Archive for February 2018

Win-Win for Everyone   Leave a comment

So, you say you don’t like guns and you don’t want them in the hands of ordinary citizens because you’re afraid they might shoot you. You honestly believe that a cop on every corner is adequate to keep you safe and that mass shootings would end if you just disarmed everyone.

Image result for image of the lower crime rate in high gun ownership communitiesI am not afraid of guns and I am so certain that ordinary people have no intentions of shooting anyone that I am comfortable with almost anyone carrying concealed. I want to live in a safe community where violent crime against unarmed people is low, so I choose to live in a well-armed community because statistics show that you’re less likely to be preyed upon in such a community – particularly, if you are armed yourself. About half the country agrees with me and the other half agrees with you.

Here’s a suggestion that I think both of us might like if some of us would stop trying to control other people.

There are already several states in the union where private gun ownership might as well be banned because you can’t take your heavily-licensed gun with its inadequate capacity outside your home and if you do need to defend yourself against a home invasion, you’re likely to face at least a reckless homicide charge … as if you did something wrong by defending your life.

So, if you don’t like guns and you prefer them only in the hands of cops and criminals, please move to one of those states. You should feel quite comfortable there with like-minded victims.

That leaves the rest of the country for those of us who are not afraid of guns and prefer to live in safer communities where we don’t have to worry so much about home invasions, nighttime burglaries, and robberies.

And, then, let’s compare notes in a decade and see which of these zones has a lower homicide rate, a greater level of liberty of speech, religion, association and movement, and (as a side benefit) fewer mass shootings. I suspect it will be the areas where more people are armed, but hey, it’s worth the experiment to find out if I’m right. And for at least 10 years, we can quit having these fights while we conduct the experiment.

And the reward for being right will be … we remain in our friendly separation unless you are willing to lay aside your controlling ways and move out to a safer community. It’s a win-win for everyone.

 

Posted February 27, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control, Uncategorized

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Reality in the Middle East   Leave a comment

If you put your opinion out on social media, you’re bound to attract some people who disagree with you and this week, I’ve become velcro. Debating anyone on Twitter is … uh … challenging and I had this guy ask me to meet him in twitter DM for further discussion. My issue is that I would have to follow him to do that and his feed is full of anti-Trump, anti-American, we-don’t-care-about-the-Constitution posts and I’m not interested in supporting that with my follow.

So, for the record, this is what I sort of believe – subject to revision as new facts come in. The topic is Muslim persecution of Christians. Yeah, big topic … impossible at 140 characters.

The conversation started because I responded to a meme that said (I’m still looking for it, so this is a paraphrase) that Muslims have no right to demand entry into US when they come from countries that regularly persecute Christians under cover of law. The poster wanted to know if this was “fair”. I responded that it wasn’t fair, but that it made a point about the treatment of Christians in many Muslim countries. I specifically said “in many ME countries, the only rights Christians have is to die for their faith.”

He accused me of broadly condemning ALL Muslims. So, this is my attempt to make myself clear without the character limit.

My figures can be verified from Amnesty International, US State Department Research and Pew Research. These are not the strongest sources I am familiar with. I know Christians living in the Middle East who point to other websites, but since these are Christian in origin, this fellow would no doubt say they are biased. And, hey, if someone made it illegal for me to practice my faith, I might feel persecuted and be a bit biased against those who want me dead or silenced.

Apostasy and blasphemy may seem to many westerners like artifacts of history, but there still dozens of countries around the world where laws against apostasy and blasphemy remain on the books and often are still enforced.

You need examples of actual current persecution?

In December 2015, authorities in Sudan charged 25 men for apostasy – the act of abandoning one’s faith — including by converting to another religion. The men faced the death penalty for following a different interpretation of Islam than the one sanctioned by the government. I bring this up because Muslims even persecute other Muslims for converting to another type of Islam.

And, in Pakistan in summer 2016, police were pursuing a Christian accused of sending an allegedly blasphemous poem to a friend. Blasphemy – defined as speech or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine – is a capital crime in Pakistan.

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center analysis, about a quarter of the world’s countries and territories had anti-blasphemy laws or policies, and that more than 1 in 10 nations had laws or policies penalizing apostasy. The legal punishments for such transgressions vary from fines to death.

Pew’s research was the basis of a major report on restrictions on religion around the world. The report examines both government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion, relying on 17 widely cited, publicly available sources from groups such as the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group.

Pew found that laws restricting apostasy and blasphemy are most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where 18 of the region’s 20 countries criminalize blasphemy and 14 criminalize apostasy. While apostasy laws exist in only two other regions of the world – Asia-Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa – blasphemy laws can be found in all regions, including Europe and the Americas.

Some blasphemy laws have been on the books for decades, through dramatic political and social changes. In Pakistan, blasphemy statutes have their origins in the country’s colonial past, when British rulers first introduced penalties for insulting any religious beliefs. These laws remained in effect after Pakistan’s independence in 1947 and have since increased in severity.

Pakistan is one of 12 of the 50 countries in the Asia-Pacific region that had blasphemy laws in 2014. Blasphemy laws are enforced in several of those 12 nations. In 2014, Burma (Myanmar) convicted a New Zealander and two Burmese men of blasphemy after using an advertisement depicting Buddha with headphones to promote a bar. The men were sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Apostasy laws are less common worldwide – they are found in 25 countries, in only three regions of the world. By far the most countries with anti-apostasy measures were in the Middle East-North Africa region (14 out of 20).

Seven of the 50 countries (14%) in the Asia-Pacific region also had apostasy laws. In the Maldives, all citizens are required to be Muslim, and those who convert to another faith may lose their citizenship.

