Category Archives: Travel

Right to Travel vs. Right to Bear Arms

If I had a nickel, as the cliche goes.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this false equivalency, I’d be a very, very wealthy man.

You can license driving because it occurs on public roads. You cannot license people for firearms because there is a right to keep and bear arms.

This has taken on new and more troubling implications in the years since the attacks on 9/11, with the development of the no-fly list for terrorists that the government barely admits exists on the one hand, and their willingness to apply it to other things like weapons purchases so that suspected terrorists can be kept from buying guns as well as not being able to fly on the other. That latter proposal, weapons purchases, has its own share of problems, many of which echo the core problems in the title and the argument quoted above.

As I’ve said before on this blog, I have a serious problem with cognitive dissonance on the subject of firearms.  But when it comes to contrasting travel with firearms, I have a few things I think I can say without reservation.

Occupy Posters

Just to be clear what the subject is here, it really isn’t travel vs. firearms. Even though most gunnuts (ammosexuals) want you to think about the subject in these over-broad general terms, the subject is properly generically stated as travel vs. self-defense or more specifically driving vs. firearms.  Public transit vs. firearms in the case of the no-fly list.

And right off the bat we run into this glaring problem.  Travel generically is a more important right than owning a firearm, specifically. Travel is instrumental in the ability to defend oneself, the ability to remove from one location, where your life is under threat, to a new location where it theoretically is not. Access to public transit, which includes air travel, is far more important than even being able to drive.

The ability to move is just about as fundamental as it gets. It is why the human species has adapted to so many different climates on this planet.  We travel and set up shop somewhere else where there isn’t already ten thousand other people trying to live. Where resources aren’t already owned. Where our lives are not threatened by a greater number of others who want what we have and/or need to survive. A classic defensive strategy, not to be where your enemies are looking for you.

Travel is a right. Limitations on travel without due process is a violation of our rights, what the government is supposed to be safeguarding for us. So the existence of the no-fly list outside of due process is a constitutional violation of our rights.  I’ll get back to that.

First let’s tackle the specifics of driving and firearms. I want to draw some parallels to illustrate why the arguments I’m about to present are not some wingnut conjecture. An automobile is deadly. It may not be designed to kill, but it is a very effective killer all the same. It is a tool designed by humans to serve humans as a replacement for large animals who were used in a similar fashion before the industrial revolution.

fivethirtyeight.com

A firearm is another man-made tool. This tool serves a specific purpose, or a variety of purposes all related, much like the automobile was designed to serve a specific purpose. Refined and perfected over the years, modern firearms are some of the most effective killing machines we’ve ever invented. They fire repeatedly and use standard rounds that can be purchased almost anywhere.

To purchase an automobile you need to have a license to drive. There are cases in which you can buy a car without a license; methods to circumvent regulatory guidelines allowing you to buy a car without a license.  But the regulatory purpose of the driver’s license is clear, and only those intent on obfuscation offer arguments to the contrary.  The purpose is to restrict vehicle operation and ownership to those people who have demonstrated a proficiency with the dangerous tool in question.

We license and regulate drivers because automobiles are dangerous and not because roads are public. You will find sovereignty arguments all over the place that make noises about common modes of travel, public conveyance, etc. None of them amount to anything in the face of a police officer who wants to see your driver’s license.  You can operate machinery on your own property without a license because law enforcement officers cannot enter your property without probable cause. It is actually illegal to drive on private property without a license in many jurisdictions. Not in Texas, apparently.

Now we come to the right to keep and bear arms, the murky waters created by the second amendment to the United States Constitution.

The second amendment is perhaps the most misunderstood piece of legalese still in place in the Constitution. It ranks right up there with the attempts to legislate the value of Pi or what we call rising sea levels in Florida. It has caused at least as much harm as it has good especially in the modern age of repeaters, automatics and semi-automatic weapons.

