Friday, July 31, 2015

Marco Rubio and Cecil the Lion

Marco Rubio is ambushed by TMZ at the airport to get his opinion on a pressing moral issue of our time, and surprises everyone by redirecting the issue to a little known, esoteric story that no one has ever heard of.

You want to talk about a lion? We've got people chopping up dead babies for parts like they're Chevys and I'm supposed to give rip about some old lion who no one on planet earth knew about until about five minutes ago when he gets culled from the herd and whose death will pay a great deal for conservation efforts that wouldn't otherwise be funded? No thanks. We live in such an age of trivia. 

Bread and circuses, I guess.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bourbon Review: Maker's Mark Cask Strength

My mother-in-law dropped by the other day and left me with some bourbon. Did I mention I have a great mother-in-law? I do.

One bourbon she left me with is the Maker's Mark "Cask Strength" offering, which has a higher alcohol content (around 111 proof) than the regular Maker's Mark (90 proof). You would think that going with a higher amount of alcohol would result in a bourbon that has more "burn" to it, but the guys at Maker's have figured out how to raise the alcohol content while still delivering a relatively smooth bourbon. 

Essentially, the difference between this and the original Maker's Mark is that the Cask Strength isn't cut with any water after barreling like the original stuff is. They basically just take it straight out of the barrel and bottle it. This results in not only a more potent bourbon, but one that is richer in flavor.

The first thing I noticed is that this high-test version still has a very nice aroma of vanilla and oak, just like its lower-powered older brother. Upon finishing, where you would expect the "burn", there is just a nice warm feeling that lingers for a little while and then fades. No overwhelming heat or bitterness.

The boys down in Loretto, Kentucky have hit a home run with this one. If you like Maker's Mark, and are looking to try something just a little bolder, this is it.

Three out of four stars.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hillary Clinton won't tell us what she thinks about Keystone XL

I know, I know. You're all shocked that Hillary Clinton won't give a direct answer to a simple question. Yep, she's a true statesman, taking a principled stand on important issues of our times. I mean, it's just crazy to expect that someone running for President tell you what their position is before you vote for her.

I wonder if ol' Bernie Sanders can make any political hay out of this. He's against it, so maybe he can get the hard environmentalist left to come over to his side. But they're probably already there, no?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Good luck to everyone taking the SC Bar Exam today!

It's actually not just today. It's actually today, tomorrow, and Wednesday.

Back in my day, we took the bar exam at the State Fairgrounds, and we didn't get to use those new-fangled computers, either. It was all pencil and paper.

And we liked it.

(Just kidding. We hated it.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Ghost of Joe Wilson and Health Care in California

Anyone remember this?

Yeah, about that. He may have broken with decorum and rudely interrupted the President, but it appears that Joe Wilson wasn't wrong. So he's got that going for him.

From Forbes:
State Senator Richard Lara has already moved a bill through the California State Senate that would allow illegal immigrants to buy unsubsidized health insurance in the state’s Obamacare exchange. The state would have to receive a federal waiver from the Obama administration before implementing it.

The bill would also extend coverage to illegal residents under the age of 19 to enroll in California’s fully paid-for Medicaid program.

The Pew Research Center has estimated that there are 2.5 million illegal immigrants in California.
Advantage Joe Wilson, unless the Obama Administration comes out and flatly rejects the idea that they'll grant the waiver request. Anyone want to place some bets on how that's going to go?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

No kidding, huh?

People tend to be happier on the weekend than during the week, according to new research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

I'm glad the National Bureau of Economic Research is here to tell us these important things.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Rifle Behind Every Blade of Grass

"You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass." - often attributed to Isoroku Yamamoto 
In the wake of my previous post about the suit against the City of Columbia's temporary weapons ban, I've had quite a few conversations about generally carrying concealed weapons and being a CWP holder.

Usually, when I have these conversations, I am going back and forth with people who are against carrying handguns. I mean, it does no good to just sit around and talk with people who agree with you. That's boring. In these conversations, it's hard to break through to an anti-gun person who simply has their mind made up that guns are bad. For instance, I've had people compare being a CWP holder to being a drunk driver on the theory that there will ultimately be a gun-related accident. You can't really reach those people, or at least I haven't figured out how.

However, there are a lot of people who don't have their views so set in stone. I'm hoping to reach those people.

I've also been thinking about the unarmed Marines who were shot last week in Chattanooga, TN. It boggles my mind that the United States Marine Corps has to try and hide while calling the local sheriff's office to deal with a crazy ISIS-inspired shooter who arrives at their doorstep.

So what do these carrying concealed have to do with the shooting in Chattanooga?