So, when I said that in “many Middle Eastern countries” Christians risk dying for their faith, I wasn’t over-stating the case. Pakistan still kills those who convert from Islam to Christianity. Afghanistan still has the death penalty on the books for this, but the US coalition has pressured the government to prevent recent executions. Brunei‘s Penal Code states that a Muslim who declares himself non-Muslim commits a crime that is punishable with death, or with up to 30 year imprisonment, depending on the type of evidence. Iran doesn’t list this in its Penal Code and historical Christian minorities are not directly persecuted, those who convert from Islam to Christianity are threatened, assaulted, detained without charges, and even executed. Jordan doesn’t kill Christians outright, but it monitors Christian evangelists and restricts the civil rights of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity. It also monitors Christian churches. Kuwait‘s constitution upholds the “absolute freedom” of belief, but Christians, particularly converts from Islam, face severe penalties in family courts and there is a law, frequently enforced, prohibiting non-Muslim evangelism among Muslims. In Oman, Christians are denied child custody rights and it is illegal to talk about your faith, but they don’t kill you. Qatar allowed private practice of non-Islamic faith, but there’s a 10-year sentence for talking about your faith if you’re not a Muslim. Saudi Arabia makes it illegal, punishable by flogging, imprisonment and the death penalty, but there haven’t been any recent reported executions, though supposedly, Christianity is growing secretly there. We have all heard what happens in Syria to Christians. That’s not the government, so much as ISIS. The Emirates make it illegal, but Christian churches are growing there publicly.

So that’s four ME countries where Christianity carries the death penalty and several more where it carries severe penalties. Let’s not deny reality. Some of these countries may not actually kill many Christians, but that’s mainly because there are so few there and they live mostly in secret. If they didn’t, the country would kill them.

For a broad view of this topic by a writer who has clearly done more research than I  have, check out this article.

That doesn’t make it right to “ban” Muslims from the US, but it should act as a caution that some Muslims are coming from countries where it is deemed all right to abuse and kill Christians and they bring that mindset with them. So, yes, more screening is needed. The Trump administration went about it ineptly, but there is ample evidence that the Obama administration was biased in the screening process for some immigrants. I know of Europeans who have never had a traffic violation who have had their citizenship application held up for five years and yet Muslim refugees, all through out the Obama administration, were fast-tracked into the country, often with rote acceptance of a UN waiver that turned out not to include what most Europeans or Americans would consider to be a very rigorous background check.

That system needs to be balanced and to the extent that it has not been, it should be restructured.

Thomas Jefferson on the Folly of Gun Control   Leave a comment

Image result for image of tiananmen square tank studentIn November 1787, while the Constitution was moving toward ratification, Thomas Jefferson – no doubt frustrated at being in Paris while the nationalist forces of America were perverting the liberty he had championed — wrote a letter to his friend, Rev. William Smith of Philadelphia. Jefferson saw clearly that the Constitutional Convention had been an illegal affair that had created a completely new constitution without permission of the states’ legislatures when all that had been needed was a modification of the Articles of Confederation. In this letter, written after the cow had left the barn, but before it was certain the people’s representatives would be duped by the proposed constitution, Jefferson discussed Shay’s Rebellion – the excuse given for the necessity of replacing the Articles of Confederation with the illegally drafted US Constitution. Jefferson’s comments then have bearing on the discussion of gun control now. See my emphasis …

Wonderful is the effect of impudent and persevering lying. The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, & what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusets? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of its motives. they were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive; if they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. that comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? let them take arms. the remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure. our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts; and on the spur of the moment, they are setting up a kite to keep the hen-yard in order. I hope in God, this article will be rectified, before the new constitution is accepted.” Thomas Jefferson, 1787

We’re told that gun violence is a uniquely American tragedy, but we’re not told that rates of non-gun violent crimes in countries where guns have been banned are often higher than they are in America. You’re far more likely to be beaten or stabbed to death in the UK than you are in New York City or Fairbanks Alaska. That’s a per capita likelihood and those are UN statistics. The reason for that should be obvious. In the absence of guns, violent people find other ways to kill people.

Welcome to the human race. Sorry, we’re not all that pretty.

 

Thomas Jefferson didn’t have crime in view when he made these comments. He was focused squarely on liberty. He was concerned about the ability of people to essentially commit treason against their government. He thought it was a good idea … even if they didn’t have all the facts and even if they didn’t win. Why?

Because liberty tends to erode under the coercive influence of the state. Thomas Jefferson believed that if a government wasn’t warned every generation that its people retained the ability to rebel … well, then the government would gradually become tyrannical. And, periodically, America has experienced rebellions that have woken the government up and caused changes. It’s been a while – 40 years since the 1960s and that was conducted by people who ultimately wanted MORE government rather than less. Jefferson would have been perplexed by them, I think.

We are at the crossroads of another time where there is a huge necessity to effect change in the country.

So, the question is, how do you commit rebellion against the largest military on the planet? I’m not advocating an armed rebellion against the United States government. I’m advocating for philosophical rebellion by people who can respond to government violence in kind. There is a difference. I am pointing out that if it ever becomes necessary, it would be impossible without guns like the AR-15, which will only be the initial test case for the removal of all semi-autos and then all handguns from private hands). Just think about how inadequate an AR-15 would be against the select-fire and fully-automatic weapons the military has access to. The only way it becomes adequate is if we have way more than they do and we do, which is why I suspect the deep state is behind a lot of the gun-control rhetoric. Ever so often I remember all those “terrorists” who have been caught trying to plant non-working explosive devices at the “suggestion” of undercover federal agents and I wonder … could we, like the Americans Jefferson commented on, be duped by the press into believing one thing when the opposite is true?