The problem here is two-fold. The ability to defend oneself is primary. This is demonstrable, as I illustrated above. Self-defense though is not limited to and may not even include access to firearms generally. But the right to defend oneself is not mentioned in the constitution, the right to keep and bear arms is. This is most likely an outgrowth of the views of the time. Dueling was still a common practice. Although it was made illegal around the time of the revolution in many places, it’s practice continued well into the middle of the next century and became the basis for the near-mythical quick draw gunfight. It is worth noting that some Western municipalities attempted to put an end to dueling with some of the first gun carrying restrictions in North America, the precursors for modern gun control.

Hunting with long guns (rifles were not yet invented) was commonplace and essential for many Americans if they wanted to eat. Between these two purposes, self-defense and hunting, it was rare to find a man who did not know how to shoot. On top of this we have the demonstrable attempts by governments all across the world, down through history into the modern day, to render their populations defenseless.  It is easier to control people who do not understand how to defend themselves. Historically this has been done by hoarding weapons under the guardianship of the local authority. If the authorities know where all the guns are, they will know who can and can’t defend themselves.

There are other ways to defend yourself, short of firearms. Denied access to firearms and even knives, it is still possible to mount a defense if you know how. Knowledge is power, in more ways than one. Revolution need not be violent in order to be effective. So the question is, what role do firearms play in modern society, how do we secure our right to defend ourselves while at the same time avoiding becoming the victim of the very same weapons we keep for defense?

unregulated militia

The second amendment speaks to two things; a well regulated militia and the right to keep and bear arms individually. The recent Heller decision struck down blanket bans on firearms that had evolved from the earlier attempts at gun control I mentioned previously.  Personally I think that is an accurate reading of the second amendment. What remains to be realized is that we need licensing and regulation of the citizenry for firearms proficiency. That is what well regulated militia means in the modern age.

The militia are the people, the citizenry. There has been a historical disconnect between the concept of militia and what the militias became as government evolved over the last two centuries. What the originating documents of the United States called militia we would probably see as the various state guards and national guards today. In those days all able-bodied men and boys were expected to participate in guard duties to some extent or other, a practice that fell to the wayside as our cities and states became more populous and our experiences more segmented and separated.

However, the language in the Constitution still states a well regulated militia, and since there is an individual right to keep and bear arms, that means that we the people have to decide what well regulated militia means in the scheme of all of us potentially being armed at any given time. Regulation is necessary. We want to keep the Trayvon Martin encounters to a minimum. We definitely do not want cities of Zimmerman‘s stalking all the suspicious-looking people they don’t like, just waiting for a chance to act in self-defense. We do not want a return to the old West stereotype of guns at High Noon, or pistols at ten paces. A near-certain death sentence with the accuracy of today’s weapons.  Just as there are limitations on who can drive or travel in what kinds of cars and trucks, limitations based on objective standards, so too there should be limitations on who can own a firearm and what kind of firearms can be owned.

Now we’ve come full circle, you readers who are still with me. we’ve circled back to the initial parameters of the argument; driver’s licenses, firearms licenses, and no-fly lists for terrorists.

In the light of objective standards as a guide, the use of the completely subjective no-fly terrorist list to also ban firearms purchases is essentially a patchwork way of applying suspicions more broadly whether those suspicions are well-founded or not. Automobile ownership and weapons ownership are almost identical for comparison purposes, but the right to use public transit should not be so easily infringed. With no way for the list to be challenged, no standards beyond mere suspicion by a federal agency, the use of this list should be stopped altogether, not applied to another related subject.

What needs to happen is for there to be actual discussion of these problems. What is needed is standardized national identification for the purposes of travel (there is a twisted can of worms) so that citizens can be assured that they will gain access to public transit. Me personally? I’m tired of that argument.  Let me just use my palm print. Mark of the beast be damned, I just want to stop standing in lines everywhere I go. Can we just get over this crazy notion of anonymity? Make a provision for those people who really need to remain anonymous? I have no problem with driver’s licenses, and I say this as a guy who will likely be forced to surrender his license in the next decade or so, as my ability focus and balance is degraded by disease.  Subjectively I resent not being about to get around on my own; objectively I have to say most of you will be safer if I can’t. If this disease gets worse.

