Contra Mozilla

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Two Day, Two Decisions

The Supreme Court of the United States has made (or sustained) two anti-life decision in the last two days. The more widely publicized decision was declared on Monday, striking down the Texas laws placing restrictions of abortion mills in the state. That law would have closed most (though not all) of the mills in the state--though it would not have prevented new mills from opening which met the restriction in the law.

The second decision was made on Tuesday, and was in fact a decision to decline to hear a case. This was a case which also have direct bearing on the rights of conscience, which are at least hypothetically protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution (a document for which the Left has had no use in general of late). This is a case whose decision should have been obvious from the get-go. The State of Washington insists that all pharmacies must be made to dispense (abortifacent) morning-after and week after "contraceptive" pills; some pharmacists--and indeed, some entire pharmacies--have declined to do so, because it violates their consciences to do so. This is a religious liberty issue to the extent that many of these consciences are religiously formed. The teaching of, for example, the Catholic Church in this matter is pretty clear, especially with regard to week-after pills after which fertilization has almost certainly occurred if their is to be a pregnancy at all.

In this case, the Court did not impose a new law by judicial fiat, but rather refused to hear a case which has been wrongly decided (by the always suspect Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals). There were three dissenters form this refusal: justices Alito, Thomas, and Roberts (the only three remotely objective justices left on the court). They wrote:
This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern…. Ralph’s has raised more than ‘slight suspicion’ that the rules challenged here reflect antipathy toward religious beliefs that do not accord with the views of those holding the levers of government power. I would grant certiorari to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights.”
Also worth noting are the background to this case and the circumstances under which the law was passed:
Margo Thelen, Rhonda Mesler, and the Stormans family have worked in the pharmacy profession for over seventy years. When a customer requests an abortion-inducing drug, they refer the customer to one of over thirty pharmacies within five miles that willingly sell the drugs. For decades, this has been standard pharmacy practice, has been approved by the American Pharmacists Association, and has been legal in all 50 states.

But in 2007, Washington adopted a new law making referrals for reasons of conscience illegal. The law was passed in a cloud of controversy, with then-Governor Christine Gregoire threatening to terminate the State Pharmacy Commission and replacing Commission members with new ones recommended by abortion-rights activists. The law leaves pharmacies free to refer patients elsewhere for a wide variety of reasons related to business, economics, and convenience—but not for reasons of conscience. Because of the law, Margo Thelen lost her job, Rhonda Mesler was threatened with losing hers, and the Stormans family faces the loss of its pharmacy license.
The burning times continue apace.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Right to Food

An analogy:

In related news, the US Supreme Court has ruled 6-2 against the right of those who commit "reckless" (as opposed to pre-meditated, or as opposed to intentional?) acts of domestic violence from owning firearms. On the face of it, this seems like a good and common-sense ruling. One wonders if these restrictions ever sunset (and also, why Justice Sotomayer, a reliable liberal, dissented). Does a profound and even violent misjudgment which occurred once in one's younger years mean that one forfeits one's rights for life? In some cases, the answer is yes--but others may or may not be as clear-cut*.

I do in general favor restrictions against granting violent criminals the ability to obtain firearms. On the other hand, I've also noticed that "violent criminal" is not necessarily the same thing as, say, being on the no-fly list, or being convicted of a felony. Intentionally hitting one's domestic partner almost certainly qualifies, provided that there is no mitigating circumstance.

*Example of the latter: the kangaroo "courts" set up on campuses (and via social media) the world over which exist to destroy the reputations (and lives) of men who have been accused of sexual assault, no matter how fraudulent and libelous the accusation.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Unfettered Access

Unfettered access to murder: that seems to be what the Left in general, and their puppets on the Supreme Court of the United States in particular--are pushing for.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Britain has voted for the right thing, and Brexit won in referendum. People in Texas have again begun with the "Texit" talk--what we need is not so much a Texit (which would be especially bad news for every other red state) as a more limited federal government in general, and this includes the courts.

Throw in a roaming capital (rather than one anchored in and thus perpetually diverting the nation's wealth to Washington D.C.) for good measure. It would be a nice change for state and local laws to actually matter, and for decisions to be made more locally and by people who will have to live with these decisions rather than by presidential or judicial (or bureaucratic) fiat.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

When Amateur Hour Ends

The current Administration has proven to be largely an amateur operation. This has hurt us internationally, primarily: it is, in my opinion, best when the domestic policy of the country (at least) is for the most part decided by the states. On the other hand, Amateur Hour does not last forever, even in this Administration. There are certain things which President Obama and his underlings have approached with a dogged persistence: stamping on the states' already-too-limited powers and authorities is one such thing.

