“Unlimited Potential for Insidious Mischief”

Perusing Clayton Cramer’s blog this evening, I stumbled across this statement:

The M249 was so light and cute that I could see having one, if the 1986 ban on new manufacture of machine guns for civilians ever gets struck down by the Supreme Court. If that seems improbable–see U.S. v. Rock Island Armory (C.D.Ill.1991)–where the government lost such a case, and decided not to appeal, for fear that they would lose on appeal, too.

Well, I’ve made a (masochistic) hobby out of reading court cases, so I clicked on through (it’s a .txt file) and read that very well annotated and referenced 1991 District Court decision by Judge Michael M. Mihm, Chief Judge of the Central District of Illinois at that time. I don’t know how I missed this one. It’s all over the web. A somewhat more readable HTML version is available here.

The long and short of it is that Rock Island Armory and one David R. Reese were charged with illegally manufacturing machineguns for non-government use in 1987 and 1988 after passage the 1986 ban on all new machineguns for private possession that was tacked onto the Firearm Owner Protection Act (FOPA). Judge Mihm dismissed the charges, saying after a long exposition on the precedents:

In sum, since enactment of 18 U.S.C. sec. 922(o), the Secretary has refused to accept any tax payments to make or transfer a machinegun made after May 19, 1986, to approve any such making or transfer, or to register any such machinegun. As applied to machineguns made and possessed after May 19, 1986, the registration and other requirements of the National Firearms Act, Chapter 53 of the Internal Revenue Code, no longer serve any revenue purpose, and are impliedly repealed or are unconstitutional.

In other words, the $200 transfer tax was constitutional only so long as the government was actually collecting revenue. When the law changed banning any trade in new machineguns, that transfer tax on new machineguns became moot, and the law no longer was constitutional. His argument is quite logical and convincing, and contains many citations from the original congressional debates over the 1934 National Firearms Act before its passage.

Now the interesting thing, as Clayton pointed out, is that the .gov didn’t appeal. However, several other post-’86 machine gun cases have gone to the appeals courts where Rock Island has been brought up as precedent. Of course, in none of them did the courts do or even refer to the research performed by Judge Mihm, and they, almost uniformly, found for the State rather than the defendant.

The best dissent I’ve read concerning this comes from U.S. v. Ardoin and Judge Jacques Loeb Wiener, Jr. He wrote in part:

Until the enactment of section 922(o) of the FOPA, a citizen could legally make, transfer, or possess a machine gun, as long as he complied with the relevant registration and tax provisions of the NFA. Simply put, since 1934 the NFA has said to such a citizen, “You may manufacture, transfer, or possess a machine gun if (but only if) you register and pay taxes on it.” Then along came section 922(o) of the FOPA (some fifty-two years later) and declared to that same citizen, “You may not manufacture, possess, or transfer machine guns – period.” What sense does the NFA make now? The BATF operates as though Congress has passed two separate laws each criminalizing the mere possession of machine guns, leaving the BATF with the discretion to prosecute citizens’ possession under either statute (or both). But that is not – and cannot be – the case.

There is no evidence that Congress ever adverted to the effect that the enactment of section 922(o) would have on related provisions of the NFA. But undeniably the enactment of section 922(o) did affect the NFA – enormously. Because the NFA forbids the BATF to register and accept taxes for illegal firearms,18 the enactment of section 922(o) – which basically made the mere possession of machine guns by private citizens illegal – rendered the extensive registration and tax provisions of the NFA essentially meaningless. Indeed, the NFA’s regulation of machine gun-ownership by private citizens was made instantly obsolete by the advent of the FOPA. There is no longer any place for those provisions in the present legislative scheme for regulation of most prospective machine gun-owners. Their vestigial existence on the statute books analogizes perfectly to the human appendix: no useful function whatsoever, but unlimited potential for insidious mischief.

Moreover, section 922(o) reflects Congress’ judgment concerning the correct statutory formulation and the appropriate level of punishment for mere possession of a machine gun. Thus, if we uphold the continued application of the NFA to citizens who transfer, make, and possess machine guns))even though the NFA no longer serves any revenue-raising purpose))we are altering that congressional judgment. Why then does the BATF continue to prosecute citizens under NFA solely for the possession of machine guns, rather than resorting to section 922(o), which Congress expressly designed for that purpose? Perhaps because the statutory maximum fines for violating the NFA are greater than those provided under the FOPA. More likely, BATF agents and prosecutors find it easier to get convictions under the NFA, both because it appears to have an easier mens rea requirement, and because the laundry list of possible statutory violations is so very long. But Congress clearly did not intend for its passage of the FOPA to transform the preexisting NFA into a more severe ban against the simple possession of machine guns, for such a mutation of the NFA makes section 922(o) of the FOPA superfluous: what the BATF is supposed to do under the FOPA can be done more easily (and with the majority’s blessing) under the “new,” transmuted NFA, which has been administratively (and now jurisprudentially) shorn of the registration and taxation provisions that once were its whole raison d’etre.