First, I think we would all agree that the current threat from ISIS and other similar terrorist organizations (include the crazy white supremacist Dylan Roof, too) is a wide threat. The list of potential targets is vast. ISIS has specifically called on "lone-wolf" style attacks to sporadically and seemingly at random, attack targets of opportunity here in the United States.

Law enforcement cannot be everywhere all the time. They aren't designed to be an omnipresent force. So when the threat is a nebulous threat that can strike with small attacks across a wide range of targets, you have to have a defense that counters that threat.

Enter the private, armed citizen. You go about your routine business all day long, going to work, the store, and other errands. The more good citizens we have who are capable of responding to threats, the better our defense will be. You're going to be somewhere, so make your presence a small part of the network of defense. If a normal civilian had been at that mall in Chattanooga, he or she might have been able to stop the attacker.

You are already at the scene of wherever you are. Rather than being a bystander who is forced to dial 911 on their iPhone and wait for the police, be a first responder. Have the ability to protect yourself and others. You don't have to be a bystander - you have the choice to be a first responder.

Now, this means that you have to know how to properly, safely, and competently use the firearm that you decide to carry. You can't just go buy a gun and say Mission Accomplished. You have to train. You have to be prepared. You have to know what the heck you're doing. Just buying a guitar does not make you a musician. You have to learn how to play it.

If more people carried concealed weapons in a responsible manner, we would be better prepared to deal with these sort of widely scattered attacks that happen with no warning. You're already there. Decide if you're going to be part of the background or part of the solution.

I need to get the range again.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Here's a copy of the filed Complaint and Motion from the suit against the City of Columbia's temporary weapons ban

Today, Brad brought my attention to the suit that has been filed against City of Columbia's temporary weapons ban around the Statehouse grounds.

The backstory is that the City of Columbia was concerned about violence occurring in the wake of the Confederate Flag coming down, that they passed a temporary (30 day) emergency ordinance that prohibited "dangerous weapons" in an area 250 feet extended from the Statehouse grounds. You already cannot carry a firearm on the Statehouse grounds. When I first saw the ordinance, I just kind of rolled my eyes. I can't solve all the world's problems.

Now, someone with even more of a bee in their bonnet than me (hard to imagine, right?) has filed a suit challenging the ban.

The filed pleadings are here.

It's fairly compelling. I think the strongest argument is the fact that SC Code 23-31-510 states:
"No governing body of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision in the State may enact or promulgate any regulation or ordinance that regulates or attempts to regulate the transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, or any combination of these things"
Right there, state law clearly says that municipalities don't get to start regulating where you can carry firearms - which is exactly what the City of Columbia did.

I'd probably grant summary judgment on the whole thing on that issue alone. I'll be interested to see what the City's response is. The suit also makes a good argument about the fact that "dangerous weapon" is not defined in the ordinance, nor does the ordinance have any reason for why it is 250 feet and not larger.

The thing is, the City Council just wanted to do something, or look like they were doing something and they didn't really think about the legal issues involved. The problem is that they don't have any downside for passing laws like this. I mean, what does Mayor Benjamin care if the law is ultimately struck down? He doesn't have any downside, personally. It's not like he has to hire a lawyer and defend the suit. He probably doesn't care.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Semper Fi

Today, the United States Marine Corps lost four men at the hands of an enemy of the United States.


At some point we have to do something. At some point, we have to act. The enemy is killing our service-members. At some point, we have to decide to fight back. What does it say that these Marines were unarmed and had to resort to calling civilian law enforcement to protect them? We trust them with national secrets. We trust them to face gunfire and horrors unknown to civilians. We trust them not to engage in a coup. Yet we don't trust them, on base and while on duty, with weapons?

Marines should not have to call for help. They are the ones who knock.

Lord God,

Grant mercy to those who now come to your gates. Grant healing to the wounded, as many of the wounds will be invisible. Grant peace and comfort to the victims and their families.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Splitting Wood and Being in the World

I know it sounds weird when I say that splitting wood is a wonderful way to relax, but it is. Feeling what is heavy wood splitting beneath the swing of your axe (or maul) is a wonderful feeling. You feel it, more than think about it.

It's sensory. Every part of your body works together to put the swing together, starting up from your toes, coiling your legs, up through your core, and culminating as you whip the your arms and blade down onto the bucked log section, focusing on exactly where you want the edge to fall.

You don't get that same feeling drafting a motion for summary judgment on the office computer, or even arguing in Court. Being outside and feeling the sun shine on your back while splitting wood and enjoying the fresh smell of the wood being opened up is hard to beat.

We should try and not let our iPads and laptops shackle us inside all the time. Be in the world.

Monday, July 13, 2015

News Roundup, Monday, July 13, 2015

Happy Monday. Time to get back in the saddle.