I’m not even going to try to broach the discussion necessary to outline what objective standards for firearms proficiency might be. I’ll leave that argument to people who have more education and understanding of the subject. People like Jim Wright over at StonekettleStation (yes, him again)

Over time, just like with the drunk driving laws, enforcing the NRA’s own rules, the same basic common sense rules that are used in the military, in law enforcement, on civilian gun ranges, and were taught to most of us by our fathers, will change our culture from one of gun fetishists to one of responsible gun owners. And that will reduce gun violence, just as the same approach has significantly reduced drinking and driving.

Go over and read the article once you stop screaming at your computer screen. You might learn a thing or two from the (more than a dozen) articles Jim has written on the subject of America’s gun culture; or as he refers to it Bang, Bang Crazy and Bang, Bang Sanity. He has far more patience for the gun fetishists that surround us than I do.

I do want to make one thing crystal clear before ending. The second amendment is a two-edged sword, in more ways than the one I’ve just outlined. The other argument which can be (and has been) made is the original intent of a well regulated militia. If the people tasked with keeping us safe deem that the requirement is impossible with the rules now in place, they can and probably should conscript all able-bodied persons into the military for the purposes of weapons assessment.

That is one sure-fire way to make sure we know who should and shouldn’t have a weapon. I’m as opposed as I can get to the idea of a return to the bad-old days of the draft, but if anyone can have a weapon, and if no other laws are possible to fix the problem of weapons in our midst, then the only remaining solution is the one where everyone is trained and everyone is armed to their proficiency. What we need to decide is, which kind of America do we really want to live in? The time for that conversation is rapidly passing us by.

Propaganda, Spin & Shooting Down Civilian Aircraft

I posted a link to a segment from the Rachel Maddow show on Facebook a few days back.

I’ve spent a good portion of today writing responses to accusations that the segment is biased and not based on facts.

I get it, it’s popular these days to insist that television news is biased.  If it isn’t FOX news’ conservatives incessantly whining about liberal bias (liberal meaning “anything not Conservative” i.e. mindlessly jingoist with a heavy helping of Jesus on top) it’s the blatant bias of FOX news itself making up stories that they think their viewers will ascribe to (#Benghazi, anyone?) as detailed on any number of channels including MSNBC which the clip above comes from.

The “why” of the location of the plane, it’s status right before it fell out of the sky, will only be answered by the fight recorders if they are ever found. Flight recorders that the separatists claim to have already found.

 Conspiracies are already spinning on the subject.  Ukraine shot the plane down. Ukraine thought they were targeting Vladimir Putin’s plane (the story from Russian news sources that Rachel Maddow relates) the plane was loaded with corpses and crashed on purpose to frame the Russians.  I’m sure there will be more.

Ukraine hasn’t been shooting down planes in the area; Ukraine would have known (since they control their own airspace) that the plane was a commercial airliner. The separatists have been, and shot down a plane at the same altitude and similar heading earlier in the week (not to be confused with a shootdown from more than a decade ago)  So they clearly had the capability to do it again, and the motivation to continue hampering Ukrainian efforts to put down the separatists.

The separatists exist largely because Russia funds them. There is a conspiracy theory (which theorists like Dan Carlin deny is one) that suggests that the unrest in the Ukraine is due to US intervention in the region, that we’re trying to pull the former soviet state into the NATO alliance. That that is why Russia acted to claim the Crimea through the use of the separatists.

The truth is that Kiev wants to get closer to the EU, to be considered part of the EU rather than a satellite of Russia. If I understand the political structure of the country, the governors of the various regions are appointed not elected. That has lead to unrest in the outlier areas away from Kiev and its direct control, parts of the country that want to elect their own leaders directly. There is also a history of distrust between the Eastern and Western sections of what we call ‘Ukraine’ today (bad blood from WWII during the occupation by Germany) That is why the separatists accuse the government of Kiev of being under the influence of fascists.

Russia would of course like its territory back. Kiev has been historically in and out of Russian control for centuries, and was actually the first city to be called Russia (Kievan Rus) and would probably be the capital of the country of Russia if the Mongols hadn’t taken it and occupied it. But none of this means that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin should be handed the keys to Kiev just because he wants it under his control.