Oh, yeah! I don’t think anything has changed other than the sophistication of the propagandists.

Image result for image of armed rebellionI’m not saying we should conduct an armed rebellion against the US government. I don’t believe in initiating aggression against other people. But we are ripe for a philosophical rebellion, for a great waking-up of the general masses to the things that must change in this country if we are going to continue forward as a free people. At some point, absent a sea-change in philosophy, this government that now so arrogantly thinks it can push around its people will eventually ignite a physical rebellion because that’s what aggression causes. How that turns out depends on our ability to preserve the spirit of rebellion. If we’re disarmed or down to single-shot rifles, that rebellion will be empty words and rocks thrown at kevlared cops and tanks. We’ll be indulged with the illusions of greater freedom as the Chinese are today, but it will be just an illusion. If you don’t have the means for rebellion, the spirit of rebellion is kind of a moot point. But if you have the means for rebellion, the spirit of rebellion may be all you need.

Having the ability to respond violently when violence is initiated against you actually prevents violence from being initiated in many instances while being disarmed and helpless encourages victimization.

Jefferson did later discuss why crime is greater when men are disarmed than when they are armed. From his “Legal Commonplace Book” where he quotes Cicero, who of course was thinking of swords when he penned the following:

“False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from man because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils, except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm those only who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, will respect the less important arbitrary ones….and which, if strictly obeyed would put an end to personal liberty?….Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; They serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

Because our media chooses to whip up the true horror of mass shootings while utterly ignoring the half-million times a year people use guns to save their own lives, we get a false notion that guns are the problem rather than human nature is the problem and getting rid of guns will only make it worse because disarmed victims may be attacked with greater confidence than concealed-carry permit holders. We’re told by people who believe they have the higher moral ground that sacrificing real advantage is merely an inconvenience for our own protection. It was the same 2000 years ago when Cicero penned those words as it is today.

So why are we refusing to learn from history? Do we want to repeat the fall of Rome?

Meeting the Public   4 comments

Feb. 26, 2018 – Do you attend Author/Reader Events? What do you offer on your tables and how do you interact with readers?

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I live in Alaska, which means I am a long way away from everywhere else. It’s a great place for a writer to live because the weather calls you indoors for half the year, but it makes things like book conventions prohibitively expensive.

Image result for image of a author tableI have participated in a few electronic conventions and not found them particularly helpful in selling books – a lot of work usually involving my getting up at an insane time of the morning (time zones, doncha know?) and I didn’t sell any more books than a Facebook advert has.

Alaska is a very artsy community, however, and it’s a community that is isolated, so people plan their own events. My favorite of these is 1st Friday. Local businesses keep their doors open on the first Friday evening of the month and invite the public in.

Imagine:

  • A sporting goods store displaying art work from local artists and is okay with a table where authors can sell books
  • A beauty shop putting out hors d’oeuvres while a local bluegrass band or ensemble group plays in the background and a table where authors can sell books
  • A used book store in a mini-mall hosting a table for local authors to sell their new books
  • A coffee shop that allows writers to take over a table to sell their books while the resident band plays

I cannot take full advantage of this all the time because I buy my books POD from Createspace, so the cost outlay keeps me from doing this up big, but I have several friends from the local writer’s guild who have boxes of books in their garage, so I help cover their tables and I hand out flyers for my books with a discount code. I always sell a couple of books in the week following, so it’s worth it to spend a pleasant evening interacting with people who I enjoy and talking to the public.

What I learn from the public is that not all Alaskans want to read Alaskana, so they are surprised to encounter an Alaska novelist who does not write Alaska-based fiction. Surprised and pleased.  What I’ve also learned is that I really need to put my books into Ingram so I can buy in bulk and take better advantage of the local paperback market.

Worshipping God with Our Lifestyles   1 comment

Sometimes it makes sensse to just focus on a single verse and there’s a lot in 2 Corinthians 7:1.

Thereforesince we have these promisesdear friendslet us cleanse ourselves from everything that could defile the body and the spiritand thus accomplish holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

Image result for image of baptismPaul had told the Corinthians that God would walk in His temple, and dwell in His people, be their God, and they His children, that He will receive them, and be their Father, and they His sons and daughters. They already possessed these promises. They weren’t just the hopes of Old Testament saints. With the resurrection of the Messiah, the New Testament saints actually possessed what had been promised through the means of salvation. They had communion with God Who had received, protected and preserved them through the power of grace.

The Corinthian Christians were of God, being His people, His sons and daughters, adopted, justified, called, and chosen by Him.

And because they had all these promises, there were things they should do to show their appreciation for what God had done for them … and, by extension, us.

The Bible doesn’t teach that the flesh is evil, but it does make it clear that the flesh is corrupted and corruptible. If flesh were evil, God couldn’t have stepped down into it since eveything about God is good. But that doesn’t mean our flesh is good. Not being evil is not the same thing as being good.

Because we are born into a corrupted world, our flesh is corruptible. When Paul exhorted the Corinthians to cleanse themselves from “everything that could defile the body”, he spoke of external pollution, defilement by outward actions committed in the body, that defile us — examples like impure words, filthiness, and foolish talking, rotten and corrupt communication. The tongue, James the brother of Jesus said, is a little member, but it can defile an entire body and corrupt the good manners of others. But filthy actions also include idolatry, adultery, fornication, incest, sodomy, murder, drunkenness, revellings and everything that makes up filthy living.

