Cook’s Postulate

The key to understanding the American system is to imagine that you have the power to make nearly any law you want. But your worst enemy will be the one to enforce it. – Author Rick Cook

On Friday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070, which will become law (assuming no successful court challenges in the interim) in about three months. There has been quite a national uproar over the bill (PDF), ostensibly designed to deal with what is essentially uncontrolled illegal immigration into and through Arizona, along with kidnappings, drug smuggling and, recently, drug cartel warfare coming across the border as well. One of the primary questions is, “is the bill Constitutional.” Even Instapundit took up that question. Quite possibly part of it is not, though it’s difficult to see where the majority of the law wouldn’t be.

Still, as Vox pointed out over lunch yesterday, this looks like the right-wing’s “big government” reaction to an admittedly profound problem: “DO something!!

Thus we return to Cook’s Postulate. Does this law pass, for example, Joe Huffman’s “Jews in the Attic” test? Honestly, I doubt it. And I’m concerned about the unintended consequences of this law (which, admittedly runs a paltry 17 pages, as opposed to, say, the “health care” bill’s 2000-plus pages).

Whatever happens as a result of the passage of this law, I doubt seriously it will be much of an improvement over present conditions. Remember, any law that is passed can be enforced by your worst enemy.

Rio Salado Open House

Yesterday I drove up to Phoenix in order to have lunch with some Arizona bloggers and make a visit to the Usery Pass target range managed by the Rio Salado Sportsmen’s Club and Arizona Game & Fish. Attendance at the restaurant was slight, but I did meet the lovely Vox and her significant other, and Papa Todd, so my list of “bloggers I’ve met” has grown a little.

After lunch we visited the range. The facilities boast:

  • Covered shooting benches with target holders from 25 to 300 yards
  • A Practical Pistol range with 4 lighted bays from 25 to 50 yards
  • A lighted, covered 40-position Smallbore Range to 100 meters
  • Covered long range rifle and pistol silhouette ranges to 500 meters
  • High power rifle range to 500 yards
  • Sporting Clays Range – 12 stations, cart accessible, card based activation
  • 5-Stand, Trap, Wobble Trap facility with lights and voice activation
  • Indoor Air Rifle Range coordinated by our Junior Division
  • Restrooms, Activity Center, and Training Classrooms

They had it all set up for visitors to try, most of them for free, and the turnout looked pretty good. This is something I think I’ll bring up at the next Tucson Rifle Club board meeting.

I took a few pictures and shot a little video, nothing worth posting unfortunately, except this sign:

I doubt seriously anyone was killed or injured at the range yesterday, or on any range in Arizona. Gun ban control SAFETY advocates so often complain about how dangerous guns are, and they can be. They are, after all, designed to hurl small metal projectiles at high velocity, but that sign says why, in the overwhelming majority, the several billion rounds fired recreationally in this country each year harm no one.

On the other hand, while driving the 120 miles back home, traffic on I-10 East slowed to a crawl at one point. After about ten minutes of creeping along at about 10-15 mph tops, there were several lumps of clothing scattered down the right shoulder:

That was just a couple. There were at least five or six like those. Then there was obvious evidence that someone had lost control, and gone from the right shoulder into the median, and shortly after that, the scene of the accident:

A couple of miles further down the road in a closed rest area were a couple of ambulances and a Life Flight helicopter spooling up to take off. I didn’t get a shot of that.

Hopefully no one got ejected from the vehicle, but those lumps of clothing that looked like the were spilled from luggage makes me wonder.

I’ve never felt unsafe on a target range, but driving in traffic at highway speeds? And people think GUNS are dangerous?

Quote of the Day – Mordor Edition

The run into Chicago through Lake County, Indiana always reminds me of Frodo & Sam approaching the borders of Mordor: The vegetation gets blighted and unhealthy looking; there are murky pools and low-lying swamps that look like they could contain anything from tentacled horrors to Blinky the three-eyed fish; whole neighborhoods of rusting industry and boarded-up homes can be seen from the highway; and atop a giant black pinnacle on the horizon is the malevolent, unblinking red eye of Mayor Daley… Or maybe it’s just the aircraft warning light atop the Sears Tower; it’s hard to tell from a distance. – Tam, Chicago, part one:

I needed something to grin about today…

Just a Couple of Things

I’m way behind, I know, but I wanted to get these links out.

