Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cops: the Best Friends Blacks Ever Had

Charles Barkley (via Legal Insurrection):

We have to be really careful with the cops, man, because if it wasn’t for the cops, we’d be living in the wild-wild west in our neighborhoods.  I think we can’t pick out certain incidents that don’t go our way and act like the cops are all bad.  I hate when we do that. Think about it, you know how bad some of these neighborhoods would be if it wasn’t for the cops? [Emphasis added.]

One of the underrated movies of the 1990s was John Milius’ Geronimo, starring among others Gene Hackman as Gen. George Crook.  Gen. Crook, by all accounts a skilled Indian fighter, was also a vocal critic of government duplicity in dealing with the Indians after their defeat and surrender, even going so far as contriving a court case that led to the recognition of their habeas corpus rights.

The movie shows Crook in a conversation with Geronimo, explaining to him, in essence:  “The regular army is the best friend the Indian ever had.  The most egregious atrocities against the Indians, like the Sand Creek Massacre, were committed, not by the Army, but by settlers organized into volunteer militias.  What do you think they would do to you if we weren’t here to protect you?”

I recalled this exchange while watching the recent rioting in Ferguson, MO and elsewhere, noting with some irony that while the protestors were demonstrating their “fear” of the police by taunting them to their faces while breaking all manner of laws, the police themselves were not only conspicuously failing to protect the lives and property of Ferguson residents but busy preventing whites from defending themselves.

A case in point:  a group of former soldiers with the Oath Keepers organization volunteered to provide security to Ferguson businesses last week, stationing themselves on rooftops overlooking the street.  But the police ordered them to disperse while allowing a group of armed blacks to provide a similar service to one business.

A second case in point:  a driver attempted to drive through an intersection being illegally blocked by protestors.  He didn’t injure anyone, but the protestors surrounded his car and through a brick through his rear window.  That strikes me as a circumstance justifying the lawful use of deadly force in self defense, but the driver was arrested merely for displaying his weapon in response.

When I combine these with the George Zimmerman and Theodore Wafer cases, I  have reached the point where I am less afraid of having to deal with black criminality (I’m well-armed and a pretty good shot) than I am of what happens when prosecutors show up second guessing every self-defense decision I had to make.  It’s pretty clear that the police are neither in theory nor in fact capable of protect me, only capable of arresting me once I protect myself.

Thought experiment:  what would happen if the police disappeared?

In my own case, probably nothing.  Phi’s lily-white little burg is a disproportionate home to, um, a powerful demographic who by non-transparent means are able to issue the necessary threats and bribes and make problems go away.  Hence, our police force is able to do its job and keep our community free from aggravation by both the criminal underclass and Eric Holder.  So, if the police disappeared, more of us would carry guns, but life would likely go on as before once the word got out.

But other communities are not so fortunate.  Barkley’s “wild west” analogy is more true than he realizes.  It’s not just that blacks would start shooting each other even more than they currently do (if that is even possible).  It’s that at some threshold of aggravation, citizens would organize and arm themselves and take care of the problem.  And no, it wouldn’t be pretty, or just, or especially scrupulous about non-combatants anymore than John Chivington was.  But it would be effective in a way that our present social and law-enforcement policies are not.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Time Travelers

I have never watched the TV show Modern Family; thus, I had no idea who Ty Burrell is; thus, I did not detect any gay adoption metaphor in the Dreamworks movie Mr. Peabody & Sherman.  Neither had I ever seen, unless in passing, the characters from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show; thus I evaluated the movie on its own terms rather than in comparison to the old serial.

Result:  I really, really liked this movie.  The characters are funny and likeable, the story is heartwarming with a minimum of preachiness, and the action scenes and animation are solid.

Ironically, it was my mother who suggested the gay angle; I had rather interpreted Mr. Peabody’s struggles with the menacing and intrusive social worker as those of a father.  If a metaphor for gay parenting was intended, it would be somewhat ironic in that I would be surprised to see any bureaucratic hostility to gay anything in 2014.

A legion of critics reacted negatively to the character of Penny Peterson, Sherman’s classmate who initially bullies and provokes him.  They claim this makes the movie “anti-woman”; I believe it was courageous of the filmmakers to show that, yes, girls in elementary school can bully too, and won’t hesitate to avail themselves of white knights if it doesn’t work out for them.  But Penny character arc is perhaps too complex for a children’s animation.  She eventually comes to admire and defend Sherman, but while the audience can see this developing, we aren’t really given to understand Penny’s internal motivation.

