Quote of the Day

I’m still playing over at Quora.com.  I’ve recently had an interesting exchange on the question “What can gun owners learn from non-gun owners?” with REDACTED who advertises himself as a Theoretical Biologist at MIT. I won’t reproduce the whole thread, but I will pick out two excerpts from his comments:

(A)s soon as I learn that someone owns a gun, and is pro-gun ownership without heavy regulations, I totally judge them to be uneducated and conservative. Responsible or not, having a gun comes with a mentality of thinking it is ok to buy a killing device. I am happy to do that, because I have yet to meet an intelligent, well educated person who is pro-guns in real life.

But that’s not QotD. This is:

I was never against having guns for shooting ranges, I am against them as means of self-defense (or freedom).

So rare to find one willing to state that in public.

UPDATE:  With respect to the comments here, do you see why I like playing over there?  Talk about a target-rich environment! ;D

UPDATE 2:  Now that I’ve made him aware that I quoted him here, he’s apparently deleted the comment that started the thread these were taken from, thus eliminating the entire thread.  Interestingly enough, I can still access them, just not from the post in question.  Reasoned Discourse™ strikes again!  The guy IS the archetype!

For archival purposes, here’s the last part of that thread-in-question:

Kevin Baker
With respect to your admitted bias, I received a very interesting email this evening and got permission to pass it on. To wit:

“I work in downtown Boston…right across the river from REDACTED. If you can get him to commit to a definition of intelligent and well-educated that isn’t equal to ‘agrees with me,’ I would be happy to produce myself at a Boston Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts so he can, in real life, see a ‘well educated’ pro-2A person, who is also not a conservative.

“Although there’s a reason I normally stay quiet and listen while people like yourself are talking, I should be able to meet any bar for reasonably intelligent that he’s likely to pick. Credentials =/= intelligent or educated, but I wouldn’t trust his personal assessment, so credentials as a proxy would seem to be the way to go. In that vein – I have a Ph.D. from Harvard in Genetics, a Mensa membership card, and am a former Goldwater scholar.

“I self-identify as mostly libertarian – while he’s likely to see some of my views as conservative, I also have plenty that fit well with the liberal stereotype (e.g. I am an atheist that has no problem with gay marriage and would very much like the government to refrain from any involvement in reproductive health/decisions).

“My gunnie creds are pretty solid. In my own right, I am a NRA instructor, former SAS instructor/coordinator, former Hunter Ed instructor, former Board Member for a state 2A-rights organization, etc.

“I am happy to be Exhibit A in this instance.”

So if you’d like to broaden your experience with an educated non-conservative, there’s a volunteer willing to meet you right there in Boston! Let me know. I think this get-together would be FASCINATING.

The fact that he brings up mensa, after harvard, is quite puzzling.

The fact that Harvard is a rather conservative school, is well-established to me.

The fact that he contacts you, not me, for this, is also not clear.

The fact that he thinks he is exhibit A, is not too impressive either.

He is a very typical libertarian.

His gun certifications make me doubtful of whether I feel comfortable meeting him in person, I rather stay online, but I am willing to meet him if he promises not to bring any guns.

If we meet and I am proven false, I will happily change my statements and judgement about gun enthusiasts. He may define intelligence and education as he wishes.

Kevin Baker
Full disclosure: I’m a blogger, and I used a couple of excerpts from your comments there in a post this morning:

The Smallest Minority (This post – Ed.)

This respondent is not a member of Quora, has not read the thread(s), and sent me an email rather than leaving a comment on my blog – thus did not see your opinion of Mensa prior. And Harvard is conservative? Compared to UC Berkeley, but …

I will forward your response and see where it goes from there.

I am not sure if you were allowed to do that.

You put me at considerable safety hazard, by reproducing my full name and location. And by choosing specific parts of my writing you selected out of context, without my consent, in your own personal domain.

Even if this is legal ( not sure) , it is certainly unethical, which just makes me more worried that you own a gun.

You advocate individual rights, while you take the matter of my privacy completely in your own hands.

Kevin Baker
I beg your pardon? You’re posting on a public forum. Your information is available with a quick and simple Google search (as is mine). You have a Facebook page! And you’re worried about me “outing” you? And GUN OWNERS are paranoid?

If gun owners were 1/10,000th as dangerous as you make us out to be, there WOULDN’T BE ANY ANTI-GUNNERS LEFT.

There’s another related question on Quora – “What can non-owners learn from gun-owners” or words to that effect. How about this? That we’re normal, everyday people who aren’t hair-trigger (pun intended) killers just waiting to snap and blow away everyone in the closest Starbucks?