First, I strongly recommend you read the text of Vanderboegh’s April 19 speech. Seriously. It’s damned good, and it needs saying and spreading around. I’ve been known to use the key phrase myself occasionally.

Second, I want you to read this post at The Ultimate Answer to Kings, which carries today’s Quote of the Day, because Joel’s right:

The people at those rallies aren’t the extremists. They’re just good, brave people who still believe in the political process. The real extremists stayed home, because they don’t.


Can’t have! (Didn’t win the lottery. Some schmuck in Missouri did.) I’ve got the money to pay off my still-indeterminate delivery M14, but not for this:

US model M1903A4 Springfield bolt action 30.06 Rifles. These Rifles are built using original Remington-made World War II M1903A3 actions and turned-down bolts. These fine Rifles feature newly manufactured 4-groove barrels identical to the originals. Each receiver is carefully drilled and tapped using replicas of the original “Redfield” rings and mounts and an exact copy of the M73B1 scope, used on the 1st model M1903A4’s. Each barreled action has the original military parkerized finish

Price? A grand.


Do Your Children Know Who Won WWII?

On Tuesday this week author Jerry Pournelle wrote an interesting piece he entitled The Education Mess. I strongly suggest you read it. Here are a few interesting excerpts:

Diane Ravitch was one of the architects of No Child Left Behind, but in her new book she now admits that it isn’t working, and is in fact helping kill the kind of education she advocates. She continues to believe that the American public schools do a poor job, and that we can build a much more successful system of public education.

I agree with her on the first point. She’s dead wrong on the second. We can’t build a better system.

That’s not a cry of despair, it’s a statement of fact. There is never going to be a national school system much better than what we have now. It may get worse, but it won’t get much better.

In 1983 the National Commission on Education, headed by Nobel Laureate Glenn T. Seaborg, wrote that “If a foreign nation had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.” I’ve been pointing this out for years. We have a system of public education indistinguishable from an enemy attack — and it has been getting worse since the Seaborg report.

In 1983.

I graduated from High School in 1980.

The whole thing is quotable, and I’m going to archive it in my records, but I came across something else today that is a perfect companion to Pournelle’s spot-on diagnosis. From a comment at American Digest to his piece Somebody’s Been Raising A Generation of Schmucks:

As the webmaster of an educational resource site for the humanities, we hold focus groups of teachers to get feedback on our site and its content. One teacher from one of D.C.’s tonier private schools pointed out that they no longer teach the “military aspect” of our nation’s wars. She said (in refrence to WWII in particular) they focused on things like the home front, Japanese internment, A. Phillip Randolph and civil rights — you know, the important stuff — but NO “military history.” An astonished history teacher at the table turned to her and asked, “but Susan, do your students at least know who WON World War II?” – Don Rodrigo.

It’s already worse. The suck just isn’t evenly spread around.

I Thought the Goldwater Institute was a THINK Tank

My friend and (former) fearless leader Primeval Papa has had a rather involved discussion with a member of said Institute on the topic of one of their recent commercials. Arizona is attempting to pass by referendum a sales tax increase to recover the loss in revenue due to the economic downturn. The Goldwater Institute commercial picks out several budget items that it calls “waste” available to cut.

The first “waste” item is Arizona Game & Fish planned spending for shooting range maintenance – $800,000 this year.

First picked up by Arizona Bloggers Great Satan, Inc., Primeval Papa went them one better: he has had an extended email exchange with a representative of AuH2O.

Please, go read. That’s MY money, and it’s going where it’s going by law. “Waste” my aching sphincter.

They obviously didn’t think too hard about this one.

Quote of the Day – Balko Edition

On Rooting for Government To FailReason online, Radley Balko. Not long, so I’ll quote the whole thing for my archives:

The American Prospect‘s Mori Dinauer is just a hair off in this post.

I don’t promote government failure, I expect it. And my expectations are met fairly often. What I promote is the idea that more people share my expectations, so fewer people are harmed by government failure, and so we can stop this slide toward increasingly large portions of our lives being subject to the whims, interests, and prejudices of politicians.

I will concede that there’s a problem, here. In the private sector failure leads to obsolescence (unless you happen to work for a portion of the private sector that politicians think should be preserved in spite of failure). When government fails, people like Dinauer and, well, the government claim it’s a sign that we need more government. It’s not that government did a poor job, or is a poor mechanism for addressing that particular problem, it’s that there just wasn’t enough government. Of course, the same people will point to what they call government success as, also, a good argument for more government.

