people get locked up for “thought crimes” or political activities he might then have a case. But that’s not the case here. We’re unique in the world in that we have rights and freedoms that are constitutionally guaranteed. As far as I’m concerned we’re the gold standard. So I don’t care what other countries are doing. They have nothing for us to emulate; they should be trying to emulate us. I’ve been to every one of those countries he mentioned in his comment, and well over a dozen more, and there’s not a single one of them in which I’d prefer to live rather than here.

Are we perfect? Of course not; nothing created by humans is. But the idea that this country is, or is becoming, some kind of police state is simply absurd.

Horton is spouting the same rhetorical nonsense we’re getting from the antifa/BLM radicals who are creating such havoc across the country, but he’s dressing it up in better language. It’s a sorry attempt to slather lipstick on a pig.

 

©Brian Baker 2020

(Published 21 August 2020 at my blog and in The Signal)

 

 

The Rape of the Constitution; Are Panic and Hysteria Going To Be the “New Normal”?

 

When in panic or in doubt,
run in circles, scream and shout… Children’s ditty

 

Social distancing. Masks. Shelter in place. “Essential” businesses. Terms and concepts that have become all too familiar and common in our lexicon over the past few weeks.

At every government level from the national to the municipal those policies have been imposed on the populace by executive fiat, without debate or legislative action, via the invocation of “emergency” powers of dubious nature and justification.

The current COVID-19 infestation has been portrayed in the most panic-inducing light possible. “Pandemic” is the term of choice, a word guaranteed to induce apocalyptic fears in the general populace. But let’s rationally consider some facts to see if we’re being gaslighted.

I think it’s imperative to first view the current “crisis” in true historical perspective. COVID-19 is, as the name suggests, a corona virus. It’s not something unprecedented. Corona viruses are actually fairly common. Some strains of the common cold are caused by corona viruses, as are SARS and MERS. In fact, the formal name of the current pathogen is SARS-CoV-2, meaning it’s simply a variant of the SARS pathogen, discovered in 2003, that we’ve seen before.

As I write this column COVID-19 deaths in this country just passed the 80,000 mark. Yes, that’s a lot of people and it’s very sad. But during the 2017 – 2018 common flu season “…more than 900,000 people were hospitalized and more than 80,000 people died from flu” in this country. (https://www.healthline.com/health/influenza/facts-and-statistics#5)

Where were the panic and hysteria then? I sure don’t remember any “shelter in place” or “safer at home” or “social distancing”, or masks, or businesses closed down by imperial fiat, or any other impingement on our constitutional rights to live our lives normally. Do you? Why is that?

Per the US Census Bureau our official population is 331,883,986. Assuming 80,000 people in this country have died from COVID-19, that’s a fatality rate of 0.024104%. That’s LESS THAN ONE-FORTIETH OF ONE PERCENT. Why are we completely and utterly destroying everything this country stands for over a ginned-up hysteria that’s a danger to a ridiculously miniscule portion of the populace? Wouldn’t it make more sense – a LOT more sense – to simply encourage those at the most risk – the elderly and unhealthy – to take precautions, rather than impose draconian and, frankly, un-American “emergency rules” of questionable legality (at best) on the general population?

Consider masks. Viruses are nano-scale particles, much smaller than bacteria. Unless one is wearing a mask or containment device capable of capturing or filtering such small particles masks are useless. The viruses can easily pass through the spaces in the mesh or fabric of the mask, or around the edge borders. So unless one is wearing an N95 or better device, masks – especially pieces of cloth – are really just decorative fashion accessories. And virtue signaling devices, of course.

The biggest and most dangerous problem is how dictator-wannabes – like Commiefornia’s Newsom, Colorado’s Polis, Michigan’s Whitmer, and New York’s Cuomo – have exploited this situation to grab power and impose their diktats by imperial fiat on every aspect of how people must live their lives. This is very reminiscent of life under the commissars in the old Soviet Union, right down to the bare shelves in grocery stores and neighborhood snitches. I never thought I’d see something like this in this country in my lifetime. It’s the stuff of old dystopian books and movies.