The obsolescence of the NFA provisions at issue here is also exposed by the fact that – although expressly enacted to raise revenues from private citizens – those provisions no longer raise any revenue from the possession, transfer, and making of machine guns by private citizens. The suggestion that a tax measure can somehow have continued vitality when it no longer taxes certainly tests one’s imagination. Although implied repeals are disfavored, I firmly believe that the sections of the NFA at issue here are so utterly irreconcilable with section 922(o) of the FOPA as a means of regulating private ownership of machine guns that they were impliedly repealed by FOPA’s passage: with respect to the regulation of machine guns, the latter has superseded and supplanted the former.

I recommend you read the whole thing, as Judge Wiener illustrates very well how the other members of the Court, as 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski put it, “constitutionalize their personal preferences.”

And Dave Kopel has a related piece from 2005 at The Volokh Conspiracy.

And bear in mind: This is the same law that put Hollis Wayne Fincher in jail.

Dept. of Unfortunately Hilarious Headlines.

Royals To Get A Taste Of Angels’ Colon

(*sigh*) First Diana dies, then Fergie gets a divorce…

Oh, wait. Not those Royals. And not that kind of Colon.

Bartolo Colon attempts to win his third consecutive start off the disabled list tonight for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who will be aiming to continue their recent dominance of the Kansas City Royals.

After missing nearly nine months to rehab a partially torn right rotator cuff, Colon returned to a major-league mound on April 21 and delivered an outstanding performance against the Seattle Mariners. The former American League Cy Young winner allowed just one run on seven hits to lead the Angels to a 7-6 victory.


You have to wonder who approved that headline?

Via Icelandic blogger Arni of Meinhornið. (And no, I have no idea how to pronounce it or what it means.)

“The big problem for the GOP leadership is that they’ve lost their credibility. “

And they still don’t understand it. This was clear a year ago when we talked to then-GOP chair Ken Mehlman, and it’s much, much truer now. As a reader emails: “No credibility to fall back on. No reserve of good will to fall back on. No record to fall back on. No successes to fall back on.”

And as Dan Riehl said earlier this week, Republicans were given a wakeup call with the 2006 elections, and they opted to hit snooze.

Via Instapundit.

With nothing to fall back on, perhaps they should consider falling forward.

As in, “on their swords.”

And Now for Something Completely Different….

You know, this is supposed to be a gun blog. Well, sort of. I am a gun-nut, after all. However, I don’t post on the topic of boomsticks, their accessories, and the shooting hobby all that much. I think the last post was about my new gunsafe.

Well, I just ordered another doo-dad. I’m a handloader, but like most the part of the job I find most tedious is measuring out powder charges. With a progressive press there’s an automatic powder measure, but those really only function well with ball, small flake, and very short extruded powders. Hand-operated powder measures aren’t much better. With stick powders and some flake powders, the consistency can be very poor. Since the purpose of handloading ammunition is to build better-than-factory quality ammo and not blowing your gun up, consistent powder charge weights are a must. This means, generally, weighing out each individual charge.

A while back I bought an electronic scale and a powder tricker which allows me to throw an underweight charge with a hand measure, then “trickle up” the charge to the desired weight. That works well. It also takes for goddam ever.

So tonight I dropped a chunk of change on one of these:

That’s an RCBS Chargemaster dispenser and electronic scale package. Just plug it in, run the calibration setup (60 seconds), load the powder hopper, set a charge weight, and you’re off! It dumps a perfectly measured weight of powder, ±0.1 grain, in about 20 seconds. It’s gotten terrific reviews at MidwayUSA, and it’s on sale.

Mine should arrive about next Thursday, which is good, because I’ve got about a thousand rounds of .45LC that need to be loaded, and another thousand 5.56×45.

Al Gore’s Internet

Al Gore has another book coming out. This one’s not about how the world is going to be destroyed by Global Climate Change if we don’t immediately cut back to a subsistence agriculture society. No, this one is about how stupid we Americans are. It’s entitled The Assault on Reason. Time magazine has a short excerpt from the book, and you know what? I actually agree with some of what Al has to say – just not necessarily for the same reasons. Let us fisk:

Not long before our nation launched the invasion of Iraq, our longest-serving Senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor and said: “This chamber is, for the most part, silent — ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing. We stand passively mute in the United States Senate.”