“That which defiles the spirit” means internal pollution such as evil thoughts, lusts, pride, malice, envy, covetousness. The Jews believed that when a man had taken care to avoid defilement of the body, he must be careful to also avoid defilement of the mind because an evil imagination was likely to drag the body into all sorts of sin.

We don’t have the power to cleanse ourselves from the pollution of our nature. We’re born corrupted and our subsequent actions are also beyond our ability for redemption. It is God’s work alone that can cleanse us from our disobedience, which is why Jesus shed His blood on our behalf, so we might receive the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, which creates a clean heart within us, thoroughly and continually washed of sin as we allow God to work in our hearts.

Although Christians must always focus on our inward faith over any outward form of religion, Paul appears to nod toward at least some external religion — to keep ourselves separate from sin and the behaviors of sinners, to abstain from the appearance of sin, to lay aside activities that are not pleasing to God.

We’re not trying to make ourselves “holy”, for only God can do that. But having our lives dedicated to be good examples of what God wants in His believers is part of the service we offer Him in return for the salvation He has freely offered.

We do these things out of reverence for God — not because we fear Him, but because we recognize that He is deserving of our service, because He is the author of the universe and the Savior of our souls. Consider how a child obeys his father because he loves his father not because his father will punish him if he doesn’t obey, though that may happen if the issue is of great enough importance.

What Stands in the Way of Gun Control?   1 comment

With the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the country is once again embroiled in a  debate over whether or not the country needs additional gun control laws. I don’t think we can find an answer to that debate until we look at why so little progress has been made on this issue in the past.

Image result for image of gun controlAfter each of the recent mass shootings, there has been an initial outcry demanding greater restrictions on gun purchases or ownership. These proposed ideas include more stringent background checks, regulations of certain types of firearms, and greater prohibitions on allowing the mentally ill and others to purchase firearms. These supposedly “common sense” reforms have been debated in the public and much is written in the media, and then politicians took up the debate and … crickets. Gun control advocates scream “Do your job, Congress!” but Congress hasn’t done much. Why? I believe there are four basic reasons why Congress hasn’t rushed to address this issue in a way acceptable to gun control advocates.

Democracy

The media love to vilify the National Rifle Association’s powerful lobbying efforts, insisting the NRA favors 2nd Amendment rights over the lives of children. I think that’s a grossly simplistic explanation.

Who is the NRA? It is an organization of millions of gun owners across the country. I’m not a member because I think they don’t really understand the meaning of a RIGHT, but lots of my neighbors are. We even have a friend who is a felon who regularly gives to the NRA, even though he is disallowed from owning guns himself. The NRA isn’t some monolithic entity that operates outside of human will. It belongs to its members, people  who are highly active and engaged on an issue of importance to them. Your neighbor who belongs to the NRA is advancing an agenda you don’t agree in chorus with millions of other Americans who also own guns and don’t want to see their right to bear arms violated by you.

We call that democracy and it doesn’t require having a majority of the people supporting you. It requires having an active number of engaged citizens who support your cause and will vote, donate, and spend time in order to advance that cause. That’s not a new thing, by the way. Alexis d’Toqueville mentioned it as an interesting factor in democracy in Democracy in America.

Are you pro-gun control and wonder why those who support greater restrictions on gun ownership have not convinced a large enough number of their fellow citizens to take up their cause in a more participatory manner? I can’t answer that for you, but I know it’s not the fault of gun owners, who are advocating for what is important to them rather than you.

Federalism

Image result for image of gun controlDespite the name, we really aren’t the “United States.” The people of each state have a unique culture, history, and perspective on the role of government. I know that isn’t a popular opinion among statists who prefer a more homogenous and, thereby controllable, society, but it’s reality. These differences are what give rise to different laws on a wide range of issues. Just as we have seen states take different approaches to marijuana laws and immigration enforcement, we should expect that they would also take different approaches to gun laws. Living here in Alaska, I can tell you with certainty that going on into the woods around here (which can be some people’s backyard) without a gun is a really foolish thing to do.

We refer to the state governments as “laboratories of democracy” for a reason. One-size-fits-all solutions imposed by Congress rarely work well and are unnecessary unless you’re a statist who wants to control people who live thousands of miles away from you.. Each state should be free to enact the gun laws it feels will be most effective in protecting its citizens while remaining consistent with the Supreme Court’s protection of gun ownership as expressed in its Heller decision.

Similar to marijuana legalization and immigration, gun control is a perfect test case for federalism. Allowing states to experiment with their gun laws and comparing the results is the appropriate solution to this issue. Attempting to force the people of Alaska or North Dakota to accept the demands of citizens from New York or California is simply counterproductive.

Important Terms Do Not Have Agreed-Upon Definitions

Just as we have differences in culture and histories, we also have significant differences in how we define certain concepts.

What constitutes an “assault weapon”? Actually read the linked article and find out what you don’t know that you should know before engaging in a discussion of gun control.

What event qualifies as a “school shooting”? Has there been one, three or 18 in the United States in 2018? Yes, the definition matters.

Image result for image of gun controlThese are just two of the important concepts that people use and assume that others agree with their definitions. Last week, one prominent gun control group produced information that supposedly showed there have been 18 school shootings in the U.S. in 2018 alone. However, it counted events such as a suicide in a closed school building, the accidental discharge of a security officer’s firearm in which no one was hurt, and a criminal who ran on school property to flee police as school shootings. These are clearly not the same types of events as a mass school shooting such as occurred in Parkland, Florida, or at Columbine High School in Colorado. Yet many media outlets reported the claim without bothering to note the distinctions. I applaud the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner for pointing out their error after they were called on it.