Many of those tin pot tyrants are bleating about how this is a preview of a “new normal” moving forward. Once we cross the finish line at wherever the constantly-moving goal posts end up – if they ever actually stop moving at all – they envision a restructured social order in this country. Well, though I had plenty of problems with the “old normal”, mostly having to do with the socialist bent of so much of our governance, I think it’s vastly preferable to whatever nightmare political hacks like these would like to see replace it.

As many times as I’ve read the US Constitution I have yet to come across an Exemption Clause suspending our rights in the event of a public health “crisis”. Yet at this time those rights have been completely obliterated as if the Constitution doesn’t even exist. It’s time for those hacks to be reminded that they work for us; we don’t “bend the knee” to them.

I think it’s high time for a good dose of civil disobedience. Otherwise this current hysteria will have set a very dangerous precedent. Think “climate change” hoax. You just know those fanatics, many part of the same cast of characters, are eyeing these events as a precursor to what they can do by ginning up a “crisis” on that topic. Think of the damage they can do if they’re successful.

“Give me liberty…”

 

 

©Brian Baker 2020

 

(Also published today in The Signal)

 

Oops! I Did It Again!

My hand, doing the dirty deed

 

I am so totally getting my Bernie Bro on… again!

I’m not a member of any political party; I’m one of those “independents” pollsters, pundits, and politicians are perpetually pontificating upon. During the last presidential primary season four years ago, because I could vote in the primary of either major party, I decided that for the first time in my life I’d cast a vote for a Dem/socialist, and decided to do so for the Bern, Bernie Sanders. I even wrote about it at the time, and that column was published right here:  ( https://theviewfromtheisland.com/2016/06/10/are-unicorns-real/ “Are Unicorns Real? I’m feelin’ the Bern…!” 10 June 16 )

Well, here we are again, for Super-Duper Tuesday (the New and Expanded Super Tuesday), and since my new home in Colorado participates in that event, with Trump having the GOP nod tied up I’ve decided to throw my support to the Bern once again.

You’ve got to hand it to the Bern. At least he’s honest. He doesn’t deny his socialism, in contrast to virtually everyone else in that sorry political party, all of whom constantly bleat that the “progressive” policies they’re constantly trying to shove down our throats are anything — ANYTHING – other than blatant socialism, if not outright communism.

The results of the Super Duper Tuesday event add even more delicious drama to the ongoing soap opera that is the Dem/socialist primary process. Sanders’s seemingly unstoppable momentum ran into a brick wall in the south, while Biden’s previously moribund and all-but-embalmed campaign was resuscitated by his sweep of those same southern states. Liz “Fauxcahontas” Warren only took third place in her own home state of Massachusetts while “Midget Mikey” Bloomberg was only able to win American Samoa. In fact, he’s already “suspended” – read “ended” – his ridiculous effort to buy an election, throwing his support – for whatever that’s worth – to Biden. Warren has also dropped out, though as of my writing this column she hasn’t yet endorsed any other candidate.

Now the real fun starts.

At this point it looks like the ultimate nominee will be either Biden or Sanders. The Democrat Party national convention meets in Milwaukee starting on July 13, and if either Sanders or Biden have secured a majority of the delegates at that point then presumably that person will win the nomination on the first ballot. The process will be complete and the nominee selected.

However, if neither has won a clear majority in the state primary process, either directly through state voting or indirectly via deals struck with other candidates who have agreed to support him by pledging their own delegates, then they’ll have a contested, or “brokered”, convention leading to subsequent ballots. That’s when the knives come out. “Super delegates” – party poohbahs – get to participate in the selection process, and those people are pretty much all “establishment” drones, the very people scared to death of Sanders dragging their electoral hopes down the drain. The same folks who threw the 2016 nomination to Clinton and infuriated the Bernie Bros back then.

I think this is a real possibility, particularly given the preference of that party’s “establishment”.

If this year’s Dem/socialist convention is brokered and Biden wins, particularly if that win is viewed by the Bernie Bros as being a rerun of 2016, the outrage from that faction will be palpable and consequential, costing Biden vital support in the general election in November.

There’s rich irony in the fact that, for a party so immersed in identity politics, their 2020 nominee, whoever wins, is going to be a rich, old, white guy in his late 70s. For the hard-left faction, Biden is too “establishment” and doesn’t check off any of the required “social justice” criteria. For the “establishment” types, Sanders is a scary communist who’ll drag the entire party into political oblivion and irrelevancy. The question then becomes whether or not “orange man bad” is enough motivation to stimulate the angry faction to vote for a candidate they don’t otherwise support.