Why was the Senate silent?

In describing the empty chamber the way he did, Byrd invited a specific version of the same general question millions of us have been asking: “Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?” The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of massive and well-understood evidence to the contrary, seems to many Americans to have reached levels that were previously unimaginable.

And he writes this with (one assumes) a straight face!

A large and growing number of Americans are asking out loud: “What has happened to our country?” People are trying to figure out what has gone wrong in our democracy, and how we can fix it.

A somewhat smaller, but hopefully growing number of people are asking “What has gone wrong with our REPUBLIC?

To take another example, for the first time in American history, the Executive Branch of our government has not only condoned but actively promoted the treatment of captives in wartime that clearly involves torture, thus overturning a prohibition established by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but during the Revolutionary War our opponents wore uniforms and fought in accordance with the rules of honor. If you want a more apt comparison, you need to go back and look at what our government did against the American Indian population before, during and after the Revolutionary War.

How quickly we forget, when it’s convenient.

It is too easy — and too partisan — to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes. We have a Congress. We have an independent judiciary. We have checks and balances. We are a nation of laws. We have free speech. We have a free press. Have they all failed us?

It sure looks that way.

Why has America’s public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned? Faith in the power of reason — the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power — remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.

American democracy is now in danger — not from any one set of ideas, but from unprecedented changes in the environment within which ideas either live and spread, or wither and die. I do not mean the physical environment; I mean what is called the public sphere, or the marketplace of ideas.

It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong. In 2001, I had hoped it was an aberration when polls showed that three-quarters of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on Sept. 11. More than five years later, however, nearly half of the American public still believes Saddam was connected to the attack.

What, no mention of the percentage of people who think that the U.S. Government was complicit? Or directly involved?

At first I thought the exhaustive, nonstop coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial was just an unfortunate excess — an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. Now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time: the Michael Jackson trial and the Robert Blake trial, the Laci Peterson tragedy and the Chandra Levy tragedy, Britney and KFed, Lindsay and Paris and Nicole.

While American television watchers were collectively devoting 100 million hours of their lives each week to these and other similar stories, our nation was in the process of more quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness. For example, hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake.

Nice to know I sit in the ranks of “hardly anyone.” I guess I get to pick a comfy chair, and there’s lots of elbow room.

Yet, incredibly, all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time and in hindsight are glaringly obvious.

That is, if your definition of “right” is “leaving Saddam & Sons in power in Iraq after dropping the sanctions against him.” Which explains why the majority of Congress voted for the war before they voted against it.

Those of us who have served in the U.S. Senate and watched it change over time could volunteer a response to Senator Byrd’s incisive description of the Senate prior to the invasion: The chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere else. Many of them were at fund-raising events they now feel compelled to attend almost constantly in order to collect money—much of it from special interests—to buy 30-second TV commercials for their next re-election campaign.

What?!?! McCain-Feingold didn’t work?!?

I’m shocked.

The Senate was silent because Senators don’t feel that what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much anymore — not to the other Senators, who are almost never present when their colleagues speak, and certainly not to the voters, because the news media seldom report on Senate speeches anymore.

In no small part because of the speeches of Senators like Robert Byrd.

Our Founders’ faith in the viability of representative democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry, their ingenious design for checks and balances, and their belief that the rule of reason is the natural sovereign of a free people. The Founders took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas so that knowledge could flow freely. Thus they not only protected freedom of assembly, they made a special point — in the First Amendment — of protecting the freedom of the printing press. And yet today, almost 45 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers. Reading itself is in decline. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by the empire of television.

Which doesn’t cover Senate speeches. And your point is?

Radio, the Internet, movies, cell phones, iPods, computers, instant messaging, video games and personal digital assistants all now vie for our attention — but it is television that still dominates the flow of information. According to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of 4 hours and 35 minutes every day — 90 minutes more than the world average. When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time the average American has.

In the world of television, the massive flows of information are largely in only one direction, which makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation.

And this was different when newspapers ruled… how, exactly? Because they’d publish your (heavily edited) letter to the editor, maybe, a few weeks after it was no longer timely?

Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They hear, but they do not speak. The “well-informed citizenry” is in danger of becoming the “well-amused audience.” Moreover, the high capital investment required for the ownership and operation of a television station and the centralized nature of broadcast, cable and satellite networks have led to the increasing concentration of ownership by an ever smaller number of larger corporations that now effectively control the majority of television programming in America.