Significant disagreement exists on these and other terms. Until we can all get on the same page regarding how we define important terms, it will continue to be virtually impossible to reach an agreed-upon solution. Because of this, a “national” approach to this issue is likely to remain elusive.

We Don’t All Agree on the “Solutions”

The calls for congressional action come most often from those wishing to restrict gun ownership. However, not everyone agrees that this is the correct approach. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 16 states that ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus, 10 states that allow concealed weapons on college campuses, and 23 states, including my home state of Alaska, which leave this decision in the hands of each institution.

The fact that so many states disagree as to whether greater restrictions or greater freedom is the right course clearly demonstrates that there is significant disagreement on what should be done.

The Most Reasonable Approach

I know – gun control advocates reading this are at risk for stroke, but the fact remains that Congress has been unable to act on your utopian wet dream of turning the entire country into a gun-free zone because a comprehensive solution would be a dream for some and tyranny for others. The most appropriate solution to this issue would be for states and communities to continue to develop those policies their citizens most support and allow for geographic diversity so if you’re living in a region where you feel the gun laws make you unsafe, you can move to a region where the gun laws are more to your liking. Such an approach would align public policies with the preferences of majorities in each state and avoid the obstacles mentioned above.

The burden of action should not rest solely on the shoulders of elected officials. Individuals should find out what the security measures and policies of local schools are. They should familiarize themselves with the gun laws of their states. If they believe any of these are inadequate, they should advocate for change to officials at the local and state level who most likely share those concerns and who will be responsive to those efforts. In short, citizens need to practice self-government.

Mass shootings, and especially school shootings, are the results of a variety of complicated factors. Simplistic solutions will not solve these problems and have little likelihood of national action. However, if the parents, teachers, and students of any state or community want some legislative action to address this issue, let them advocate for it with their state and local government officials.

Truthfully, Congress isn’t, and shouldn’t be, responsible for anyone’s personal safety. That responsibility has to fall on individuals, communities, and state governments. If you’re not advocating for real change there, you’re not likely to get the results you’re seeking — whatever those may be.

Posted February 24, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control

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“Let” Us?   Leave a comment

Image result for image of fairbanks alaska snow wind stormBrad couldn’t sleep last night (worried about our dog who just had surgery, I think), so he got up really early and checked out some friends on Facebook. He graduated high school in Chappaqua, New York, but he lived all over New England as a kid and still has family there, as well as spending several years in Texas where he also has family.

So he was talking with someone (a friend) who lives back east and telling him how two weeks ago, the temperatures here were 30 below zero, but it’s 30 above now and we got over a half-foot of snow last night. He’d decided I was driving his Jeep to work this morning.

The conversation went from there.

Brad – My wife is driving the Jeep to work this morning so I can fix what caused her car not to work last week during the 30 below.

Of course, Facebook is a “public” forum, so a friend of his friend responded.

Friend Once Removed – I’m surprised they let you drive in that.

  • Friend – Drive in what? Which?

  • Friend Once Removed – Either. It’s dangerous. They should close the roads.

  • Friend – He lives in Alaska. If they did that, they’d spend all winter trapped at home. And they’re used to it.

Brad (responding to “surprised they let you drive in that”) – Let us? There’s no “let” involved. We drive if we darned well want to and accept the risk.

  • Friend Once Removed – The police should arrest anyone who doesn’t obey the law. You don’t have a right to endanger yourselves.

  • Brad – Fella, we live in Alaska, where freedom is a higher priority than being protected by the government.

  • Friend Once Removed – You people are what’s wrong with this country. You endanger all of us with your callous disregard for safety.

At this point, I asked Brad what he was muttering swear words about and he showed me the exchange.

Me – Yeah, I have conversations like that all the time under my Lela account.

Brad – What do you do about it?

Me – Sometimes I embrace the debate in hopes that someone will learn something from it and sometimes I refuse to pick up the rope. Surprisingly, others have started doing that and it feels good to know that people are thinking about liberty issues.

Brad – What should I do about this?

Me – Can I pretend to be you?

Lela Pretending to be Brad – I’m not sure how my driving a 4×4 Jeep through 6 inches of snow in Alaska endangers you when you live in New Jersey. Can’t we both live our lives without trying to control the other?

Friend Once Removed – No, because your “freedom” gives people ideas and those ideas put them in danger.

Me to Brad in the Real World – Leave the rope right there and stop this conversation right now. You can’t win this argument and if you continue he’ll be calling his Congressman insisting that Alaskans be stopped from driving in “dangerous conditions.” Now I’m going to go put on my winter gear over my office clothes and drive that 25-year-old Jeep through the “dangerous conditions” so I can field phone calls from the public who want to know when the roads will be plowed. Fun times!

Which, actually, it was. I LOVE driving that Jeep through snow and the wind just added another flavor – a wild primordial feel that a day of ordinary weather just doesn’t give you.

Posted February 23, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska, Uncategorized

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Liberty versus Crime   Leave a comment

To a statist, the concept of voluntarism looks like a lot like chaos. We’d have people just doing what they want with absolutely no regard for the people around them. Robbings, looting, murder … it would be horrible!

Image result for image voluntaryismExcept that’s not what voluntaryists are talking about when they say they want liberty. Maybe getting some definitions in order would be helpful.

Crimes are actions that produce victims, which in popular usage can mean almost anything undesirable under the sun. A more principled approach to understanding crime and victim-hood is to narrow the definition to a state in which somebody has been forcefully or fraudulently deprived of life, liberty, or property.

Crime includes such obvious actions like murder, battery, rape, assault, and theft. How particular people define particular instances of these types of action may differ, but for the most part, physically hurting people or taking their stuff is viewed as criminal behavior.