Come November Trump will be facing either a Marxist who wants to turn the USA into Venezuela, or a doddering geezer who seems to be suffering from the early stages of dementia.

Interesting times… Grab some popcorn and settle back for the show.

©Brian Baker 2020

 

(Also published 3/11/2020 in The Signal)

On Impeachment Insanity

      

 

In his February 1 letter to the editor, published in The Signal, the local newspaper of the Santa Clarita Valley, entitled “Republicans Making Dems’ Points” Duane Mooring wrote: “We must impeach and remove Donald Trump from office because the evidence is very clear that he abused the office of president of the United States solely to promote the interests of Donald J. Trump.”

Nonsense.

That’s an accusation unsupported by any objective facts and based on pure speculation. The only way anyone knows the “motivation” of any actor is if that actor states what it is — unless the accuser can read people’s minds — and in this case the accused (Trump) has clearly stated that it wasn’t his motive. That’s why proving motive isn’t a required element of evidence in judicial proceedings.

Further, Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate corruption — specifically Biden’s as VEEP — is a perfectly legitimate request. Biden’s current political campaign doesn’t immunize him from criminal investigation for his past actions as a federal officer. In fact, the argument can be made – and I’m making it – that investigating his actions regarding Burisma is very much in this country’s best interest, as it’s very germane for people to know about any candidate’s corrupt actions, especially if carried out as an elected official.

The fact that it’s possible that Trump may be facing Biden in the November election is purely incidental, and immaterial. If Biden doesn’t have anything to hide, he’s got nothing to worry about, right?

Running for office doesn’t get a person a free pass from being investigated. If anything, the opposite is true, especially as far as Dem/socialists are concerned when the subject is Trump or other conservatives. Does the name Brett Kavanaugh ring any bells?

Fortunately, Senate Repubs have had enough of this hyper-partisan Dem/socialist nonsense and by the time this letter sees print will have most likely put this entire sordid fiasco into the trash bin of history, right where it belongs.

 

©Brian Baker 2020

(Also published today in The Signal)

 

 

 

 

From Colorado: Hola, Commiefornia!

 

Well, as I mentioned in my last column I’ve packed up and moved from the no-longer-Golden State, settling in the metro-Denver town of Castle Rock. It’s been quite an experience, and I’m surprised to find that I’m not suffering at all from any nostalgia for Commiefornia.

The first and most obvious difference was the cost of housing. I sold my house in the Pacific Hills development near Seco and Copperhill in Santa Clarita and bought my current home in Castle Rock, a satellite community near Denver that is socio-economically almost a clone to the neighborhood I left. But for about 2/3 of the price I realized from the sale of my house in Santa Clarita I bought a house that’s a couple of hundred square feet larger. Definitely more bang for the real estate buck. Going along hand-in-hand with that is the saving realized by no longer needing earthquake insurance, as well as the commensurately lower property taxes.

Another gift that keeps on giving is the price of gasoline. A few days ago I tanked up my delightfully un-PC gas-guzzling climate-killing SUV (the preferred mode of transportation locally), and paid $2.47/gallon for 91 octane. The lower grades were even cheaper. Gee… gas is gas. I wonder what could possibly explain such a price differential between here and there. Could it simply be… taxes?

Speaking of taxes, the state individual income tax rate here is a flat 4.63%. Huh… Imagine that…

My last column on this topic (“Adios, Commiefornia”, November 5, 2019) generated quite a few responses – in columns, letters to the editor, and comments in the threads – in which several folks tried to rebut the points I made. The one common theme that I thought made the most sense was highlighting the physical appeal of the state. That’s undeniable, but it’s also not a universal trait. Would anyone consider Bakersfield or Riverside “beautiful”? San Berdoo?

Doubtful at best.

Sure, the SCV is wonderful. I really loved living there, and I was there a very long time, going back to before it was incorporated as a city. But I have to tell you, Castle Rock is just as beautiful. I look at the Rocky Mountains about 10 miles away every time I leave my house. Vail is about an hour west of Denver, and when I drove through it on my way here I was stunned at how gorgeous it was. The only thing you have that we don’t is an ocean, and since I’m not a “beach person”, as I said before, I couldn’t care less about that.