“In danger,” hell. We’re already there. And a “smaller number of larger corporations?” Same for newspapers. And, if you’ll notice, television news is hemorrhaging viewership too.

In practice, what television’s dominance has come to mean is that the inherent value of political propositions put forward by candidates is now largely irrelevant compared with the image-based ad campaigns they use to shape the perceptions of voters. The high cost of these commercials has radically increased the role of money in politics — and the influence of those who contribute it. That is why campaign finance reform, however well drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the dominant means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue in one way or another to dominate American politics. And as a result, ideas will continue to play a diminished role. That is also why the House and Senate campaign committees in both parties now search for candidates who are multimillionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources.

Oh, please. The #1 job of the elected official is to keep getting re-elected – either to the same seat, or one higher up the totem pole. Money has always ruled. It just costs more to be a player today. So? Back when Pulitzer was manipulating the electorate, Paddy the Milkman couldn’t affect the political system either.

When I first ran for Congress in 1976, I never took a poll during the entire campaign. Eight years later, however, when I ran statewide for the U.S. Senate, I did take polls and like most statewide candidates relied more heavily on electronic advertising to deliver my message. I vividly remember a turning point in that Senate campaign when my opponent, a fine public servant named Victor Ashe who has since become a close friend, was narrowing the lead I had in the polls. After a detailed review of all the polling information and careful testing of potential TV commercials, the anticipated response from my opponent’s campaign and the planned response to the response, my advisers made a recommendation and prediction that surprised me with its specificity: “If you run this ad at this many ‘points’ [a measure of the size of the advertising buy], and if Ashe responds as we anticipate, and then we purchase this many points to air our response to his response, the net result after three weeks will be an increase of 8.5% in your lead in the polls.”

I authorized the plan and was astonished when three weeks later my lead had increased by exactly 8.5%. Though pleased, of course, for my own campaign, I had a sense of foreboding for what this revealed about our democracy. Clearly, at least to some degree, the “consent of the governed” was becoming a commodity to be purchased by the highest bidder. To the extent that money and the clever use of electronic mass media could be used to manipulate the outcome of elections, the role of reason began to diminish.

As a college student, I wrote my senior thesis on the impact of television on the balance of power among the three branches of government. In the study, I pointed out the growing importance of visual rhetoric and body language over logic and reason. There are countless examples of this, but perhaps understandably, the first one that comes to mind is from the 2000 campaign, long before the Supreme Court decision and the hanging chads, when the controversy over my sighs in the first debate with George W. Bush created an impression on television that for many viewers outweighed whatever positive benefits I might have otherwise gained in the verbal combat of ideas and substance. A lot of good that senior thesis did me.

While I’m not surprised at Al’s self-centered example, the one almost everyone else thinks of first is the televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The people who heard it on the radio thought Nixon won. The people who saw it on TV thought Kennedy did.

“Never let them see you sweat,” I believe is the expression.

The potential for manipulating mass opinions and feelings initially discovered by commercial advertisers is now being even more aggressively exploited by a new generation of media Machiavellis. The combination of ever more sophisticated public opinion sampling techniques and the increasing use of powerful computers to parse and subdivide the American people according to “psychographic” categories that identify their susceptibility to individually tailored appeals has further magnified the power of propagandistic electronic messaging that has created a harsh new reality for the functioning of our democracy.

As a result, our democracy is in danger of being hollowed out. In order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum. We must create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science.

AGAIN with a straight face!

We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public’s ability to discern the truth. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the rule of reason.

And here I’m going to interrupt Mr. Gore’s interesting rant for a bit longer interjection. Gore is blaming the media for taking advantage of the public’s gullibility.

He never once questions why the electorate is so gullible. Here’s a clue: As Bill Bennett wrote some time back, a hundred years ago our high schools taught Latin and Greek. They taught rhetoric and logic. They taught world geography, and ancient and modern history.

Now our public universities teach remedial English and basic arithmetic to incoming freshmen.

Others have commented on the quality of many of the letters written by Civil War soldiers on both sides of that war – their literary, historical, and biblical allusions, their excellent grammar and punctuation. Have you perused LiveJournal recently? Or randomly sampled some of the personal blogs on Blogger? What language is that?

Thomas Sowell recently wrote:

A recently reprinted memoir by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) has footnotes explaining what words like ‘arraigned,’ ‘curried’ and ‘exculpate’ meant, and explaining who Job was. In other words, this man who was born a slave and never went to school educated himself to the point where his words now have to be explained to today’s expensively under-educated generation.

