Sunday, December 31, 2017

To the Vanquished, Manifest Destiny, Regardless of What You Call It, Smells About the Same

I'm glad Lisa Sarenduc put in some good words for NM Public Education Director Christopher Ruszkowski. To many, he looked like the stereotypical hapless politician who had tripped over a verbal land mine of his own making with his "Manifest Destiny" quote.

But Manifest Destiny, regardless of what you call it, is pretty much the human condition, whether you call it "Manifest Destiny", "Gold, Glory, and Gospel", "Lebensraum", "Zionism", "Proletariat of the World, Unite!" or whatever manifestly self-important reason humans gin up to expand their tribal base while stepping over the fallen bodies of others. The major difference between the American and German experiences in large scale expansion at the expense of others is that Germany lost its war.

So while Secretary Ruzkowski may have tripped over his tongue, the rest of us merely hold our own, knowing that many, if not most of us are living on land of questionable title; many of those title deeds were paid for in someone else's blood or Trail of Tears.

We can't turn back the clock on past sins so we must move forward with a greater consideration for all of humanity rather than looking out for the good of our own tribe, whether our tribe is racial, ethnic, religious, or political. Using concepts like Manifest Destiny as a basis for the good things that Mr. Ruzkowski's educational platform might accomplish only poisons the rhetorical well.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

If You Are Going to Eat Meat, Something Has Gotta Die

"All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others".-- George Orwell

Editor, Santa Fe Reporter

The letter exchange resulting from Elizabeth Miller's article "Huntress" somewhat misses the point as far as killing animals. I see a lot of meat sold in Santa Fe stores including Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and my own co-op, La Montanita. Indeed, while hunting is on a long term decline in the US, Americans have available about 180 lbs of meat of all types per year each (USDA) and are ravenously killing chickens and eating more meat, even as red meat consumption decreases (Rabobank data).

While a lot of the meat sold at upscale stores may be advertised as grass fed, free range, antibiotic free, etc. in order to attract the healthy living market in the City Different, I don't know of any "no kill meat". So unless one is a vegan (milk, cheese and eggs support animal agriculture), one is killing animals with one's wallet rather than a gun or bow, and sometimes under deplorable conditions found in "animal factories". At least hunters are honest about how their meat gets to their table.

If you deplore hunting, you should be at minimum, a vegetarian and ideally, a vegan. My own conversion from an avid hunter is detailed here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Tragedy in Aztec, Revisited

Stephanie Nakhleh asks some good questions in her letter regarding the Aztec school shooting and reflects a lot of our mutual frustration with not being able to stop these things from happening. But she may have missed the article in the Albuquerque Journal that stated that the FBI had investigated the shooter and reported him to the local police. The FBI did not have adequate justification to equate William Atchison's obnoxious rants with a credible threat so they could not act on their information to arrest, interdict, or put the future shooter on a no-buy list. Neither could the local police.

That in a nutshell is the problem with having both First and Second Amendment rights. The Founders assumed a sort of circuit breaker between thought and action. That was clearly missing in this and a lot of cases.  How we re-instill that mental circuit breaker is a good question. I think laws are not a guarantee of success but perhaps education and social outreach combined with some carefully targeted legislation might be effective.

One option is to institute a "may issue" permitting process for purchasing a handgun in New Mexico that would allow local law enforcement to put the brakes on a future Mr. Achison until he matured a little and demonstrated some distance between radical ideology and radical lawlessness. The trouble with that idea is that while it may, if we are lucky, interdict the William Atchisons of the nation, it also empowers law enforcement to arbitrarily and capriciously deny other people their rights. Having grown up in a "may issue" state, New York, I saw that arbitrariness and capriciousness used against my uncle, a WW II combat veteran with a spotless military record and no criminal history who was denied the right to defend himself by the actions of a law enforcement official who didn't even have to offer a reason to deny my uncle a handgun permit. That was in spite of my uncle having defended his nation while dodging German '88' shellfire as he fought his way across Europe. In a neighboring jurisdiction, I was granted, straight out of college, an unrestricted concealed carry permit virtually no questions asked. The bottom line is that permitting had virtually nothing to do with one's reliability or qualifications and everything to do with local politics. If you like that idea applied to guns, feel free to apply it to abortion rights or anything else.

Back to my uncle, who with an increasing disability due to nerve damage in his neck as he grew older, worked late nights as the maitre d'Hotel at a well known restaurant in Buffalo, the Anchor Bar, which local readers might know from the "Buffalo Wings" that were invented at his restaurant. He wished to carry a gun for protection as he left work at long past midnight and due to his nerve damage and age could neither outrun nor outfight anyone on his way home in inner city Buffalo. So in spite of his history of being a combat veteran and honorable citizen, he was denied a permit. Yours truly, with neither age nor maturity nor a history of knowing how to defend myself in combat as my strong points, could carry a hand cannon virtually anywhere I wished. Go figure.

 Perhaps if the gun violence prevention community could ensure that these travesties that tormented my uncle would not occur, we in the gun community could offer to meet our political adversaries halfway. After seeing what my uncle went through, I have little confidence in such a situation of trust ever developing. In fact, given recent political polarization, the political climate, like the natural one, seems to be changing for the worse.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

14 December, 2012-14 December, 2017

Pile the bodies high at Newtown and Columbine.

Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Orlando
And pile them high at Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs.
Shovel them under and let me work.

Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

With apologies to Carl Sandburg

There is a danger to relying on bombs and bullets to keep the peace, whether domestically or internationally: sometimes they go off. The world has lived with nuclear deterrence since the start of the Cold War and as an astute reader knows (“The Limits of Safety” by Scott Sagan, “Command and Control” by Eric Schlosser), we had several pretty close shaves with disaster, either because a bear crawled over the fence at a US installation, someone mistook a prerecorded air raid drill for the real thing, or otherwise sane leaders like Khruschev and Kennedy stood, joined at the hip at the nuclear precipice, just to make a geopolitical point. Fortunately neither jumped. What worries me now is that I have far less faith in the likes of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, and Kim Jong-Un to know when to hold them and when to throw them. Like, as in never throw them.

Likewise, on the domestic front, the recent Sturm und Drang on concealed carry reciprocity suggests we citizens rely on being perpetually armed and dangerous in order to ward off evil doers and neer do-wells. Like Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump playing with nuclear bombs, the average citizen lacks the training and experience and in some cases, probably the common sense to always do the right thing with a personal weapon. The fact that the House bill would appeal to the lowest common denominator in concealed carry reciprocity rather than impose bona fides is not a comforting thought. Its one thing to pull out the hand cannon or shotgun inside one’s own home as the door is being kicked down and that’s what Antonin Scalia and his merry men agreed to in Heller v District of Columbia. It’s in a little more of society’s interest to attach qualifiers when we are trusted to carry a deadly weapon in the public square. Its called a social contract. And we haven’t even discussed mass shootings or S. Chicago yet, although if you catch the significance of the title...

On the fifth anniversary of the Newtown Massacre, we need to think carefully about the role of armed deterrence. The grass may cover all and the 24/7 media coverage might dull our senses, but sooner or later that loud retort, either from small arms or from the re-entry vehicle of an ICBM, might get our attention. If we don’t deal with the underlying problems before that day, it will be too late. Or, to cut to the chase, if my house was a firetrap, I would clean up my house rather than buy a bunch more fire extinguishers.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Concealed carry reciprocity bill coverage on KUNM

Elaine Baumgartel, KUNM News

Gah, Elaine. I sat by the radio with my coffee to hear the story but it left me less than informed.

That was a pretty superficial story. Anyone following this debate could guess that New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence would oppose the concealed carry reciprocity bill but no real reasons were provided. Were those edited out? KUNM could run a longer piece for those who want details. Several problems with the bill were glossed over.

It is likely to be difficult to defend against Constitutional challenge.** No higher court has claimed that citizens have a right to concealed carry; Heller was actually a pretty limited ruling. So far the appellate courts have upheld state laws regulating concealed carry. SCOTUS recently declined to grant certiorari in Peruta v California on CA’s strict and highly restrictive “may issue” system. Congress is skating on thin ice. Its rationale on using an interstate commerce justification to let a Federal law trump state law is bizarre.
** http://www.nationalreview.c...

The bill would bypass many state requirements, including our own in NM, which mandates 16 hours of training including demonstrated proficiency on the range. According to two law scholars, people could shop for out of state permits from “easy” states and bypass their own state requirements. That is going to alarm both conservatives interested in Federalism and liberals and public safety professionals wanting to keep guns out of the wrong hands. I see Death by Lack of Cloture in the Senate assuming supporters even muster 51 votes.

Although both the NRA and its historical, gun hating opponents make grandiose claims about this bill (either its effects on empowering citizens against bad guys is overhyped or claims are made by opponents that blood will be running in the streets), the results would probably be more subtle. Most crime is home grown, not resulting from mythical hordes of concealed carry killers running between states. That said, there is no scientific evidence that citizen concealed carriers (statistically) make the nation safer and some work, such as by David Hemenway of Harvard, suggests (to paraphrase) that guns are no better than hollering or cell phones in deterring crime. Except, perhaps, to those reasonably well trained and situationally-aware private citizens who actually take self defense training, something that this bill doesn’t think is an important consideration. But if more people are carrying on trips, there are likely to be more guns left in cars or hotel rooms to steal and gun issue researchers know theft is a major conduit for guns to crimes.

Of course, some blue states brought this on themselves by imposing law that treats an honest mistake like a felony, i.e, New Jersey. The real purpose of a consensus concealed carry law would have been to bring states together rather than drive them apart.

I think this is a lousy bill and once again, a contest between the left and right to whip up support from their bases. Meanwhile, public safety and reasonable discussion is secondary in importance.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Deer Hunt

Or, how I became a vegetarian.

Sitting quietly in the woods
Warmly dressed in blaze orange goods
Listening, observing, watching for that fleeting shape to appear

Out of nowhere I hear the familiar, cautious sound of crunching leaves
A face comes into view through the trees
It’s a four-pointer

As I raise the Ithaca to my eyes
The Williams receiver sight showing the deer through the trees
Not a good shot yet

The deer stops, uncertain
I hold my aim, waiting for it to show itself from the brushes’ curtain
But the deer freezes

It takes a step back, wary
I think I see a clear shot through a small clearing
A single shot rings out, the deer stumbles

Deflected. A single small branch flies apart
The deer instead of dying has a shattered limb
It crashes into a ravine in a loud, long din

It takes me a while to reach his side
He is terrified, wounded, unable to rise
Writhing with terrified, wide eyes
Two final shots at a thrashing neck and his demise

I was stunned, shaken
At my bad shot taken
No animal should have to die in such a state
That was the last time I raised my rifle a life to take

-KJS, 2017