But here’s the real kicker. Yes, we have our leftists here, especially in some of the urban areas. This is a “purple” state. But for the most part they’re not the loony extremists that seem to roost in Commiefornia. There’s still hope to see sanity prevail here, and it’s my goal to try to save this state from destroying itself by following the Left Coast as it careens off the rails into oblivion.

There’s another unexpected benefit, too. I still read all the same news outlets every morning, but now when I read the daily reporting on the antics of Gavin Nuisance Newsome and his Merry Band of Political Pranksters in Sacramento I no longer find myself starting my day being outraged at their lunacy. I can simply shake my head in wonder, and feel pity for my friends still stuck there as victims of the state’s signature Marxism-Lite.

It’s done wonders for my blood pressure.

I have no doubt that the usual Dem/socialist zealots are going to run to the ramparts and scream about Commiefornia being the “5th largest economy in the world”, blah blah blah. Well, just a few years ago Venezuela was the richest economy in South America. But insane and unsound fiscal and social policies in the form of Marxism managed to turn that around, and now Venezuela is an economic disaster zone. There’s nothing to guarantee the same thing can’t happen to Commiefornia; money doesn’t grow on trees, though the fools in Sacramento seem to think the Money Tree Forest lies just over the rainbow. But that “money tree” actually only exists in the bank accounts of hard-working people, and many of them – such as me – have already fled the state. As things get worse and the burden becomes even more onerous, that trickle of out-migration can easily turn into a tsunami.

Unless things change – radically – your state is locked in a death spiral.

©Brian Baker 2020

(Also published today in The Signal)

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas

 

 

It’s been a while since my last column, but once the dust settles from moving I’ll get back in the swing of things. Stay tuned.

I will say this right now, though: I don’t miss Commiefornia at all! 

Here’s what I see every morning as I look out the window of my home office:

I wish all of you the best of the holiday season; Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

 

Adios, Commiefornia!

 

Well, it’s been fun, but the time has come for me to pull up stakes and move on. Yes, I’m leaving Commiefornia.

I’m sure this announcement will be welcome news for many readers. Over the years I’ve read the many responses to my writings – as letters to the editor, other columns, and on-line comments – and can imagine how happy at least some of my critics will be to see me gone. Well, that’s great.

When I returned from my all-expense-paid Luxury Tour of Southeast Asia in 1970 the Army in its infinite wisdom assigned me to the Presidio of San Francisco to finish off my enlistment term of active duty. I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven! This was paradise!

California was everything I’d hoped it would be based on all the movies I’d seen growing up. As a foreign service brat I’d lived all over the world while growing up, and though I’d seen some really nice regions, nothing seemed to compare to the California of the movies. And lo and behold, here I was, and it lived up to the hype!

In 1974 I moved to SoCal to pursue an acting career, and though it wasn’t as visually stunning as the San Fran area, it made up for that by being the California as portrayed by the Beach Boys in the music they made while I was in high school, as well as the movies I’d seen at the O Club in Tehran. Too cool!

Ten years later, in 1984, I moved to the SCV. That’s right; 35 years ago, literally half my lifetime. I absolutely love this valley, and will always consider it my home, even after I leave.

But leave I must.

In the fullness of time this state has devolved from being my ideal paradise into a cesspool of corrupt politics, insane social and fiscal policies, out-of-control taxation, outrageous cost of living, an inundation of illegal aliens and welfare mooches, and a general decline in many ways to a Third-World standard of living (I’m looking at your “poop patrols”, San Fran, as well as the “homeless camps” in so many areas around the state).

On the upside, the climate and physical geography are still really nice. “So, other than that, how’d you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

My daughter and her family decided they saw no future here for themselves, so they’re already gone. I’m on my way to join them. I have to say, I’m really looking forward to it!

Destination: Colorado. I know… you’re saying to yourselves: “Why are you going there, Brian? Why not Texas or Utah?”

In all honesty, Colorado definitely was NOT my first choice. It probably wasn’t even on my list. But the family made the decision and already acted, and there are some real upsides.