Good grief man, get ahold of yourself.

Yes, I selected excerpts from your comments. They were the most telling, so that’s what got excerpted. Welcome to internet infamy! Perhaps thousands of people will see your words!

Why else did you post them in the first place?

Hmmm, the safety hazard is not your judgement to make. If over then next 20 years half a million people read your blog (gross overestimate), there is a good chance there is more than a crazy person among them.

My uncle ( a successful surgeon) was shot paralyzed for life by a gun owner, a healthy but racist one, who profiled my uncle as an enemy foreigner in D.C. in 1980. Please give me some room to be paranoid.

What about the ethical perspective? do you think I get the right to stand by and discuss what I say when you present them out of context? No, you didn’t even inform me. That’s very very cowardly. Honestly, I thought you were radical but fair, that’s why I took a shot ( pun intended) to have a conversation. now I don’t even think that.

Why did I post them? because I was having a conversation with you, under your posting.

Thanks to this, I will never discuss these things with people like you. You get to say your stuff and applaud yourself, read some ethics, with an open mind, works on both fronts.

Also, in Quora’s terms of agreement:
(f) contains other people’s private or personally identifiable information without their express authorization and permission, and/or

Kevin Baker

We have already determined that what we were doing was NOT “having a conversation,” we were staking out our positions in a public forum. My condolences to your uncle, but there are crazies in every nation, and not all of them use guns (yes, I include homicidal bigotry as a form of insanity). And D.C. in 1980? Wasn’t that a gun-free zone then?

On the “out of context” argument, please go back and read the entire thread. They ARE the context. I did inform you, admittedly after the fact, but you’re more than welcome to respond in the comments. You needn’t leave an email address – anonymous comments are accepted.

I’m not radical, I’m fanatical – defined as “won’t change my mind, won’t change the subject and won’t shut up.” But I suspect you are the same.

It has been my experience that anti-gun people are of one of two types – those who have suffered direct or indirect loss from violence involving a firearm, or the merely philosophically involved. You are obviously one of the former, and for that reason your position is somewhat more understandable.

My posting of your comments was not unethical. What moral principle did I violate? Certainly not your privacy. I’m sorry you were offended/frightened, but that’s your perception, not my fault. Perhaps ten million people may eventually read THIS thread, and they can Google you just as I did.

Welcome to the internet.

My correspondent has replied:

“As I work in Boston and am not a MA resident, I will of necessity be sans firearms when I meet him. He can rest easy on that count.”

Contact information: [REDACTED]

Assuming, of course, that you’re not too frightened to carry through now.

With respect to subsection f) which you added above, please see the following under “Quora’s licenses to you”:

“Quora gives you a worldwide, royalty-free, non-assignable and non-exclusive license to re-post any of the Content on Quora anywhere on the rest of the web provided that the Content was added to the Service after April 22, 2010, and provided that the user who created the content has not explicitly marked the content as not for reproduction, and provided that you: (a) do not modify the Content; (b) attribute Quora by name in readable text and with a human and machine-followable link (an HTML anchor tag) linking back to the page displaying the original source of the content on http://quora.com on every page that contains Quora content; (c) upon request, either by Quora or a user, remove the user’s name from Content which the user has subsequently made anonymous;”

I’ll remove the link and description of you in my blog post, but it seems to me that subsection f) applies to posting HERE at Quora, not elsewhere. Also, it appears that I am remiss in not linking to this page in my blog post, per Quora’s terms, so I’ll be doing that instead.

See? Understanding of the law is a very important thing. Unless, apparently, you’re the President, and can just unilaterally decide what parts of the law you want to enforce or not.

I’ve edited just a tiny bit for readability, but that’s the end of a LONG thread exchange that he apparently doesn’t want anyone to read anymore.

I guess I can add another item to my list of things gun owners can learn from non-gun owners. I’ll leave it to you to determine what that item is.

Quote of the Day – Victor Davis Hanson Edition

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The great mystery of America today is how many of us have joined Pajama Boy nation — 20%, 40%, 60%? — and how many want nothing to do with such metrosexual visions of a huge state run by a nerdocracy, incompetently doling out other people’s money. How many were on board for Obamacare, more entitlements, and lectures from the apartheid elite on inequality and fairness, versus how many turn the channel at sound of His voice.