It’s a nifty trick. The right does it with national security. The fact that we haven’t had a major terrorist attack since September 11, 2001 proves that the Bush administration’s heavy-handed, high-security approach to fighting terrorism worked! But if we had suffered another attack, the same people would have been arguing that we need to surrender more of our civil liberties to the security state. Two sides. Same coin.

That Pew poll is also a pretty good indication that the more government tries to do, the more poorly it does it. Your usual caveats about correlation and causation apply, but the federal government certainly didn’t shrink over the period the trust-in-government trend line has taken a nosedive. Note too that during the Clinton administration, federal spending actually shrank as a percentage of GDP, and the federal workforce shrank by nearly 400,000, leaving it at its lowest level since 1960. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s one period in the last 50 years over which trust in the federal government took a sharp climb.

But in general—yes—I think the fact that more people are realizing that government isn’t capable of solving all of their problems is an encouraging trend. Because it isn’t.

“Treat me with benign neglect.” – Ashton O’Dwyer

Vanderleun has a short piece on his sidebar today about Texas Governor Rick Perry, from which comes this excerpt:

I want people elected to Congress, to the United States Senate, and to the presidency in 2012 with the express message that we are going to go to Washington and try to make Washington as inconsequential in your life as we can. I want the states to become the laboratories of innovation and experimentation. And I want to get this country back.

Why is this so difficult for people to understand?

Because we’ve been trained.

Back when I wrote The Church of the MSM and the New Reformation, I quoted part of a comment sent to Glenn Reynolds by reader Mike Gordon:

Perhaps the most pervasive way in which journalists are different from normal people is that journalists live in a world dominated by government, and they reflexively see government action as the default way to approach any problem. Journalists’ world is dominated by government because it’s so easy to cover: Public agencies’ meetings take place on a regular schedule and, with rare exceptions, have to admit journalists. As a result, participants in the meetings play to the press, inside and outside the meeting room, and the result is the elaborate dance of symbolic actions – gaffes, denials, sham indignation, press conferences, inquests and endless process – that dominates our news pages and means next to nothing in the long run.

Journalists tend to give private enterprise short shrift because it’s harder to cover: The meetings are private, aren’t announced in advance, and reporters aren’t invited. Unlike politicians, most businesspeople aren’t required to interact with the press, and many avoid doing so when possible – the downside is usually greater than the upside. As a result, journalists are generally reduced to covering what businesspeople do more than what they say. This is more work, so less of it gets done.

It’s no accident that for the most part, the news is dominated by people whose value is largely driven by how much publicity they receive: politicians, athletes and entertainers. The people who actually make the world work – people in private industry, rank-and-file government employees and conscientious parents – are largely invisible in the news, except when they’re unlucky enough to make one of the rare mistakes that reporters manage to find out about.

And we live in a media-saturated world. Of course it’s government’s job to do something” about whatever the crisis du jour is. Benign neglect? Who on earth wants that?

A lot of us.

I was watching the news this evening, and the topic of the regulation of Wall Street came up. Wall Street, you know, is notoriously unregulated. That’s why all those bad things happened recently, and why the government had to “bail the fat cats out.” Now they want to modify the rules (that apparently don’t already exist, since, you know, there’s no regulation of Wall Street) and among the changes that Washington wants to impose is a $50 BILLION slush fund “controlled liquidation” fund, financed not by tax dollars but by the Wall Street firms themselves.

This, we are told, will help prevent future financial catastrophes.

I cannot help but return to Thomas Sowell and his theory of social visions. The constrained vision, he says, is dependent on incentives to get desired results. The unconstrained vision, he says, is more interested in intent than outcome.

What incentive is there if failure is cushioned? Does this not encourage greater risk-taking? What, then, would be the outcome expected by the constrained side of the aisle?

And when that outcome occurs? What would be the expected response from the unconstrained side? Would it not be “the fund needs to be bigger”? Otherwise known as “escalation of failure” or “do it again, only HARDER“?

I think O’Dwyer uttered the motto of the Tea Party Movement all the way back in 2005: “Treat me with benign neglect.” Or as Rick Perry put it more recently, we want Washington to be as inconsequential in our lives as possible.

Like that’s gonna happen.