Take for instance the sequence where the children steal a ride in Leonardo da Vinci’s glider.  [SPOILER ALERT:  Mr. Peabody has a time machine.  Oh wait, you already knew that from the series?  Never mind, then.]  Penny is the instigator, launching the glider and initially flying it.  But then, in a steep dive, she insists that Sherman take the controls and “save us”.  Which he does, much to his own and the audience’s satisfaction.

Penny’s action, encouraging Sherman to overcome his fears and creating a space where he can then assume a masculine, heroic role is a very mature and in some sense deeply socially conservative thing for her to do.  But . . . why would she care about Sherman’s character development one way or the other?  The realistic answer – because she has grown to love him and wants him to be the best he can be – isn’t especially supported by what we’ve seen up to then.  And indeed, it may be too deep a theme for a children’s cartoon.

The bulk of the movie focuses on the  relationship between Mr. Peabody and his adopted son.  But in contrast to many cartoons, this is a two-way street.  Peabody is required to reconcile himself to the prospect that Sherman will eventually grow up; Sherman, for his part, learns to appreciate that behind Peabody’s fussiness is deep fatherly concern for his wellbeing.

The critics whine on about how all this is formulaic.  Fair enough.  But it’s a good formula, generally achieving commercial success (though apparently not in this case) for valid artistic reasons. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Swinging for the Fence

I had been puzzling over the narrow preference for Republican candidates among Asian voters for the first time since the ‘90s, when Steve offered the most plausible explanation yet.

Ironically, in 2014 the Democrats made themselves the Black Party by anointing the late Michael Brown, the not-so-gentle giant of Ferguson, the face of the Democrats. Not surprisingly, Asian voters appear to have reacted with dismay.

Now, I don’t know if this is the reason; I haven’t personally talked to any Asians about the election.  But Asians have a long history of operating small businesses in the inner city:  East Asians in decades past, South Asians today.  They are certainly aware of the dangers of operating shops serving that clientele.  I can’t help but think that the security video showing 292-lb. Michael Brown assaulting and robbing what looks like a 140-lb. Indian or Pakistani store employee had a great deal of personal resonance.  I also would expect that Obama and Holder’s unrestrained embrace of Michael Brown would be taken as . . . off-putting at a minimum.  (Trumwill &C. knock around competing hypotheses.)

If the Republicans were to ask me for electoral advice, I would suggest that, going forward, the party might make a play for the Asian vote by resurrecting their long-dormant (and mostly abandoned) opposition to affirmative action.  Racial set-asides in college admissions for blacks and Hispanics is a complex legal and policy problem, but they generally come at the expense of Asians, and I don’t see how opposing them in pursuit of the Asian vote poses any problem for the Republican electoral coalition as it stands.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Thoughts on Rearmament: Getting There from Here

My intuition that the long-run effort to overcome the general prohibition on possessing privately owned weapons on military installations will require several steps.  The Supreme Court must rule, as I expect it will, that “bear” means what it says, and that this component of the Second Amendment is incorporated against the states.  The Court must also rule, as several state courts have ruled, that employees and customers of private companies, retail establishments, and government agencies retain the right to keep firearms in their vehicles when those vehicles are parked in lots that, while privately owned, are otherwise open to the public.  Armed with such rulings, litigation to overturn prohibitions on military bases will become “ripe” in a way that it presently is not.

Politically speaking, while I am not especially optimistic, I nonetheless hope that a change in administration will encourage military commanders to experiment with more relaxed rules.  For instance, they could allow base employees to store unloaded POWs in their locked vehicles.  True, that wouldn’t prevent the next Nidal Hassan, but at least we would be allowed the means of self-defense on our commutes.

I’ve been thinking about the firearms handling procedures as they were implemented at ISAF and considering how they might be applied to stateside bases.  As I have written, deployed personnel other than Security Forces, while armed, were required to keep our weapons unloaded while in garrison.  We loaded the weapons when we went “outside the wire”, but to do this we were expected to use something called a “clearing barrel”.  A clearing barrel is basically a sand trap for bullets, a barrel of sand with an opening through which we stuck the muzzles of our weapons while loading and clearing them.  The SF also follow these procedures; stateside, in fact, they are attended with some ceremony, though like everything else they are relaxed during deployments.  But even in Afghanistan, vehicles entering and exiting the installation are expected to stop inside the gate and its riders to exit and use the barrels for loading and clearing.  All this is on the theory that loading and clearing present an elevated risk of either accidental discharge or forgetting about that round we left in the chamber.  Which is fair enough, I suppose, although I’d like to see the numbers on accidental discharges into clearing barrels.

These front-gate procedures were relatively easy to follow on deployments when there was very little gate traffic.  Obviously that’s not the case on stateside bases with thousands of commuting employees – and likely hundreds of concealed carry licensees – entering and exiting the base every day.  I suppose it would be possible to set up a clearing barrel park at the front gate, but I doubt that base commanders would be that motivated.