Liberties, on the other hand, are actions that do not produce an identifiable victim. They are actions that people should be free to perform as they do not victimize, in the criminal sense, other people.

Liberty includes a much broader spectrum of actions than does crime. I think we can confidently say that any action that is not criminal is a liberty. Liberties typically comprise 100% of people’s actions day-to-day. Think of anything you do: does it physically hurt somebody or take/damage their stuff? Then it’s a liberty and not a crime.

Liberties may be offensive in the sensibilities sense, but so long as they are not criminal, they should not be prohibited by political authorities. While every property owner may prohibit the liberties enjoyed within their private domain, they may not call upon third parties with guns to prohibit them in other domains.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. Restricting liberties makes up most of the actions that political authorities engage in today. Politicians, eager to get and remain elected, pander to sensibilities and push through laws that not only prohibit crime but, in too many ways, prohibit liberties.

Image result for image voluntaryismWhy? Because people start with the idea that you need government to control crime, but then they feel that they really need to curb the behaviors of others they don’t like. It starts out small, but grows over time and each success at controlling others’ undesirable behaviors emboldens the next attempt. And because liberty-minded people are often busy being free and exercising the benefits of that state, they don’t notice for a good long time that liberty is being lost. So when they finally get around to protesting, they’re told “Well, you never said anything the last dozen times, so you should have nothing to say this time around … or ever. We’re doing this for the good of everyone. You just want chaos.”

But there wasn’t chaos back when the US government was small and mostly powerless, so why would there be chaos now?

Victims Everywhere   Leave a comment

Image result for image of victimologyOne thing that really struck me this week in the aftermath of the Florida school shooting is how much victimhood has permeated this country. Yes, several people were shot and/or killed in that shooting and, yes, they are victims of a horrible tragedy. But to hear the media and the people they chose to interview talk, it would seem that half the nation’s population are victims of this incident that happened in one location. One woman on PBS talked about how her teenager, who attends a school in another state, was very concerned about how someone with a gun could come into her school and the mother wept that her child was being “victimized” like this. A man on another program said all parents with children in public school and their children have PTSD over this incident. Then there was someone else talking about how the shooter was a victim of bullying, almost as if that excuses shooting a bunch of people.

Wow! Is the embrasure of victimhood just an American phenomenon? It seems as if this country is the only place where people get so excited about the idea of being a victim that they will even fake hate crimes against themselves to get that status.

We’ve got women publicly crying that they were sexually assaulted and traumatized because a 93-year-old, wheelchair-bound President groped them. Maybe he was just trying to keep his arm around her for the photo op. He does have Parkinson’s Disease, you know?

Feminism (as in women having the same rights as men) has been so widely accepted in society that it made feminism irrelevant, so liberal feminists reinvented feminism as a combination of man-hating and victimization … a reason to keep bringing up patriarchy and rape culture and complain how men hold doors open for them and compliment their appearance. Disgusting!

Liberal feminism falsely makes women think they could have it all if those awful men weren’t getting in their way. It makes many guys unsure of what reaction they’ll get from women when they behave like men. Forget about the old “Women should be women and men should be men” philosophy; liberal feminism is about women being men and men being shamed for existing at all.

Progressive liberals (as opposed to classical liberals) work incessantly to split Americans into ever smaller groups that are at each other’s throats. If you want to get a sense of how bad it has gotten, we’re having ferocious public debates about transsexuals who, depending on how you define it, make up less than 0.25% to 0.75% of the population. Increasingly, the attitude is moving from the annoying, “You just can’t understand because of your race/color/gender” to “You HATE ME and that justifies ME HATING YOU” because of differences that are often unchangeable. This is incredibly dangerous to our future as a country because you can’t hold any group of people including a nation together long-term when people no longer believe they share the same goals and values as their neighbors.   Our nation’s motto is E pluribus unum (Out of many, one), but what happens when liberals insist that the many never become one?

Image result for image of victimologyThere was a time in America when people wanted to feel strong, capable and able to handle their own problems instead of being victims. There was a time in this country when the goals of oppressed minorities were to compete with white males on an even footing. Today, we’re told that, because of something intrinsic in our biology, we can never compete on even footing with white males who have received their position because of something intrinsic in their biology. They have white privilege, so unless we kill them all off (or at least take away their means of competing with us) we’ll always be victims. That sure sounds an awful lot like the old racism that said something intrinsic in our biology made one race superior to all others.

So what happens if we achieve this utopia? Do we honestly believe that a generation raised to be victims will be able to make use of power that sets aside their victimhood? Because once you’re in the cat-bird’s seat, you’re no longer a victim … right?

But He Didn’t Say That   Leave a comment

My first introduction to Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto clinical psychologist was when Brad asked me to watch an interview Peterson did with Camille Paglia. I didn’t care for the interview, mainly because Paglia likes to hear herself talk too much, but I did come away curious about Peterson, who up to that moment was a complete unknown to me.
Image result for image of jordan petersonI then caught his  interview with British journalist Cathy Newman a couple of weeks ago. Newman pressed Peterson to explain several of his controversial views, which is enlightening, but what struck me – more than his views — was the method Newman used in interviewing him. THIS is one of the main reasons I distrust the media today.First, a person says something. Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem their view is offensive, hostile, or absurd.

It’s not new or unique. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and various Fox News hosts all feature and reward this rhetorical technique. The Peterson interview showed so many successive examples that even our son, who couldn’t care less about politics or 90% of what Peterson and Newman were discussing, wondered why the interviewer kept inflating the nature of Peterson’s claims instead of addressing what he actually said.