It’s really physically beautiful. No ocean, but then, the last time I went to a beach was decades ago. I’m not a “beach person”. My son-in-law landed a really good job, and with his increase in pay and FAR lower living expenses, they’re going to do a whole lot better than they ever could here. And second most importantly to me (after the family issue), though in many ways it reminds me politically of California back two or three decades ago, it hasn’t gone ‘round the bend yet to sheer lunacy. So I can continue my contributions to the culture and political wars in the hope that the state will refrain from turning into Commierado.

Yes, a whole bunch of unsuspecting Dem/socialists out there are about to find out how annoying I can be when I criticize their loony leftism. I can hardly wait!

Not only that, but I’ll be getting my license to carry a concealed handgun as soon as I establish residency. Colorado’s pretty much a “gun state”, which tickles me no end. Open carry is unregulated, and permits for concealed carry must be issued to any law-abiding citizen who requests one. Now there’s “common sense” gun regulation I can love.

So, basically, I’m outta here. I’ll continue to read the online Signal daily. After all, this will always be “home” to me. I may even make the occasional submittal of material for publication, in which case the editors can decide whether or not to publish, even though by then I’ll be an “out-of-towner”. We’ll see how that plays out.

But for now, adios, Commiefornia!

 

 

©Brian Baker 2019

(Also published today in The Signal)

A Field of Rakes

 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pulled the trigger and announced the start of an “impeachment inquiry” targeted at President Donald Trump. I’m not really sure what exactly an “impeachment inquiry” actually is. In fact, as of my writing this, apparently no one else is, either. As far as I can guess, it seems to be just sticking a name to something the Dem/socialists have already been doing, from pretty much the day Trump was sworn in.

This may be Pelosi’s method of trying to quell the discord within her own ranks, particularly from the ultra-radical element as personified by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her “posse”.

As an aside, I have to note that just a very few years ago Pelosi was the face of radical extremism in the Dem/socialist party; now she’s the “voice of reason”? Yet another illustration of how that party has lurched so far to the left that they’re falling off the edge of the map, and has become unrecognizable.

Of course, all this furor of the last two and a half years is rooted in the leftists’ refusal to accept the fact that Trump legitimately won the 2016 election. They’re convinced he somehow “stole” that win from their sainted Hilary, and they’ve been flailing ever since trying to, basically, reverse that outcome. For over two years they were convinced that the Mueller investigation was the sound of the cavalry bugles just over the hill riding to their rescue only to learn it was really the mournful notes of the sad trombone.

I have to scratch my head and wonder how they think this ends well for them, because I can’t think of any way it does.

If the House votes to impeach Trump it will be meaningless because there’s just no way he’ll be convicted in the Senate and removed from office. That requires a 2/3 vote for conviction in that chamber. The votes simply aren’t there.

Even if that were somehow to miraculously happen, Saint Hilary still won’t be President; Mike Pence will be. He’s the Vice-President. Hilary’s nobody, the political equivalent of three-day-old sushi, and she’s never again coming even within sniffing distance of the Oval Office.

If Pence assumes the office, the leftists will look back on the Trump era with nostalgia, as Pence’s conservative credentials are pretty much impeccable, and his life is so squeaky-clean that he’ll be unassailable on that front.

So what’s the goal of this “impeachment inquiry” if actual impeachment isn’t going to succeed? Is it to provide a fig leaf of legitimacy for the Dem/socialists to continue their endless thrashing around in trying to besmirch and delegitimize Trump, at least until the next election?

I suspect that’s the case, and if so I believe that they’re not just stepping on a rake, but doing a jig in a field of rakes.

I believe the leftists have overplayed their hand, and pushed this mess to the point of becoming farce. Obviously, there’s no way they can portray themselves as the “loyal opposition”, the traditional position of the party out of power, since there’s nothing at all “loyal” about refusing to accept the legitimate outcome of an election.

Though this kabuki no doubt plays well to their radicalized political base, I think most normal people have become bored and inured to it, particularly in light of the economic boon that’s taken place over the last couple of years.

In fact, according to a Quinnipiac poll released on 25 September (https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=3641) “… only 37 percent of voters say that President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 57 percent say no, he should not be impeached.”