But it should be clear to any impartial observer that a significant goal of this Administration has been to go after the rights and freedoms and way of life of those whom disagree with the President. It has been to engage in social engineering, and to marginalize those who are on the opposite side of the Culture Wars: not only to prevent us from getting what we want, but to needlessly take from us what they don't need. The (happily failed) attempt at passing the Freedom of Choice Act was the first and most obvious case of this. The tyrannical HHS abortion/sterilization/contraceptives mandate was another, which has been partially overturned by the Courts*. And the latest is that that the Tyrant and his Minions are insisting that churches must be forced to cover abortions in California**.

It seems that the goal of the Left in general and this Administration in particular is to ensure not only that our civilization collapse into barbarism, but that Christians should be the targets of the barbarians when the burning times come.

*It is largely still in force, however: the Courts have taken Little Sister of the poor off the hook, largely, but most private business are not. In some ways, this is a Pyrrhic victory for the good guys, in that while the Little Sisters of the Poor have retained their freedom of conscience rights, many Catholic business owners are still having theirs trampled on; but the gullible public, which is alternatively feed propaganda and then left with no news at all by the various Left-wing stooges in the media, tends to have less sympathy for the rights of a small business owner than for the rights of a habited religious (for now).

**Granted, this is a collaboration between the administration and a depraved state's government: it's only a matter of time before other states and perhaps the federal government directly follow suit

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Roundup of Post-Orlando Links and Commentary

There are, of course, quite a few commentators talking about the Orlando Massacre--both of the "professional" and from the "armchair/amateur" variety--and not all of them are saying good or even intelligent things. Some on the Left are (rather predictably) attempting to blame the NRA and especially conservative Christians for this atrocity. The NRA, maybe, but then again if the FBI would enforce existing (mostly common sense) gun laws, a lot of these problems would go away.

The Ruger SR9 without extended grip.
Nor do I think that banning high-capacity semiautomatic weapons is necessarily "common sense," in part because I do not think there is a reasonable "common"definition for "high capacity." Is 7 round high capacity? I have a revolver which holds this many, so presumably not. Is it 10? There are handguns which can carry up to just fewer than 20 (the Ruger SR9, for example*), without being obviously overdone. Indeed, it is the magazine size and not necessarily the gun which fires the magazine which determines the ammunition capacity, and there exist "high-capacity" (more than 20 rounds) after-marker magazines for many common handguns.

For that matter, the (relatively lower-caliber, lower-power for a rifle/carbine) AR-15 could in principal accept a 10-round magazine. For that matter, there exist after-market limiters for the AR-15 which limit it to 10 rounds. Placing a ban on magazine capacity is virtually impossible in the US, shy of simply banning all semi-automatic guns (rifle, carbine, handgun, etc) for the simple reason that a semi-automatic gun need not use only the magazine made by the original manufacturer.

It could be argues that what is needed is not an absolute ban on magazine capacity, but rather ammunition sales in a given time frame. However, this does nothing to prevent a person from making (or even reloading) their own ammunition, nor from simply "saving" ammunition**. This is of course assuming that such an "ammunition limit" can be feasibly implemented in the first place. It also overlooks the fact that such a limit may prove detrimental to the ability of anyone who needs to buy ammunition for the purpose of practicing***. I suppose there could be a loophole for buying and then using ammo at the range, but then how would this actually be enforced?

Another alternative is to attempt to regulate neither magazine capacity nor bullet caliber, but some combination of both. The reasoning here is simple: different calibers will be more or less likely to be lethal, and thus more or less likely to be used for a mass shooting. Nobody is particularly worried about a mass shooter unloading 30 rounds of 0.22 caliber bullets into a crowded area, in the sense that while this would be very, very bad, and while is certainly could result in some death or serious injuries, the odd are that a shooter using this caliber of ammunition will not wrack up a high body count. Indeed, I would bet that said shooter would almost certainly wrack up a lower body count than a man using a 0.357 revolver in the same crowded area.