I don’t dislike Cathy Newman. As British journalists go, she’s somewhat accurate and fair, although I don’t have extensive knowledge of her reporting. Restatement has a role in psychology and journalism, especially when trying to force a poor historian or an evasive subject to clarify their ideas. I suspect she has used that tactic to good effect elsewhere. It’s just that in this interview with Peterson, Newman relied on this technique to a remarkable degree, making it a useful illustration of a much broader pernicious trend. While Peterson was not evasive or unwilling to be clear about his meaning, Newman’s exaggerated restatements of his views mostly led viewers astray, not closer to the truth. She was telling people what she THOUGHT his words meant, rather than listening to what Peterson actually said.

Peterson began the interview by explaining why he tells young men to grow up and take responsibility for getting their lives together and becoming good partners. He noted he isn’t talking exclusively to men, and that he has lots of female fans.“What’s in it for the women, though?” Newman asked.

“Well, what sort of partner do you want?” Peterson said. “Do you want an overgrown child or do you want someone to contend with who is going to help you?”

“So you’re saying,” Newman retorted, “that women have some sort of duty to help fix the crisis of masculinity.”

Brad paused the interview at that point and asked me what I thought Peterson had said. I thought he posited a vested interest, not a duty.

“Women deeply want men who are competent and powerful,” Peterson asserted. “And I don’t mean power in that they can exert tyrannical control over others. That’s not power. That’s just corruption. Power is competence. And why in the world would you not want a competent partner? Well, I know why, actually, you can’t dominate a competent partner. So if you want domination—”

“So you’re saying women want to dominate, is that what you’re saying?” Newman interrupted.

The next section of the interview concerns the pay gap between men and women, and whether it is rooted in gender itself or other nondiscriminatory factors:

Newman: … that 9 percent pay gap,  that’s a gap between median hourly earnings between men and women. That exists.

Peterson: Yes. But there’s multiple reasons for that. One of them is gender, but that’s not the only reason. If you’re a social scientist worth your salt, you never do a uni-variate analysis. You say women in aggregate are paid less than men. Okay. Well then we break it down by age; we break it down by occupation; we break it down by interest; we break it down by personality.

Newman: But you’re saying, basically, it doesn’t matter if women aren’t getting to the top, because that’s what is skewing that gender pay gap, isn’t it? You’re saying that’s just a fact of life, women aren’t necessarily going to get to the top.

Peterson: No, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, either. I’m saying there are multiple reasons for it.

Newman: Yeah, but why should women put up with those reasons?

Peterson: I’m not saying that they should put up with it! I’m saying that the claim that the wage gap between men and women is only due to sex is wrong. And it is wrong. There’s no doubt about that. The multi-variate analyses have been done. So let me give you an example––

The interviewer seemed eager to impute to Peterson a belief that a large, extant wage gap between men and women is a “fact of life” that women should just “put up with,” though all those assertions are contrary to his real positions on the matter.

Throughout this next section, the interviewer repeatedly tried to oversimplify Peterson’s view, as if he believes one factor he discusses is all-important. Then she seemed to assume that because Peterson believes that given factor helps to explain a pay gap between men and women, he doesn’t support any actions that would bring about a more equal outcome. 
 

Her surprised question near the end suggested earnest confusion:

Peterson: There’s a personality trait known as agreeableness. Agreeable people are compassionate and polite. And agreeable people get paid less than disagreeable people for the same job. Women are more agreeable than men.

Newman: Again, a vast generalization. Some women are not more agreeable than men.

Peterson: That’s true. And some women get paid more than men.

Newman: So you’re saying by and large women are too agreeable to get the pay raises that they deserve.

Peterson: No, I’m saying that is one component of a multi-variate equation that predicts salary. It accounts for maybe 5 percent of the variance. So you need another 18 factors, one of which is gender. And there is prejudice. There’s no doubt about that. But it accounts for a much smaller portion of the variance in the pay gap than the radical feminists claim.

Newman: Okay, so rather than denying that the pay gap exists, which is what you did at the beginning of this conversation, shouldn’t you say to women, rather than being agreeable and not asking for a pay raise, go ask for a pay raise. Make yourself disagreeable with your boss.

Peterson: But I didn’t deny it existed, I denied that it existed because of gender. See, because I’m very, very, very careful with my words.

Newman: So the pay gap exists. You accept that. I mean the pay gap between men and women exists—but you’re saying it’s not because of gender, it’s because women are too agreeable to ask for pay raises.

Peterson: That’s one of the reasons.

Newman: Okay, so why not get them to ask for a pay raise? Wouldn’t that be fairer?

Peterson: I’ve done that many, many, many times in my career. So one of the things you do as a clinical psychologist is assertiveness training. So you might say––often you treat people for anxiety, you treat them for depression, and maybe the next most common category after that would be assertiveness training. So I’ve had many, many women, extraordinarily competent women, in my clinical and consulting practice, and we’ve put together strategies for their career development that involved continual pushing, competing, for higher wages. And often tripled their wages within a five-year period.

Newman: And you celebrate that?

Peterson: Of course! Of course!

Note that she seemed disgusted with the idea that women would have to be assertive to get what they want in the workplace. Yeah, I couldn’t figure that one out either. Men have to be assertive to get what THEY want, so why shouldn’t women? Another passage on gender equality proceeded thusly:

Newman: Is gender equality a myth?

Peterson: I don’t know what you mean by the question. Men and women aren’t the same. And they won’t be the same. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be treated fairly.

Newman: Is gender equality desirable?