Pajama Boy is the bookend to vero possumus, the faux-Greek columns, the Obama rainbow logo, cooling the planet and lowering the seas, hope and change, Forward!, “Yes, we can!”, the Nate Silver infatuation, Barbara Walters’ “messiah,” David Brooks’ crease, Chris Matthews’ tingle, and the army of Silicon techies who can mobilize for Obama but not for Obamacare. These are the elites without identities who feed on the latest fad. They are the upper-crust versions of those who once mobbed stores to buy the last Cabbage Patch Kids doll, or had to have a pet rock on their dresser. Obama, after all, was the lava lamp and Chia Pet of the young urban progressive.

— Victor Davis Hanson, Works and Days: Pajama Boy Nation

PSA – Wal*Mart ReliOn Blood Glucose Tester & Test Strips

On September 1, 2010, my doctor informed me that I was Type II diabetic.  Oh, joy.  I’m able to control it through diet (my last A1c test came back at 5.9), but my body doesn’t regulate blood glucose real well.  My doctor gave me a prescription for blood glucose test strips – Freestyle Lite – but even with my prescription coverage, these things work out to about 75¢ per test, and the prescription is for two tests a day.  Basically, insurance partially defrays the cost of one 50-count pack of test strips per month.  Personally, I want to keep a closer eye on things, but not at $1+ per test.

I ran across somebody saying good things about WalMart’s ReliOn Prime tester & strips.  These cost only about 22¢ per test, without my medical insurance, so I bought a kit.  I still had some of the Freestyle strips, so I did a side-by-side comparison with my last five Freestyles, and the readings matched  ±3 mg/dl, which is close enough for me.  I’ve used it for a couple of months now, testing 4-5 times a day to keep a closer eye on my blood sugar, and that, I’m sure, helped with my latest A1c test results.

So if you’re diabetic and want to save some money, I can recommend WalMart’s ReliOn brand.  The strips are a little bulkier, the test results are a few seconds slower, and it took me a bit to figure out how to get them into the tester properly (it’s a tight fit), but at less than a third of the cost per test I’m not complaining.  And they don’t require any more blood than the Freestyles do.

What He Said

Ice cream machine is still on the fritz.  Please read what I wish I’d written on the most recent Colorado school shooting.

Rampage shootings end one of two ways – when the shooter decides he’s finished, or a good guy with a gun shows up to force that decision.  The Arapahoe shooting lasted 80 seconds, because a good guy with a gun showed up.  The shooter was armed not only with a shotgun, but with molotov cocktails.  You’ll never hear it in the media, but more people have died at the hands of arsonists than rampage shooters.  He tossed one firebomb.  He never got to use the others.

When There Aren’t Enough Criminals, One Makes Them

That’s a line from Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  The whole quote goes:

There is no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is to crack down on criminals. When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking the law. Create a nation of lawbreakers and then you can cash in on the guilt. Now that’s the system!

I’m currently reading Harvey Silverglate’s Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent which – about two-thirds of the way through so far – has concentrated on how federal prosecutors have pretty much used their power to convict people for doing things that aren’t actually statutorily illegal, or entrapping people into “making false statements” to federal law enforcement officers – while noting that federal law enforcement officers are perfectly free to lie to you without fear of censure, much less prosecution.

My favorite Appellate Court Judge, Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, has written a pretty blistering dissent in the case U.S. v. Olsen (PDF) in which, according to the HuffPo story:

Kenneth Olsen was convicted of “developing a biological agent for use as a weapon.” While there was little question Olsen did try to produce ricin, the problem for the government was that there was little specific evidence that Olsen intended to kill someone with it. He attributed his chemistry to morbid curiosity. The strongest evidence from the government was a bottle of allergy pills found in Olsen’s lab that, according to forensic specialists, contained traces of ricin. This would seem to indicate that Olsen was preparing to use the ricin to poison people.

But at the time of the trial, one forensic who handled the pills, Arnold Melnikoff, was under investigation for forensic misconduct. His testimony had already led to three wrongful convictions. A broad and damning internal investigation of his work looked at 100 randomly-chosen cases and found improprieties in 14 of them, including contaminants in his tests; “mistakes in case documentation, administrative documentation, evidence analysis, data interpretation, and written reports”; and “a tendency for conclusions to become stronger as the case developed, from notes to written reports to testimony.”

AUSA Hicks knew about the investigation of Melnikoff, and its sweeping scope. But not only did he fail to disclose this to Olsen’s attorneys, he allowed Melnikoff’s attorney to characterize is at as an “administrative” review that was limited to one case from 10 years ago.