Of course, by limiting "high-caliber" rounds (and given that 0.223/5.56 NATO rounds prove quite lethal when fired from an AR-15) one may inadvertently encourage shooters to pack a combination of low-capacity, high caliber and low-caliber, high-capacity weapons (to say nothing about the aforementioned point about the difficulty of actually regulating magazine capacity). And as one observer has noted, "gun wounds are often preferable to the alternatives," and moreover,
"On guns, it is a little known fact that even in the Natted States Merica, where they seem rather more easily available than elsewhere, they do not account for the majority of murders. Convenient as guns may be for this purpose, if you are a Merican (according to the latest FBI statistics) you are six times more likely to be murdered with a knife; and with a rifle, only one chance in fifty. That the murder rate itself is higher than in some other countries, I will happily concede. What can we say? Mericans just like to kill each other. Banning guns won’t help."
I should note here that I am not in principle opposed to limiting magazine capacities--though I question whether there is a magic number to which they should be limited--nor to such things as expanded background checks, mandatory waiting periods, or (better still) randomly assigned waiting periods of arbitrary duration (not to exceed a month or so). In the past, I have favored what I would call the "national gun buyers identity" which would allow a person the ability to purchase as many or as few guns as he chooses without further background checks for a limited period of time, which is then renewable upon completing a thorough background check upon expiration.

I am, however, quite skeptical that any other these things will actually help. The US homicide rate in general--and also the homicide by firearms rate--has been decreasing for some time--the overall homicide rate in the US is at a 51 year low, according to the FBI. For that matter, so has the violent crimes rate, and our overall rate of violent crime is actually lower than that of Britain (though our homicide rate is higher).

What makes me more skeptical than anything against using regulations to lower gun death rates is that this is basically imposing a technical solution on a moral problem. And the moral problem here runs fairly deeply, and exists on several levels. For one thing, we as a society, indeed as a civilization (I am here including Europe as well) have become virtually incapable of naming our enemies, be they human or spiritual. I noted above (and before) that the immediate reaction in the wake of a killing perpetrated by a Mohammedan who may or may not have also been a homosexual but who did pledge allegiance to ISIS was to blame Christians in general and conservative one in particular.

When even moderate Muslims are willing to admit that Mohammedanism is at least in part behind this shooting, it seems clear to me that we who are not Mohammedans, and who have no vested interest in propping us Islam, should be able to do the same. Moreover, we have created an environment in which people are not allowed to turn others away for religious or moral reasons because of anti-discrimination laws. Now these anti-discrimination laws are to some extent good, but they fall prey to the very thing they try to prevent: namely, they do not allow discrimination in cases where discrimination is just.

Case in point: suppose a gun store owner decided to turn away a Muslim because the gun store owner had a suspicion that he was up to no good; what is this suspicion based upon? If the Muslim was acting in good faith, but merely had some social peculiarity, does anyone doubt that he might attempt to sue on anti-discrimination charges, thereby taking the gun shop owner to the kangaroo courts of the civil rights commissions? Yet, sometimes those hunches do prove to be right--as they did in the case of the gunshop owner who refused to sell a gun to Mateen "because he seemed odd." How many gun store owners are more afraid to be convicted of "hate crime" than of inadvertently selling a gun to a mass-shooter? Especially given that the former is more likely than the latter, since (we have all been assured) the vast majority of Muslims are perfectly harmless?

This is just picking on one sub-group of mass shooters and homicidal maniacs, the Muslims. This wasn't an isolated incident, as Mr. John C. Wright points out: during the Obama presidency, 115 people have been killed in the US in the name of Islam, whereas non have been documented to have been killed (or even brutally injured) for believing in Mohammed or Mohammed's God. And I am picking on this group in particular, because it is the one group which we cannot name as terrorists, the one group it has become politically incorrect to call out, and indeed one of the few groups which it has become politically expedient to actively help, and the one group which cannot be called intolerant, especially not of women or gays. It may not be the only group about which we must be dishonest, both publicly and privately, but it is the one group which we must continuously pretend to be "shocked" in learning that the latest terrorist--foreign or domestic--gives allegiance to.

I will add here that there is another sense of moral decline--they are myriad, too many to really discuss in detail here--which plays into all of this, and which regulation simply does not fix. That is the negligence of some--not a majority, but still far too many--actual gun owners. None of these proposed laws will prevent the negligent homicide of a child who finds the loaded gun and shoots himself (or his friend, sibling, or even parent). There is no reasonable law which can prevent this fully. Sure, there may be developed a technology of the sort which can help prevent this--for example, a gun which is bio metrically sensitive****.