Putin and Russia are as accountable for MH17 deaths as the US is for funding and equipping terrorists in other regions; as in, completely accountable if you are living anywhere outside of Russia or the US. As the saying goes “live by the sword, die by the sword.” The trick is to not be the one living by the sword. Vladimir Putin is the last of the KGB. When he dies, that era dies with him. If we can just stop funding the MIC in the US, the other half of the equation will also close.

It really isn’t propaganda or fallacy to say Russia is to blame for downing the plane. The separatists exist as a military force because Russia has encouraged them. Whether the equipment came from Russia recently, or was soviet equipment left in Ukraine at the end of the USSR, it exists because of Russian expansionism and empire that goes back centuries in time.

Putting the shoe on the other foot (to turn another phrase) I saw the same kinds of denial surrounding the downing of Iran Air Flight 655, the Iranian commercial airliner destroyed during the Iran/Iraq war, a conflict we heavily funded and supported. Everything from the excuse that Reagan gave and the US government still sticks to (an accident) all the way to full blown conspiratory “plane full of corpses flown at the Vincennes on purpose” insanity.

But we shot that plane down in cold blood and killed all those people because we were there and ready to kill. The same is true for the groups fighting in Ukraine right now, and the group in question gets its backing from Russia and is equipped with weapons made in Russia. They are the ones ready to kill. They get the blame. As much of the blame as the US got for that downing of an Iranian airliner.

Does that mean war?  No. Not even vaguely (I’m sure John McCain is already strapping on his sword, if he ever takes it off anymore) that does mean that Russia and their proxy separatists should answer in international court and pay restitution at the very least. If someone can be found that actually gave the order to shoot that plane down, that person should be put on trial.  But I think we’ve had enough killing in the world of late.  How about we not call for more, just right now?

A GPS Unit With the Right Kind of Voice

Was sent a link today to what somebody thinks is a really cool add on for their car.

I already have a GPS unit but I’ll be dammed if I’m not throwing it out because the guys at Mio have come up with a Knight Rider branded GPS unit with voice prompts by the one and only Mr Feeny KITT William Daniels. Apparently, you will recognize his familiar voice as soon as you fire it up and hear “Hello Michael, where do you want to go today?” As an added touch, the display is flanked by a series of red LEDs that mimic KITTs hood-mounted lights. Further details are scarce, but we do know the Mio Knight Rider GPS will retail for $299 when it is finally released.

I’m sorry, when I think Knight Rider in this day and age, I think David Hasselhoff drunk in his shower eating a hamburger. KITT should have been sent to the scrap heap with the rest of the Camaros from that year, since they decided to have him installed in a Ford the second time around.

William Daniels isn’t the voice of KITT, anyway. William Daniels is the voice of John Adams.

When (and if) I get a GPS navigator for my car, it’ll have a proper voice interface.


And for those nit-pickers out there (you know who you are) that immediately corrected the trivia error by pointing out that KITT was based on a Trans Am and not a Camaro, Let me offer the following.

This is a 1982 Camaro.

This is a 1983 Firebird Trans Am.

This is KITT, who was for sale recently.

One might well ask, what is the difference between these cars? Other than the color, and the really cool light in the front of the KITT car the answer is virtually nothing. GM, which made the vehicles in question, produced identical bodies for the Camaro and the Firebird. Chevrolet and Pontiac designed slightly different tails and noses for the two flavors of the sports car (and different interiors, of course) but the rest of the cars are relatively indistinguishable. As someone who knows cars from inside the business, the minor differences between the Pontiac and Chevrolet didn’t warrant notice, even when watching the show.

Forgive me if I glossed over the trivia.

Fellow Travelers

I passed a stranded car on the way into the neighborhood to pick up the wife last night (early this morning, whatever) she wanted a soda for wake up time in the morning. I was almost home from another errand, so we agreed we could just go back out and get it together. On the way back out of the neighborhood I noticed the car was still there.

Man and a woman, standing on the side of the road, gas can in hand. Clearly in need of assistance.
You never know what you’re in for these days, stopping to help people on the side of the road; but they were in our neighborhood, not out on the highway. It was late, and she did have the gas can.

So, with the wife’s assent, I stopped and asked if I could help them. The woman was overjoyed, and shooed her husband back into the car while she climbed into the back seat of our road worn Saturn.