Think about that. After over two years of their endless shenanigans the Dem/socialists have convinced a little over a third of the electorate that Trump should be impeached, with the remainder either against impeachment or not caring enough about the issue to even have an opinion. Further, my guess is that the third who do want to impeach him have wanted that from election night. I doubt the leftists have moved the needle a single iota in all this time.

If they’ve been hoping to gin up a groundswell of outrage leading to Trump’s repudiation by the populace, I’d say that effort has been a pretty epic failure.

I think that if they continue down this impeachment highway they’re in for a very big and unpleasant surprise. The American people have only a limited appetite for base political opportunism, especially when it’s unfounded and perceived as “unfair”. The leftists have now painted themselves as being extremists, not only with their endless persecution of Trump, but also in light of their obsession with Justice Kavanaugh – more impeachment talk – as well as the clown car of radical leftist candidates they’re fielding for the presidency itself.

I doubt this ends well for them come November 2020. The American people have a tendency to rally behind those they see as being unfairly and baselessly persecuted, which is exactly the perception the Dem/socialists are fostering.

As I said, they’re dancing the jig in a field of rakes.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2019

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal)

 

“Minority Report”: When Movies Come True

From the Bill of Rights:

“Amendment V
No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”

“Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

 

In 2002, 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks released the Tom Cruise starrer “Minority Report”, which was based on a novella by Philip K. Dick (who’s turning out to be almost as prescient as Orwell).

The story takes place in the near future, the basic premise being that three mutant humans, known as “precogs”, have the power of precognition (foreseeing the future) when working together in concert, which gives them the ability to see murders take place before they actually happen. Based on their visions, the police have the authority to get to the scenes of the crimes and arrest the murderers before they have the chance to actually kill their victims, thereby not only being able to prosecute and imprison the offenders, but also saving the lives of the victims.

But there’s a fly in the ointment. It turns out that very occasionally a crime is foreseen for which one of the precogs sees a differing vision, that vision being the titular “minority report”, and the administrator (and inventor) of the program has kept this fact secret, as it might endanger the validity of any resulting prosecutions of the “future crimes”, and therefore the existence of his bureau. And, in fact, it turns out that innocent people have been snared by this program.

Substitute “red flag laws” for “precognition program” and we bring the plot elements of a dystopian-future movie to our current political discussions.

Red flag laws would allow the authorities to confiscate the guns owned by a person if that person is accused by someone else – and there’s a pretty broad range of acceptable accusers (real-world “precogs”) depending on the jurisdiction – of possibly being a danger to themselves or others. Based on the accusation a hearing takes place – of which the accused isn’t even notified, let alone allowed to attend and defend themselves – after which the authorities can carry out the confiscation.

This is exactly the process that takes place in the movie.

I see all kinds of problems with these laws. To begin with, the accused is being deprived of his gun rights and property (the guns) without being convicted of any crime, nor being medically diagnosed as being psychologically unsound, in clear violation of the Fifth Amendment requirement for due process.

A hearing or other legal mechanism is taking place, in secret, without the accused even being notified or allowed to attend and defend himself, in clear violation of the Sixth Amendment.

Only after his guns have been confiscated does the accused get an opportunity – at some future date which might be months down the road – to appear before some form of tribunal to make his case in defense of his rights, at which point he has to prove his innocence of the accusation, a very clear violation of the presumption of innocence upon which our criminal justice system is allegedly founded.

That raises the question of how one proves that they’re innocent of a crime they haven’t even committed, and prove that they’ll never do what others have said they “might” do. This is all very Kafkaesque.

Notice that these laws aren’t even aimed at acts that people will surely commit; only acts they might commit. I can’t think of anything that’s more speculative than that. Apparently it’s crystal ball time.

Where does this kind of thing lead? Did you ever drink too much at a party? Well, you might commit a DUI at some point in the future, so maybe we should revoke your drivers license until you can prove you won’t ever drive under the influence. Maybe take your car away just to “be safe”.

Why not? More people are killed in car accidents than are murdered by gunfire.

The reality is that anybody can accuse any other person of anything. That’s the principle reason why our judicial process requires actual proof, and the accused enjoys the presumption of being actually innocent absent that actual proof. Red flag laws turn that premise onto its head.