There exists already a number of laws which are meant to "idiot-proof" firearms against accidental discharge and/or unauthorized use. But, as the saying goes, any time you idiot-proof something, somebody comes up with a better idiot (the skills of whom are then widely duplicated). The vast majority of these "accidental" firearms homicides (or even injuries) can be chalked up to lack of common sense and/or lack of caution/precaution, or simple negligence (which is another word for "lack of care"). These are, by and large, all moral defects, and cannot be simply legislated away. There are some who go so far as to question whether Americans are "moral" enough to merit the constitutional protections of the Second Amendment. This is perhaps a valid question, but it leads to another--do we merit any of our other rights, either? Such a line of reasoning may quickly lead us to conclusions which are more dangerous, indeed which are in general worse, than the "threat" of firearms from which they were meant to protect us.

*This compact handgun has a manufacturer-included extended-grip magazine which allows 17+1 of 9 mm ammunition, for example; without the extended grip, it's 10+1 rounds. This is a compact pistol, which is meant for concealed carry.

**Incidentally, it might still work to reduce "mass shootings" in the sense of serving as a deterrent to mass shootings committed by a person who is willing to plan for days, weeks, or months. On the other hand, given that a typical "box" of ammunition will have 20-50 rounds in it, and that it's generally recommended that one put hundreds of rounds downrange for practice to keep up marksmanship (to say nothing of competition shooters), it would seem to me that this kind of law will have very little effect on preventing mass shootings.

***Typical advice says practice live-firing your gun once per month, 50 rounds each time, minimum. That is 600 rounds per year, minimum!

****While we are at it, why not insist on a second law which disables the gun when outside of the user's house/property/hunting area/competition area/gun range? There are, of course, a variety of problems with this, not least of which is the obvious infringement on freedoms inherent in using, for example, a gps tracker to locate said gun. In a country with a history of mistrust of the government in general, and with respect to gun confiscation in particular, such a law is a non-starter, arguably worse even than gun registration. Perhaps the technology exists to do this without a gps, e.g. the gun has a receiver only and no transmitter, the transmitters can be bought and placed in the home--but then, what is to prevent one from being transported along with the gun?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Comfort and the Middle Class

I've been reading through Richard Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences (finally!). It is a good read--the man taught rhetoric, so it is well-written, generally--and quite thought-provoking. There are some passages which read as odd, or even "cranky" at times, and not merely because they challenge some of the underlying assumptions upon which our modern society is built.

However, I have found that there is one long-lasting distraction through this book, which is that Weaver had a serious axe to grind against the Middle Class. He can't seen to make it more than a few pages before returning to the common theme, which is that the great ills of society ought all to be laid at the feet of the Middle Class (he does, in fact, use the term "bourgeoisie" on numerous occasions) to to those who have capitulated to it.

He does this to the extreme of complaining that one great turning point of civilization away from the good was during the late Middle Ages when the educated society turned its attention from Plato to Aristotle:
"The way was prepared for the criteria of comfort and mediocrity when the Middle Ages abandoned the ethic of Plato for that of Aristotle. The latter's doctrine of rational prudence compelled him to declare in the Politics that the state is best ruled by the middle class. For him, the virtuous life was an avoidance of extremes, a middle course between contraries considered harmful.... 
Here the conception of Plato--expressed certainly, too, by Christianity--of pursuing virtue until worldly consequence becomes a matter of indifference, stands in contrast. Aristotle remains a kind of natural historian of the virtues, observing and recording them as he observed techniques of the drama, but not thinking of a spiritual ideal. A life accommodated to this world and shunning the painful experiences which extremes, including those of virtues, entail was what he proposed for his son Nicomachus. 
One could anticipate that this theory would recommend itself to the Renaissance gentleman and later to the bourgeoisie when their turn came. In Thomism, based as it is on Aristotle, even the Catholic church [sic.] turned away from the asceticism and the rigorous morality of the patristic fathers to accept a degree of pragmatic acquiescence in the world."

Here Weaver seems like the ascetic who believed that asceticism is necessary for all people, all the time--he rails against any modern comforts, and the middle class consumers of them. At times, this feels like a breath of fresh air--we could all use a little asceticism in our lives--but elsewhere he appears to fall into the tap of appearing to argue that modern comforts are bad simply because they are comforts.