She thanked us over and over again, and amongst the other small talk the occurred during the short drive, she voiced her incredulity that “none of her people would even stop to help her”.

Anyone who’s read this blog for awhile will know that I don’t believe in drawing lines based on skin color and calling that ‘race’. However, her skin was black, so I can only assume that she meant black people wouldn’t stop and help her. At the time, I was focused on driving and muttered something about “not knowing what you are getting into, stopping to help people on the road these days”; which were my reservations, originally.

The wife, who has had to make hard decisions about helping people in the past (including picking up a half naked girl in the park, who was being loudly pursued by a boyfriend intent on killing her. That’s another story, though) kept up a lively chatter as we fruitlessly tried to find an open gas station. Third time was the charm though, and we got the woman safely back to her car and husband, wished her good luck and a safe drive, and headed back toward the house.

If I had been thinking about the subject at the time, I would have liked to let her know that she was picked up by one of her people. Both the wife and I have been stranded by the side of the road before, because we failed to notice the emptiness of the gas tank; not to mention the times our cars have just flat out failed us. On those occasions, fellow travelers have come through for us, and helped out when they could. They were our people then, and we were her people, now.

We are all fellow travelers on the road, just trying to get from point A to point B on the map. Anyone who helps you achieve that goal is someone you should be glad to have met. A friend in need, one of your people. Glad to be of assistance.

No Fluids Now

I’m just not buying this latest wind up. What commonly available household fluids could be taken on board a plane (in sufficient quantities) and when mixed, would yield a high enough explosive result to bring down a plane?

Lots of talk about TATP, Acetone Peroxide, as the culprit. However, that explosive is a powder. How much fluid would be required in order to yield enough powder to create an explosion of sufficient size? (found this page on a possible detector)

I can’t help but think how convenient the timing of this all is. Senator Lieberman, the only pro-war Democrat in congress looses his parties nomination. Blair, Bush, et al are looking more and more like idiots these days; Iraq is a morass, the Middle East is in full melt down mode, and the UN is trying to stop Israel from cleaning house in Lebanon.

…What better way to motivate the populace to get back on the “Terror War bandwagon” than a good ol’ foiled terror plot?

Travel Status

In the film I watched Sunday, they made some comment about “letting the airlines go broke” if you couldn’t travel without proper ID (the soon to be rolled out National ID card) when the time comes. Well, I can do you one better.

I haven’t flown since 9/11/2001, because the wife refuses to take me with her when she flies. Apparently she objects to my choice of flight apparel. What is that apparel, you might ask? Flip-flops, hand cuffs, and paper scrubs stenciled “Federal Airline Prisoner”… and nothing else.

I have carried a pocket knife, nail clippers and whatever else I felt was needed, every day of my life, pretty much since the day I first put on pants. I’m not about to give up my essentials just because some jack-booted thug tells me I “can’t carry that in here”.

…At least not without some sort of a show, anyway.

When I’ve said this to people in the past, they generally mouth some words to the effect that “they’re only trying to make the airlines safer”. Let me tell you how to make the airlines safer. The attendant who greets you at the door of the plane asks you a simple question “are you carrying a weapon?” If you answer no, she hands you one to carry (loaded with the proper rounds, of course) for the length of the flight.

…Do you honestly think there will ever be a hijacking under those circumstances? Didn’t think so.

Dr. Pepper addiction

The wife has a Dr. Pepper addiction, and she’s going through withdrawals. It’s a terrible thing to witness. She used to drink the same old ordinary Dr. Pepper that everyone else drinks, but recently we took a trip to visit relatives and stopped off in Dublin (Texas, not Ireland. But they try hard to ‘put on the green’ there) home of the oldest Dr. Pepper bottling plant in the world. Ever since then, the regular (corn syrup, not cane sugar) DP just aint good enough. She’s driving me crazy, and she’s drinking my sugar Coca-Cola.

So, I have a plan. Sam’s Club will stock the Dublin DP (like they stock the Sugar Coke, imported from Mexico) if they get enough requests for it. So, if everyone who reads this clicks the ‘requests’ link and makes one, surely that would be enough, right…?