Here is your news for today:

1. Greece might be sent to "time-out". Reports are coming in that if "time-out" doesn't work, the Germans will increase the consequences to "No television for a week" and then "No going over to play with your friends in Italy for a month".

2. Scott Walker is announcing his candidacy for President today. At this point, it might be more helpful if we just got a show of hands from Republicans who aren't running for President.

3. Some bird-brain at a flea market in CT was so offended by the Confederate Flag he saw, he called 911.  I'm not sure what he expected. Did he think think the secret police were going to come in and haul everyone off to jail?

4. The FBI admitted that their incompetence was the reason Dylan Roof was allowed to buy a gun. Please, tell me more about how we need more background checks, though.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Federal Judge Hanen is here to kick ass and chew bubblegum...and he's almost out of bubblegum.

Judge Andrew Hanen
If you weren't aware, there's a case pending in Federal Court (in Texas) about the questionable legality of President Obama's action to grant legal status to illegal aliens.

At the initial stage of the suit the Judge asked the Government if it was going to be necessary to issue a temporary injunction on the issue, which would halt the issuance of green cards while the case was pending. Basically, the lawyers for the Government said "Oh no, Judge Hanen. That's not necessary. There's no need for a formal injunction. We'll just voluntarily hold off on doing anything for now. You've got our word on that."

And then Obama issued some green cards to illegal aliens under the program. As you can imagine, Judge Hanen was understandably miffed. He (rightly) felt like he had been misled by the lawyers for the Government. So, he issued a formal injunction. Problem solved, right? No one would violate an existing Federal Court's order.

But that's exactly what DHS did. They issued some more green cards after the injunction.

Quoting from the order:
Nevertheless, it is shocked and surprised at the cavalier attitude the Government has taken with regard to its “efforts” to rectify this situation. The Government promised this Court on May 7, 2015, that “immediate steps” were being taken to remedy the violations of the injunction. Yet, as of June 23, 2015—some six weeks after making that representation—the situation had not been rectified. With that in mind, the Court hereby sets a hearing for August 19, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.

Each individual Defendant must attend and be prepared to show why he or she should not be held in contempt of Court. In addition to the individual Defendants, the Government shall bring all relevant witnesses on this topic as the Court will not continue this matter to a later date. The Government has conceded that it has directly violated this Court’s Order in its May 7, 2015 Advisory, yet, as of today, two months have passed since the Advisory and it has not remediated its own violative behavior. That is unacceptable and, as far as the Government’s attorneys are concerned, completely unprofessional.
(emphasis mine)

Here's the part I like:
If the Government remedies this situation and comes into compliance with this Court’s injunction by July 31, 2015, it shall include a summary of that situation in the July 31, 2015 report to the Court. If the Court is satisfied with the Government’s representations, it will cancel the August 19, 2015 hearing. Otherwise, the Court intends to utilize all available powers to compel compliance.
(again, emphasis mine)

Let me do my lawyer thing and explain to you what that last sentence really means. What it really means is "If y'all don't get this situation fixed, someone's ass is probably going to jail."

Criminal defense lawyers have a saying that applies to legal ethics, when they get asked to do something shady to protect a client. Someone might be going to jail, but if someone is going to jail, just make sure it isn't you. All I can say is that I would be working night and day to get this fixed if I were one of the named Defendants and/or their lawyers.

If they don't, the hearing on August 19 is going to be mighty interesting.

Monday, July 6, 2015

I have a few ideas of my own, Mr. President.

"Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas — a more attractive, more compelling vision," he said.
What? Huh? It's like the President hasn't really progressed platitudes from the Freshman Late Night Dorm Room Bull-Session. When confronted with hateful evil ideologies, our ideas are better than guns? I can't decide if this is incredibly dumb, incredibly naive, or incredibly dangerous. It may be all three.

If I was a snarky Air Force armorer/ground crewman, I'd start labeling the bombs "better idea."

I might disagree with Obama's strategy for defeating ISIS, but I haven't really heard anything beyond vanilla platitudes that mean absolutely nothing, and are in some cases just dumb.

I mean, what is this baloney about ideas defeating other ideas? Are we talking about the "marketplace of ideas" like we're in an election against ISIS or something, and maybe the better candidate will get more votes? Because ISIS isn't running for office. They're killing people in barbaric ways because they enjoy it, and/or they think some twisted God requires it, and Obama wants to run a negative advertising campaign. You can't blame him, I guess. It worked against Romney.

You can't reason someone out of a position that they didn't reason themselves into. You're not going to defeat ISIS by hosting a debate and convincing them of anything. The thing is, Obama just isn't serious about fighting ISIS. He doesn't want to do it. However, he's politically forced to pay lip-service to the idea of fighting ISIS, because he doesn't have a better idea of his own. So we get silly little fortune-cookie wisdom from the Commander-in-Chief.