While the majority of the 9th Circuit panel found that the investigation was favorable evidence that wasn’t turned over to Olsen’s attorneys, the court also determined that the evidence wasn’t “material” to Olsen’s conviction. That is, even if it had been turned over to Olsen’s attorneys, Olsen would likely have been convicted anyway.

Olsen was convicted, appealed, lost, and petitioned for an en banc rehearing by the full 9th Circuit.  That petition was denied.  This is much like my previous favorite dissent, also by Kozinski, when the 9th denied an en banc rehearing of the Silveira v. Lockyer case.


There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it.

As HuffPo explains:

Brady of course is shorthand for the Supreme Court decision that requires prosecutors to turn over exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys. In Olsen, a decision released this week, the 9th Circuit court found extensive prosecutor misconduct on the part of Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks, who works for the Office of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

That’s just one of the tools in the Prosecutor’s toolkit, according to Silverglate.

Kozinski details the facts concerning the forensic scientist who analyzed and prepared for analysis the evidence that was used to convict Olsen. A long trail of procedural error and misconduct in other cases led to the dismissal of this scientist from the Washington State Police lab for incompetence and “gross misconduct,” but the details of the investigation and dismissal were withheld from Olsen’s defense attorney by the Prosecutor. Kozinski:

The panel’s ruling is not just wrong, it is dangerously broad, carrying far-reaching implications for the administration of criminal justice. It effectively announces that the prosecution need not produce exculpatory or impeaching evidence so long as it’s possible the defendant would’ve been convicted anyway. This will send a clear signal to prosecutors that, when a case is close, it’s best to hide evidence helpful to the defense, as there will be a fair chance reviewing courts will look the other way, as happened here.

A robust and rigorously enforced Brady rule is imperative because all the incentives prosecutors confront encourage them not to discover or disclose exculpatory evidence. Due to the nature of a Brady violation, it’s highly unlikely wrongdoing will ever come to light in the first place. This creates a serious moral hazard for those prosecutors who are more interested in winning a conviction than serving justice. In the rare event that the suppressed evidence does surface, the consequences usually leave the prosecution no worse than had it complied with Brady from the outset. Professional discipline is rare, and violations seldom give rise to liability for money damages. Criminal liability for causing an innocent man to lose decades of his life behind bars is practically unheard of. If the violation is found to be material (a standard that will almost never be met under the panel’s construction), the prosecution gets a do-over, making it no worse off than if it had disclosed the evidence in the first place.

Olsen’s prosecution highlights the problem. The prosecutor just did not take his constitutional duty to disclose exculpatory evidence very seriously. This is not the usual case where the prosecutor was unaware of exculpatory evidence being held by the police without his knowledge. The Assistant U.S. Attorney knew Melnikoff was being investigated and promised the district court that he would get more information, but never followed through.

But protecting the constitutional rights of the accused was just not very high on this prosecutor’s list of priorities. The fact that a constitutional mandate elicits less diligence from a government lawyer than one’s daily errands signifies a systemic problem: Some prosecutors don’t care about Brady because courts don’t make them care.

I wish I could say that the prosecutor’s unprofessionalism here is the exception, that his propensity for shortcuts and indifference to his ethical and legal responsibilities is a rare blemish and source of embarrassment to an otherwise diligent and scrupulous corps of attorneys staffing prosecutors’ offices across the country. But it wouldn’t be true. Brady violations have reached epidemic proportions in recent years, and the federal and state reporters bear testament to this unsettling trend.

Kozinski then lists off 29 such cases from 1998 to 2012.

When a public official behaves with such casual disregard for his constitutional obligations and the rights of the accused, it erodes the public’s trust in our justice system, and chips away at the foundational premises of the rule of law. When such transgressions are acknowledged yet forgiven by the courts, we endorse and invite their repetition.

Olsen’s case points to another important problem—that of rogue investigators and forensic experts. Melinkoff’s long history of misconduct, resulting in the wrongful conviction of numerous innocent people, is hardly unique. Just last month, Annie Dookhan, a Massachusetts crime-lab technician, was sentenced to 3–5 years imprisonment after spending several years filing positive results for samples she had not properly tested. Her misconduct tainted over 40,000 drug samples, implicating several thousand defendants (hundreds of whom have already been released).

Followed by another long list of cases.

How do rogue forensic scientists and other bad cops thrive in our criminal justice system? The simple answer is that some prosecutors turn a blind eye to such misconduct because they’re more interested in gaining a conviction than achieving a just result.