At his best, Weaver makes arguments which might be said to compliment--or be complimented by--those in Joseph Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture (to name one work), as comforts and convenience and riches do have certain spiritual drawbacks. Where modern "convenience" enslaves us to the devices which make it possible, and where "comfort" and "relaxation" and "amusement" distract us from contemplation, leisure, or wonder, these former are for the worse. But they do remain secondary goods, and the problem is desiring them inordinately, or desiring them above the latter, "primary" goods. Weaver at times seems to lose sight of this in his eagerness to embrace "sentiment" and "ideal", to say nothing of the spiritual and philosophical.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Massacres and Dark Portents

The Orlando shooting which left over 50 dead or injured people is certainly a tragedy and a  massacre. I think that the right response is to begin by praying the Lord's mercy on the victims and their loved ones.

On the other hand, I also noticed the immediate reaction from the Left went something like this:

  • Begin by assuming that the gunman was a Christian. Blame all Christians for promoting "hateful" laws and tar us all as violent bigots who cheered in the light of this tragedy
  • Do the same to all gunowners
In the wake of the revelations that the gunman was affiliated with ISIS---the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria--and the subsequent shouts of glee and claims of victory by ISIS, the left pivoted to a new set of talking points:

  • We shouldn't allow these killings to cause us to tar all Muslims with the same brush (fair enough). Nevermind the fact that the only people who do this regularly aside from people who have a history of being mentally unstable are followers of Islam.
  • We cannot place the blame of this on Islam (radical or otherwise)--we need to be more tolerant of Islam, and not jump to the conclusion that it is to blame.
  • Also, it's still the fault of those Christians (because "bigotry") and gunowners (because "the US is the only developed country where this kind of thing ever happens").

Maybe the Lord can spare some mercy for the sick soul of our nation as it slumps towards Gomorrah. Barring that, may He spare some of us from the Burning Times, for they are a-coming.

Monday, June 13, 2016


This election cycle, the two major parties look to offer us a choice between two carpetbaggers for the office of President of the United States. This may seem an odd statement--how can a presidential candidate be a carpetbagger? You have to have been born here to run for office, and so long as you are a citizen over 35 years of age and living somewhere in the US, you qualify for that office.

Hillary Clinton's carpetbagging is evident, in that she did this to be elected as a senator, which then enabled her to run for this office (and lose) 8 years ago. She has kept her face (and name) in the public eye by serving as a (scandal-ridden, if anybody bothers to look) Secretary of State. If I had to guess, she would likely not have made much headway in 2008 (and thus, thereafter) if she had not spent time as the senator from New York--yet one wonders if she had set foot in that state, other than to change planes and perhaps to campaign for her husband, prior to deciding to run for the Senate in 2000. Lord know she wouldn't have been elected as the senator from Arkansas.

What of Donald Trump? In What sense does a man whom has never held public office prior to running for President, and whom has spent his life in these United States, deserve the title "carpetbagger?" Whereas Mrs. Clinton is a carpetbagger in the strictest sense of the word--a "geographic carpetbagger," if you please--Mr. Trump is what I would call an "ideological carpetbagger."

He's switched party affiliation a few times, but by and large the ideology which he is espousing does not seem to be his ow, and is in fact largely a sort of parody of what many of the Right stand for. Certainly, he has suddenly pivoted to some semblance of the right on a number of issues, just in time to run an anti-establishment campaign for the Republican nomination; he managed to crowd out the far better Ted Cruz in doing so. And certainly, there are a few promising which he made on the early campaign trail (and then unmade, and then perhaps re-made) which would be nice, if implemented: the border wall, and stricter border security and control in general, for example. But on the whole, the man has done nothing to make me trust any promises which he has made; in some ways, it would be preferable if he rose to the level of a carpetbagger--in the sense that then, he might at least attempt to deliver on his new ideological promises, much as a carpetbagger must maintain some semblance of residence in his or her newfound "home" district.

Monday, June 6, 2016

You're Doing It Wrong

I occasionally get emails which read something like this: "I am following exactly what your directions say for the quizzes and when I feel I am doing well I keep getting a <lower score than I'd like>?!? I don't know what I am doing wrong?"

 When I get emails like this, I have to fight the urge to reply with, "You are answering some of the questions incorrectly," along with a link to this article. I should add here that my students do not consist only of Millennials.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

If It Saves the Life of Just One Child...

The Left is up in arms over the shooting of a Gorilla, which was done to save the life of a little boy who fell into the Gorilla's enclosure at the zoo. Funny, I remember a time (about three years ago) when the battle cry from the Left, lead by President Obama himself, was "If it saves the life of just one child..."

Perhaps they are only annoyed, because this time a gun actually was used to save the life of a child. Surely it's not because they value the life of a gorilla over that of a child. Ok, maybe they do. Indeed, the Left actually seem to openly despise children.