There is really nothing very mysterious about why our public schools are failures. When you select the poorest quality college students to be public school teachers, give them iron-clad tenure, a captive audience, and pay them according to seniority rather than performance, why should the results be surprising?

Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of our enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.

In a democracy, we have always had to worry about the ignorance of the uneducated. Today we have to worry about the ignorance of people with college degrees.

You want to know the main reason for the ills you’re protesting against, Al? Our government has destroyed the public education system. It’s done it slowly, methodically, systematically and deliberately. And why?


What you’re protesting here isn’t that the American public is too easily manipulated, you’re upset because they apparently can’t yet be manipulated into doing what YOU want. As you say, it’s too easy – and too partisan – to simply blame George Bush, or even just the Republicans. No, it took both parties, a hundred years, and hundreds of billions of dollars to get to where we are today. It started with John Dewey at about the turn of the 20th Century, and it’s gone downhill from there. Formation of the federal Department of Education in 1980 seems only to have accelerated the problem. (There’s a surprise.)

You don’t want to “create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future.” Politicians aren’t interested in no longer “tolerating the rejection and distortion of science.” They’re out to shut up the opposition by labeling them as ignorant drooling boobs who must be led by the hand by our political masters. I said as much in a piece I wrote during that 2000 election debacle, An Uncomfortable Conclusion:

With the continuing legal maneuvers in the Florida election debacle, I have been forced to a conclusion that I may have been unconsciously fending off. The Democratic party thinks we’re stupid. Not “amiable uncle Joe” stupid, but DANGEROUSLY stupid.

Lead-by-the-hand-no-sharp-objects-don’t-put-that-in-your-mouth stupid.

And they don’t think that just Republicans and independents are stupid, no no! They think ANYBODY not in the Democratic power elite is, by definition, a drooling idiot. A muttering moron. Pinheads barely capable of dressing ourselves.

Take, for example, the position under which the Gore election machine petitioned for a recount – that only supporters of the Democratic candidate for President lacked the skills necessary to vote properly, and that through a manual recount those erroneously marked ballots could be “properly” counted in Mr. Gore’s favor. They did this in open court and on national television, and with a straight face.

So, it is with some regret that I can no longer hold that uncomfortable conclusion at bay:

They’re right. We are.

Not all of us, of course, but enough. Those of us still capable of intelligent, logical, independent thought have been overwhelmed by the public school system production lines that have been cranking out large quantities of substandard product for the last thirty-five years or so. The majority of three or four generations have managed to make it into the working world with no knowledge of history, no understanding of the Constitution or civics, no awareness of geography, no ability to do even mildly complex mathematics, no comprehension of science, and realistically little to no ability to read with comprehension, or write with clarity. And we seem to have developed attention spans roughly equivalent to that of your average small bird.

After all, about half the public accepted the Democratic premise that we were too stupid to vote correctly because their guy didn’t win by a landslide, didn’t they? And the other half was outraged, not that they made such a ludicrous argument, but that they didn’t want to play fair and by the rules that no one seems to understand or to be able to explain.

The other majority party isn’t blameless in this; they like an ignorant electorate too. It’s easier to lead people who can’t or won’t think for themselves. It took both parties and many years of active bipartisan meddling to make the education system into an international laughingstock.

As you can see, I’ve held this opinion for some time now.

Would you like some example of what I’m talking about here? I have just the thing, thanks to Dr. Sanity. Here are some quotes by psychologists – certainly the recipients of some of the highest levels of education – specifically on what they believe the function of public education ought to be, via PsychQuotes.com:

“Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future”
Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Psychiatrist, address to the Childhood International Education Seminar, 1973

“We have swallowed all manner of poisonous certainties fed us by our parents, our Sunday and day school teachers, our politicians, our priests, our newspapers, and others with a vested interest in controlling us. ‘Thou shalt become as gods, knowing good and evil,’ good and evil with which to keep children under control, with which to impose local and familial and national loyalties and with which to blind children to their glorious intellectual heritage… The results, the inevitable results, are frustration, inferiority, neurosis and inability to enjoy living, to reason clearly or to make a world fit to live in.”
Dr. G. Brock Chisholm, President, World Federation of Mental Health

Teaching school children to read was a “perversion” and high literacy rate bred “the sustaining force behind individualism.”
John Dewey, Educational Psychologist

He says that like individualism is a bad thing.