We must send prosecutors a clear message: Betray Brady, give short shrift to Giglio, and you will lose your illgotten conviction. Unfortunately, the panel’s decision sends the opposite message. The panel shrugs off an egregious Brady violation as immaterial. Had Melnikoff been fully impeached, the only evidence from which the prosecutor could’ve proven Olsen’s intent to use ricin as a weapon would have been a few Google searches and bookstore receipts. This is surely enough to show a reasonable probability of a different result. By raising the materiality bar impossibly high, the panel invites prosecutors to avert their gaze from exculpatory evidence, secure in the belief that, if it turns up after the defendant has been convicted, judges will dismiss the Brady violation as immaterial.

Kozinski from his Silveira dissent:

Judges know very well how to read the Constitution broadly when they are sympathetic to the right being asserted. We have held, without much ado, that “speech, or . . . the press” also means the Internet…and that “persons, houses, papers, and effects” also means public telephone booths…. When a particular right comports especially well with our notions of good social policy, we build magnificent legal edifices on elliptical constitutional phrases – or even the white spaces between lines of constitutional text. But, as the panel amply demonstrates, when we’re none too keen on a particular constitutional guarantee, we can be equally ingenious in burying language that is incontrovertibly there.

It is wrong to use some constitutional provisions as springboards for major social change while treating others like senile relatives to be cooped up in a nursing home until they quit annoying us. As guardians of the Constitution, we must be consistent in interpreting its provisions. If we adopt a jurisprudence sympathetic to individual rights, we must give broad compass to all constitutional provisions that protect individuals from tyranny. If we take a more statist approach, we must give all such provisions narrow scope. Expanding some to gargantuan proportions while discarding others like a crumpled gum wrapper is not faithfully applying the Constitution; it’s using our power as federal judges to constitutionalize our personal preferences.

It’s not just the Constitution, it’s court precedent, too.  The Ninth Circus, as it is known, is the most “progressive” of the Appellate courts.  It is also the most overturned, but all that needs to happen to change that is one or two Supreme Court appointments.

Understand the importance of the Senate filibuster rule now?

I would love to see Kozinski elevated to the Supreme Court some day.  Now that the Nuclear Option has been exercised by the Democrats, that’s at least remotely possible.  But what will happen to the lower courts over the next three years concerns me greatly.

While You Wait for the Free Ice Cream Machine to Restart

Just a reminder to my Arizona readers that there’ll be a shoot in Casa Grande in January.

The date has been set for the (mumble, mumble, mumble…) annual Central Arizona Blogshoot:  Sunday, January 5, 2014, at the Elsy Pearson Public Shooting Range in Casa Grande, beginning at 0700 and running until we get tired and go home. 

Same as last year, the range opens at 7:00AM. There are no rangemasters. There are no chairs – bring something to sit on. The firing line is covered and there are concrete shooting benches, however.

And the city has porta-potties out there on a permanent basis, so we don’t have to rent our own (but bring your own TP just in case.)

The rules are pretty simple:

No explosives, no .50BMG rifles, clean up after yourself, don’t be a dick.

The rifle range is 300 yards deep with the first berm at 200.  The mountains that form the ultimate backstop are another 300 yards out and farther.  The ground there is reinforced concrete disguised as sun-baked clay. Forget about any target stand that needs to stick into the ground, it ain’t happenin’ short of bringing a sledghammer. Steel and targets that don’t need taping are best. And the benches are funky-shaped. Regular camping chairs are marginal, stools are better. I bring a folding chair, a target stand made of 2″ PVC pipe, and my steel swingers. I also have some .22 rimfire rated rolling targets made of steel.

The other other Kevin will be bringing an M1903, at least 2 AR’s, some pistols and a scattergun or two along with a clay flinger and some clays.  I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll be bringing, but my 1917 Enfield will definitely be coming.  I’d like to try some clays with it again.

I recommend you bring:  water or other non-alcoholic beverages (no alcohol on the range), sunscreen, ear and eye protection.  Ladies, don’t wear anything low-cut or open-necked.  Yes, I’m sure it looks lovely, but you don’t want to catch hot brass down in there.  OPTIONAL:  Something to shoot with, and something to shoot AT.  If you’re a reader or a non-gun blogger interested in coming to a off-the-cuff funshoot, please come on down!  I imagine most of us will be bringing multiple firearms and lots of ammo, but if you don’t, well, I’m willing to let people shoot my stuff (with my ammo), and I’m willing to let them shoot at my targets.

If you’re coming, please let us know in comments, or on the Facebook Event page.