Let's recap some minor conflicts where men with guns defeated some bad ideas:

1. Slavery and the Civil War: Close to home, here in South Carolina we have a distinct memory of General Sherman defeating the ideology of the Confederate States of America by burning everything in his path from Atlanta to Savannah. Also, Gettysburg and Vicksburg are good examples of men with guns killing other men with guns and the result was the destruction of the idea of rebellion.

2. Naziism and WWII: Remember that time that Hitler and the Germans got the idea that they were going to take over Europe and probably the rest of the world? You do? Oh, then you also probably recall how we defeated them with our better ideas. Specifically our ideas involved sending thousands of men to Europe with guns and shooting them and bombing them back to the stone age. It worked out that our idea beat their idea.
You know what really discredits ideologies? Accepting their unconditional surrender, occupying their capital, laying waste to their cities, and defeating their armies. That's a pretty good template.

It worked for the Romans at Carthage, the Greeks at Salamis, the British at Waterloo, and the Federals at Gettysburg. It even worked pretty well for the ol' rag-tag Continental Army one Christmas at Trenton, NJ.

Maybe we should just give that a try after the negative advertising campaign. Just an idea...

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Godfather and the Southern Code

Confederate dead at Antietam - 1862
Brad has a post up at his blog (which has been mostly Confederate-Flag related posts for the last week or so) about the origins of South Carolina's secession.

The point of his post is to make it clear that slavery was the impetus for succession. To paraphrase our current President: Let me be clear, I agree that secession was entirely about protecting the institution of slavery. Full stop. Protecting the institution of slavery was obviously the basis for the secession. All the theoretical arguments for secession (legal, political, or otherwise) were simply post-hoc justifications for the act itself. Anyone who claims otherwise is not being honest. With me so far? Good.

Now, I'm going to try and make a fine distinction that's probably going to get a lot of people upset:

I don't think that slavery was a direct reason that great many Southern men fought in the Civil War.

I think slavery was a proximate cause for their fighting, because it was the origin of the war. So, while the origin of the war was a profoundly vile thing, I don't think it was the direct motivation for the men you see above. In fact, it may not have been a factor at all.

I think the primary motivating factor for a great many Southern men to take up arms was the idea that they were supporting "their people" even before their own thoughts or principles.

"Their people" was generally the community they identified with, be it family, region, or State. It's a little bit like the code expressed in The Godfather where Michael cautions Fredo, "Don't ever take sides with anyone against the family, again." That old Sicilian code permeated the Old South. The South's Code of Honor did not allow men to simply walk away from the impending war.

Even if a young Southern man did not own slaves (many did not) and even if he believed slavery to be immoral, he was honor-bound to take up his arms and fight for his people. And a young man, doing his duty, he went to war without needing to believe in the fundamental reasons for the war. All he needed to know was that he was not betraying his family, his people, his state.

In that time, I don't think we had fully joined as a nation yet. We still thought of ourselves as Virginians, like Lee did.
With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State, with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed, I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword...
That's Lee telling us that he can't take sides against the family, ever.

Obviously, this "code" is complete crap.

But it did exist. And it did motivate men to fight. It's wrong for us to judge the men who fought and project our current code of conduct and morality onto them. The men you see lying dead in that grass probably didn't own slaves. Their opinion on the morality of slavery wasn't even relevant.

The thing is, there's a difference between the origins of the war (slavery) and the main reason Southern men fought (honor/peer-pressure). And that difference permeates into how we see the Confederate Flag in different lights. We all are shaped by our own experience and our own identity. 

I'm sure that some black people see the Confederate Flag in a dim light, probably flickering torchlight, with white hoods in the foreground. I'm equally sure that some white people see the Confederate Flag in a positive light, as a banner their ancestors died under. Neither of these views are wrong.

In our case, we have the flag on the capitol grounds, which gives it the official sanction of our state government, and we should not give such symbols that sort of license.

However, if you're going to try and convince an honest flag-defender to take the flag down, going on about the reasons for secession is not the right argument. You're not reaching him, because the Confederate Flag, to honest defenders, is not about secession. It's about the honor of men.

Reach them on that level, and you will win a convert.

Who has a bigger problem: Greece or the EU?

So who has the bigger problem: Greece, or the EU? At some point, the EU countries have obligations to their own citizens not to continue to throw good money after bad. However, they have a very real crisis that could happen on their doorstep if Greece descends into an economic meltdown, which seems to be in its initial stages.

It's like that old joke -- When If you owe the bank $100 that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Frederic Remington Open Thread

Real busy today. Will likely have time for more blogging tomorrow. Until then, enjoy some art.

Fall of the Cowboy - Frederic Remington