The school curriculum should “…be designed to bend the student to the realities of society, especially by way of vocational education… the curriculum should be designed to promote mental health as an instrument for social progress and a means of altering culture…”
Report: Action for Mental Health, 1961

“Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their school masters would have wished … The social psychologist of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at: first, that influences of the home are ‘obstructive’ and verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective … It is for the future scientist to make these maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for more than one generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen.”
Bertrand Russell quoting (one assumes approvingly – ed.) Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the head of philosophy & psychology who influenced Hegel and others – Prussian University in Berlin, 1810

“…through schools of the world we shall disseminate a new conception of government – one that will embrace all of the collective activities of men; one that will postulate the need for scientific control and operation of economic activities in the interests of all people.”
Harold Rugg, student of psychology and a disciple of John Dewey

Dewey raises his ugly head again.

“Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know – it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.”
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) sponsored report: The Role of Schools in Mental Health

“This is the idea where we drop subject matter and we drop Carnegie Unites (grading from A-F) and we just let students find their way, keeping them in school until they manifest the politically correct attitudes. You see, one of the effects of self-esteem (Values Clarification) programs is that you are no longer obliged to tell the truth if you don’t feel like it. You don’t have to tell the truth because if the truth you have to tell is about your own failure then your self-esteem will go down and that is unthinkable.”
Dr. William Coulson, explaining Outcome Based Education

These are the kind of people who have been influencing public education for the last century.

And you wonder why so few Americans have critical thinking skills anymore? Let’s not blame television. The populace had to be prepped first.

Continuing with Gore’s piece:

And what if an individual citizen or group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But too often they are not allowed to do even that. MoveOn.org tried to buy an ad for the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast to express opposition to Bush’s economic policy, which was then being debated by Congress. CBS told MoveOn that “issue advocacy” was not permissible. Then, CBS, having refused the MoveOn ad, began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the president’s controversial proposal. So MoveOn complained, and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporarily, I mean it was removed until the White House complained, and CBS immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the MoveOn ad.

Was the .gov piece run as a “public service” spot? Did CBS run any other paid “advocacy” commercials? I mean besides for excessive beer drinking? Did CBS deny MoveOn commercial time on any evening sitcoms or during its Evening News broadcast?

Sorry, but I’m just not getting all that worked up here. I understand that the SwiftBoat Veterans for Truth had some trouble getting their ads placed on national television as well.

To understand the final reason why the news marketplace of ideas dominated by television is so different from the one that emerged in the world dominated by the printing press, it is important to distinguish the quality of vividness experienced by television viewers from the “vividness” experienced by readers. Marshall McLuhan’s description of television as a “cool” medium—as opposed to the “hot” medium of print—was hard for me to understand when I read it 40 years ago, because the source of “heat” in his metaphor is the mental work required in the alchemy of reading. But McLuhan was almost alone in recognizing that the passivity associated with watching television is at the expense of activity in parts of the brain associated with abstract thought, logic, and the reasoning process. Any new dominant communications medium leads to a new information ecology in society that inevitably changes the way ideas, feelings, wealth, power and influence are distributed and the way collective decisions are made.

As a young lawyer giving his first significant public speech at the age of 28, Abraham Lincoln warned that a persistent period of dysfunction and unresponsiveness by government could alienate the American people and that “the strongest bulwark of any government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectively be broken down and destroyed — I mean the attachment of the people.”

Thomas Jefferson beat him to it:

The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive; if they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.

Lethargy we’ve got, in abundance.

Many Americans now feel that our government is unresponsive and that no one in power listens to or cares what they think.

Case in point: today’s “compromise” immigration legislation.

They feel disconnected from democracy. They feel that one vote makes no difference, and that they, as individuals, have no practical means of participating in America’s self-government. Unfortunately, they are not entirely wrong. Voters are often viewed mainly as targets for easy manipulation by those seeking their “consent” to exercise power. By using focus groups and elaborate polling techniques, those who design these messages are able to derive the only information they’re interested in receiving from citizens — feedback useful in fine-tuning their efforts at manipulation. Over time, the lack of authenticity becomes obvious and takes its toll in the form of cynicism and alienation. And the more Americans disconnect from the democratic process, the less legitimate it becomes.

“Lack of authenticity” from a guy who did a creditable imitation of a cardboard cutout and had to pay Naomi Wolf for advice on how to act like an “alpha male.”

Gore should do standup.

Many young Americans now seem to feel that the jury is out on whether American democracy actually works or not. We have created a wealthy society with tens of millions of talented, resourceful individuals who play virtually no role whatsoever as citizens. Bringing these people in — with their networks of influence, their knowledge, and their resources — is the key to creating the capacity for shared intelligence that we need to solve our problems.