Further, there’s absolutely nothing that prevents people from maliciously manipulating the system with false accusations, based on a host of reasons: personal or political enmity, divorce disputes, feuding neighbors, or even simple anti-gun hysteria, just to name a few.

This entire red flag bandwagon is leading to some very bad law. It’s a case of a movie – “Minority Report” – coming true.

 

©Brian Baker 2019

(Also published today in The Signal)

Some Actual FACTS on Gun Violence

 

Gary Horton seems to have gone on a rampage recently against private gun ownership, as exemplified by his most recent column on the subject, which ran on 28 August and was entitled “Did America Want to Go This Far Out on Guns?” (Link)

Here’s a sample of his histrionics: “Over a decade, American has lost 360,000 people to gun deaths. By comparison, we’ve lost some 3,100 to terror attacks. Gun deaths are 116 times greater than terror-related deaths. That’s 11,600%!”

Well, it’s undeniable that so many deaths are tragic, but why don’t we take a look at another number, since we’re comparing different manners of people dying?

During that same period of time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 355,429 traffic accident fatalities (NHTSA Report), making them every bit as dangerous as those e-e-e-e-vil guns, again 116 times greater than terror-related deaths.

Well, what’s to be done about all this mayhem? In this particular column Horton doesn’t say, as it’s pretty much an orgy of hand-wringing. But judging from the totality of his columns on the topic I suppose he’d like to wave a magic wand and make all the privately-owned guns in the country vanish. The only thing standing in his way – other than the lack of that wand – is that pesky and “grossly contorted interpretation of a Second Amendment”.

But there is no Second Amendment equivalent when it comes to cars. Thus they can be regulated to any degree. So, if we want to save a boatload of lives, why don’t we mandate breathalyzer/ignition interlock devices on all cars, as well as speed governors that prevent them from going any faster than, say, 20 MPH? That would probably eliminate at least 90% of traffic fatalities since drunk driving is one major factor, and it’s pretty hard for an accident to be fatal at such low speeds. Maybe even eliminate private car ownership altogether, and mandate that everyone use public transportation! How about that? Everyone has to ride the bus!

We don’t do that because as a society we accept the fact that liberty – freedom of choice and action – sometimes has a cost in human life, a sad and harsh reality.

Horton also tries to peddle the clichéd trope that the Second Amendment only applies to “well-organized state militias”. I will very kindly label that statement as “misguided”. In fact US Code Title 10 § 246 defines the militia as having two components: the “organized militia”, which is the National Guard (Horton’s organized state militias); and the “unorganized militia”, which is all other law-abiding adults in the country who are, or who have applied to be, citizens. (US Code)

Of course, Horton indulges himself in the demonization of the semi-auto AR-15, the most popular rifle in this country, calling them “mass killing machines”. Interestingly enough, in Switzerland, members of their militia – which is all males of military age, as they have universal conscription – are allowed to keep their issued weapons at home, including full-auto guns. You’d think their streets should be awash in blood, wouldn’t you? But no…

I think there’s one more issue to address, and I think it’s pretty important. As I quoted him, Horton claims 360,000 gun deaths over a ten year period, so about 36,000 per year on average. However, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) for 2017, the last year for which data are available (FBI UCR), there were 10,982 homicides in which firearms were used, and only 403 of those were with rifles of any kind. If you average out the number of gun homicides covered by the five years of that report you get 9,733 per year. Multiply that by 10 and you get 97,333 for ten years, a far cry from that 360,000 Horton so freely bandies about.

In 2017, rifles – of which the AR-15 type is a variant – were used 403 times, and averaged 316 times per year over the five years covered by the UCR, for a ten year averaged total of 3,160. That means that rifles of all kinds, NOT just AR-15s, were used in only three percent of gun-related homicides. Not exactly an epidemic, is it?

I have no idea where Horton got his 360,000 number, and frankly don’t care. No matter how you slice it, that number doesn’t represent gun use in homicides in this country, as the real data clearly show.

Horton’s column is a very clear illustration of the hyperbolic scare tactics used by those who’d deprive law-abiding people of their gun rights, full of blatant misrepresentations and over-the-top rhetoric and demagoguery.

Don’t fall for it.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2019

(Published 4 Sep 2019 on my blog and in The Signal)