The commanders could require that firearms be cleared before arriving at the front gate, but that would present the danger of commuters trying to steer with their knees while they fumbled through the unloading of their pistols on the drive up.  (I know this would happen because it’s exactly what I would try to do.)

Commanders could allow personnel to drive onto the base with loaded weapons but insist they be unloaded before being locked in the car.  But this would be performed without those sacred clearing barrels, so that’s out.

Commanders could tell us, go ahead and leave your weapons loaded while kept in the vehicle.  But even I would be reluctant to recommend that.

Commanders could say, well, let’s follow deployment rules:  everybody can bring their weapons into their buildings, but they must be unloaded prior to entry, for which purpose we’ll keep clearing barrels at the building entrances.  This approach strikes me as the most reasonable, and therefore the most unlikely.  There are too many old ladies in government service that would clutch their skirts at the thought of male coworkers being armed.

So I must admit, I’m not seeing any procedures that would satisfy even well-intentioned stakeholders.

* The parking lots of government agencies are technically public property, though I can’t predict what bearing that will have.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Thoughts on Disarmament

Volokh writes:

[A]a common argument against allowing people to carry weapons in public is that even otherwise law-abiding people might get angry, get drunk, or needlessly create or escalate a confrontation if they had a gun, and as a result unnecessarily kill or injure someone. True, the argument would go, such laws aren’t going to protect us against mass murderers or even armed robbers, who are obviously willing to deliberately violate many laws that are much more serious than gun control laws. But the carry restrictions might protect us against people who are law-abiding when they have time to deliberate (when they decide whether to carry a gun), but who can do something wrong or foolish on the spur of the moment (such as misuse a gun that they did decide to carry).

Volokh goes on to suggest that such a scenario doesn't seem to actually materialize very often among lawful concealed-carry permit holders. Indeed, I'm aware of only one instance in which it fairly describes the facts. It may be true that there exist certain . . . demographics among whom violence is casually resorted to as a means of settling disputes over "respect", a problem that the availability of firearms exacerbates. But those people seldom qualify for permits.

Nor, for that matter, admisson to the armed services. I was thinking about this in the context of the general prohibition against possessing firearms on stateside military installations. The prohibition doesn't apply to base residnets, who are allowed to keep guns in their quarters (except dormitories) as long as they are registered with Security Forces and stored in a safe and allowed to transport them on and off base for lawful purposes. But the much larger population of personnel who commute to the base for work are not allowed to bring weapons with them, even kept in their cars. This prohibition is enforced by the honor system: while incoming vehicles are in theory subject to search, this has never actually happened to me in the 23 years I have been commuting to military installations.

This prohibition is in dramatic contrast to overseas installations in conflict theaters. Throughout Afghanistan, for instance, all soldiers and many civilians are technically required to be armed at all times unless doing PT, although at ISAF this requirement went unenforced. With the exception of Security Forces and flag officer bodyguards (yes, generals had personal bodyguards), our weapons were to be kept unloaded while on post. "Unloaded" in this context means that the full magazines were kept in a separate pouch from the holstered or slong weapon. Loading the weapon would add, depending on the individual, around a full second to the time it would take to deploy it. I can only assume that this requirement was an effort to prevent accidental discharge, but it would provide very little deterrent against murder, deliberate or otherwise.

So the military has abundant experience with both (a) prohibition and (b) open carry*, and the relative risks each pose. I don't have at my fingertips any data on violent crime rates in deployed vs. stateside locations, except to say that if there were criminal uses of firearms at ISAF HQ while I was there, I never heard about them. There were
and are plenty of green-on-blue attacks, but I will leave it my readers to figure out how our soldiers being murdered by our "allies" in the field bears on this discussion.

What about stateside installations where carry is prohibited? The Nidal Hassan and Aaron Alexis bodycounts dominate the statistics and headlines of the last five years. But crime is not unheard of on our disarmed military installations, and its not especially clear what the prohibition accomplishes.

* At ISAF, there was no prohibition on concealed carry. I knew an officer that carried in a paddle holster under his ABU blouse. But paddle holsters weren't issued, so few people had them.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Standing in Line 2

I wound up my April article on the Peruta case with:

It will be interesting to see if the standard [for standing] suddenly gets lowered for HCI's benefit.

Well, color me impressed:  The 9th Circuit denied intervention to everybody, including the state of California.

As Andrew Branca points out, this doesn’t really matter:  other 2nd Amendment cases pending in the 9th already have more motivated defendants than the San Diego sheriff and will likely be appealed when the 9th rules against them.

Still, though, having had my side in this position, I can appreciate what must be California’s frustration.