Translated: “We need their money.”

Unfortunately, the legacy of the 20th century’s ideologically driven bloodbaths has included a new cynicism about reason itself — because reason was so easily used by propagandists to disguise their impulse to power by cloaking it in clever and seductive intellectual formulations.


The 20th century’s ideologically driven bloodbaths? I thought television was at fault for all of this. We didn’t get TV until the latter half of the 20th century. Prior to that it was newspapers and radio.

Let’s put the blame for the 20th century’s ideological bloodbaths where it belongs: on the shoulders of failed philosophies that were emotionally appealing, but logically insupportable – communism and fascism. And the majority of the victims of the 20th century’s bloodbaths were victims of their own governments – not victims of war between opposing powers. Further, television wasn’t all that widespread in those countries. That required the benefits of capitalism.

When people don’t have an opportunity to interact on equal terms and test the validity of what they’re being “taught” in the light of their own experience and robust, shared dialogue, they naturally begin to resist the assumption that the experts know best.

Err… what? When people DO have the opportunity to interact and test the validity of what they’re being taught is when they resist the assumption that the “experts” know best. It’s when they’re denied the ability that “groupthink” arises. Why do you think there’s a press on to reinstitute the “fairness doctrine?” To stifle voices one side doesn’t want you to hear – the side questioning the “experts.”

So the remedy for what ails our democracy is not simply better education (as important as that is) or civic education (as important as that can be), but the re-establishment of a genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way — a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response.

Here’s where I finally start to agree with Gore.

Fortunately, the Internet has the potential to revitalize the role played by the people in our constitutional framework. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge. It’s a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It’s a platform, in other words, for reason.

But the Internet must be developed and protected, in the same way we develop and protect markets — through the establishment of fair rules of engagement and the exercise of the rule of law.

The same ferocity that our Founders devoted to protect the freedom and independence of the press is now appropriate for our defense of the freedom of the Internet. The stakes are the same: the survival of our Republic. We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it, because of the threat of corporate consolidation and control over the Internet marketplace of ideas.

The danger arises because there is, in most markets, a very small number of broadband network operators. These operators have the structural capacity to determine the way in which information is transmitted over the Internet and the speed with which it is delivered. And the present Internet network operators—principally large telephone and cable companies — have an economic incentive to extend their control over the physical infrastructure of the network to leverage control of Internet content. If they went about it in the wrong way, these companies could institute changes that have the effect of limiting the free flow of information over the Internet in a number of troubling ways.

The democratization of knowledge by the print medium brought the Enlightenment. Now, broadband interconnection is supporting decentralized processes that reinvigorate democracy. We can see it happening before our eyes: As a society, we are getting smarter. Networked democracy is taking hold. You can feel it. We the people — as Lincoln put it, “even we here” — are collectively still the key to the survival of America’s democracy.

While I agree with what he says here, I cannot help but believe that what he actually intends would have a result counterproductive to his (stated) ends. Or am I exhibiting critical thinking skills here and questioning the expert?

Fool me once, shame on you…

Mugged by Reality.

Back four years ago when I started this blog, I posted the two-part essay Is the Government Responsible for Your Protection? It was a piece I had originally written and posted in the Gun Dungeon of DemocraticUnderground.com. Needless to say, it got some interesting responses from the denizens there. Via David Hardy we have fascinating case study of what it takes to turn an opponent of concealed-carry into a supporter – that of Ohio State Rep. Michael DeBose.

Here’s his story, as told by the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Run-in changes lawmaker’s stance

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Phillip Morris

It’s funny how a gun can in stantly change your perspec tive on things, make you wish you could rewrite history.

State Rep. Michael DeBose, a southside Cleveland Democrat, discovered this lesson the night of May 1, when he thought he was going to die. That’s the night he wished he had that gun vote back.

DeBose, who had just returned from Columbus, where he had spent the day in committee hearings, decided to take a short walk up Holly Hill, the street where he has lived with his wife for the past 27 years.

It was late, but DeBose, 51, was restless. The ordained Baptist minister knew his Lee-Harvard neighborhood was changing, but he wasn’t scared. The idle, young men who sometimes hang out on his and adjacent streets didn’t threaten him.

He is a big man and, besides, he had run the same streets before he found Jesus – and a wife. That night, he just needed a walk.

The loud muffler on a car that slowly passed as he was finishing the walk caught his attention, though. When the car stopped directly in front of his house – three houses from where he stood – he knew there was going to be a problem.

“There was a tall one and a short one,” DeBose said, sipping on a McDonald’s milkshake and recounting the experience Friday.

“The tall one reached in his pocket and pulled out a silver gun. And they both started running towards me.”

“At first I just backed up, but then I turned around and started running and screaming.”

“When I started running, the short boy stopped chasing and went back to the car. But the tall boy with the gun kept following me. I ran to the corner house and started banging on Mrs. Jones’ door.”

It was at that point that the would-be robbers realized that their prey wasn’t worth the trouble. Besides, Cheryl, DeBose’s wife, and a daughter had heard his screams and had raced out to investigate. Other porch lights began to flicker on.

The loud muffler sped off, and DeBose started rethinking his gun vote.

DeBose twice voted against a measure to allow Ohioans to carry concealed weapons. It became law in 2004.

DeBose voted his conscience. He feared that CCW permits would lead to a massive influx of new guns in the streets and a jump in gun violence. He feared that Cleveland would become the O.K. Corral, patrolled by legions of freshly minted permit holders.

“I was wrong,” he said Friday.

“I’m going to get a permit and so is my wife.

“I’ve changed my mind. You need a way to protect yourself and your family.

“I don’t want to hurt anyone. But I never again want to be in the position where I’m approached by someone with a gun and I don’t have one.”

DeBose said he knows that a gun doesn’t solve Cleveland’s violence problem; it’s merely a street equalizer.

“There are too many people who are just evil and mean-spirited. They will hurt you for no reason. If more people were packing guns, it might serve as a deterrent.

“But there obviously are far deeper problems that we need to address,” he added, as he suddenly seemed to realize he sounded like a gun enthusiast.

They say the definition of a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. DeBose’s CCW application will bear some witness to that notion.

At the end of Part 2 of Is the Government Responsible… I concluded:

(The) majority is largely unaware that they are the ones responsible for their own safety. They depend on the police almost exclusively for their safety and protection from crime. In their fear of violence, they fear the other “herbivores” with guns, too. They do so because some gun owners are idiots, but mostly because they’re told that guns are the cause of crime, and they don’t know any better. They don’t accept that general citizens who are willing to resist crime are an asset, not a liability to society.

So what am I advocating? I am advocating educating the citizens of our society as to their rights and attendant duties. That way they can make educated decisions as to their own protection, and that of their fellow citizens. Then if they decide that, for them, actively opposing crime is not an option, they won’t be so eager to deny the means to those who decide it’s the moral thing to do.

In other words, I trust my fellow-man to make the right decision if given all the information.

Representative DeBose just got his PhD in the rights and duties of self-defense.

Too bad it required very nearly being the victim of a violent crime, but that’s often what it takes. Or worse.

Hopefully he’ll feel some shame for the fact that he twice voted to deny to his constituents what he will now be exercising himself.

He May Not Have Declared, but He’s Definitely Campaigning

If you haven’t already heard, Michael Moore challenged Fred Thompson to a debate over an op-ed Thompson wrote in National Review about Moore’s trip to Cuba for his latest “documentary.” Moore’s challenge was published this morning. Thompson’s video response was posted by noon.

As others have said, I have no doubt far more eyes will see Thompson’s video that will watch even 60 seconds of tonight’s Republican “debate.” There’s already eleven links to the Volunteer Voters page and 160 to the original Breitbart page, among them Oliver Willis who writes:

Can anyone seriously watch this clip of Fred Thompson “responding” to Michael Moore and not say the guy is a freaking joke?

Which only goes to prove that screaming Leftists have absolutely no sense of humor.

Unless he was talking about Michael? No. Didn’t think so.

Oh yes, Fred Thompson is campaigning. And I don’t think the other candidates are going to know what hit them.

UPDATE: OK, I retract that “60 seconds” comment above. I just watched the 60-second YouTube clip of Ron Paul v. Rudy.

THAT left a mark.

UPDATE 5/18: Peggy Noonan validates me.

Express a Politically Incorrect Opinion, Lose Your Right to Arms.

Phil at Random Nuclear Strikes has a very, very important piece posted that everyone concerned with their right to arms needs to read: What is going on inside your head. If you’ve not heard the story of Hamline University student Troy Scheffler, you need to get up to speed quick. And when you look at some of the legislation proposed in the wake of the VATech massacre, you need to do it NOW.

After all, if newspaper editors can consider concealed-carry permit holders the equivalent of sex-offenders, it’s not such a stretch to consider them dangerous paranoids, is it? After all, some people already do.