Peterson: If it means equality of outcome then it is almost certainly undesirable. That’s already been demonstrated in Scandinavia. Men and women won’t sort themselves into the same categories if you leave them to do it of their own accord. It’s 20 to 1 female nurses to male … something like that. And approximately the same male engineers to female engineers. That’s a consequence of the free choice of men and women in the societies that have gone farther than any other societies to make gender equality the purpose of the law. Those are ineradicable differences––you can eradicate them with tremendous social pressure, and tyranny, but if you leave men and women to make their own choices you will not get equal outcomes.

Newman: So you’re saying that anyone who believes in equality, whether you call them feminists or whatever you want to call them, should basically give up because it ain’t going to happen.

Peterson: Only if they’re aiming at equality of outcome.

Newman: So you’re saying give people equality of opportunity, that’s fine.

Peterson: It’s not only fine, it’s eminently desirable for everyone, for individuals as well as societies.

Newman: But still women aren’t going to make it. That’s what you’re really saying.

By this time Brad and I were both shaking our heads in wonderment and Keirnan was even saying “But that’s not what he was really saying!”

In this next passage Peterson shows more explicit frustration than at any other time in the program with being interviewed by someone who refuses to relay his actual beliefs:

Newman: So you don’t believe in equal pay.

Peterson: No, I’m not saying that at all.

Newman: Because a lot of people listening to you will say, are we going back to the dark ages?

Peterson: That’s because you’re not listening, you’re just projecting.

Newman: I’m listening very carefully, and I’m hearing you basically saying that women need to just accept that they’re never going to make it on equal terms—equal outcomes is how you defined it.

Peterson: No, I didn’t say that.

Newman: If I was a young woman watching that, I would go, well, I might as well go play with my Cindy dolls and give up trying to go school, because I’m not going to get the top job I want, because there’s someone sitting there saying, it’s not possible, it’s going to make you miserable.

Peterson: I said that equal outcomes aren’t desirable. That’s what I said. It’s a bad social goal. I didn’t say that women shouldn’t be striving for the top, or anything like that. Because I don’t believe that for a second.

Newman: Striving for the top, but you’re going to put all those hurdles in their way, as have been in their way for centuries. And that’s fine, you’re saying. That’s fine. The patriarchal system is just fine.

Peterson:  No! I really think that’s silly! I do, I think that’s silly.

Peterson never said “the patriarchal system is just fine” or that he planned to put lots of hurdles in the way of women. He never said women shouldn’t strive for the top or they might as well drop out of school, because achieving their goals or happiness is simply not going to be possible. Newman put all those words in his mouth by projecting her own bias’ upon him.

The conversation moved on to other topics, but the pattern continued. Peterson made a statement and the the interviewer interjected with “So you’re saying …” and filled in the rest with something that is less defensible, less carefully qualified, more extreme, or just totally unrelated to his point. I think my favorite example came when they began to talk about lobsters. Yeah, lobsters! Here’s the excerpt:

 

Peterson: There’s this idea that hierarchical structures are a sociological construct of the Western patriarchy. And that is so untrue that it’s almost unbelievable. I use the lobster as an example: We diverged from lobsters evolutionarily about 350 million years ago. And lobsters exist in hierarchies. They have a nervous system attuned to the hierarchy. And that nervous system runs on serotonin just like ours. The nervous system of the lobster and the human being is so similar that anti-depressants work on lobsters. And it’s part of my attempt to demonstrate that the idea of hierarchy has absolutely nothing to do with sociocultural construction, which it doesn’t.

Newman: Let me get this straight. You’re saying that we should organize our societies along the lines of the lobsters?

To this, Keirnan cracked “Yes, he proposed that we all live on the sea floor … except for those who want to live in the seafood tanks at restaurants.” We all got a good laugh out of that, but the kid has a point. It’s laughable. Absolutely ludicrous. Peterson, to his credit, tried to keep plodding along.

Peterson: I’m saying it is inevitable that there will be continuities in the way that animals and human beings organize their structures. It’s absolutely inevitable, and there is one-third of a billion years of evolutionary history behind that … It’s a long time. You have a mechanism in your brain that runs on serotonin that’s similar to the lobster mechanism that tracks your status—and the higher your status, the better your emotions are regulated. So as your serotonin levels increase you feel more positive emotion and less negative emotion.

Newman: So you’re saying like the lobsters, we’re hard-wired as men and women to do certain things, to sort of run along tram lines, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

She was actually tracking until she added the extreme “and there’s nothing we can do about it”? Peterson is a clinical psychologist who coaches people to change how they relate to institutions and to one another within the constraints of human biology. Of course he believes that there is something that can be done about it.

He brought up the lobsters only in an attempt to argue that “one thing we can’t do is say that hierarchical organization is a consequence of the capitalist patriarchy.”At this point, we’re near the end of the interview. And given all that preceded it, Newman’s response killed me. She took another accusatory tack with her guest:

Newman: Aren’t you just whipping people up into a state of anger?

Peterson: Not at all.

Newman: Divisions between men and women. You’re stirring things up.

Actually, one of the most important things this interview illustrates—one reason it is worth watching (find it on You-Tube) —is how Newman repeatedly posed as if she were holding a controversialist accountable, when in fact, for the duration of the interview, it was she who was “stirring things up” and “whipping people into a state of anger.”

At every turn, she took her subject’s words and made them seem more extreme, more hostile to women, or more shocking in their implications than Peterson’s remarks themselves support. Almost all of the most inflammatory views that were aired in the interview were ascribed by Newman to Peterson, who then disputed that she had accurately characterized his words.

There are moments when Newman seems earnestly confused, and perhaps was. But if it was merely confusion, why did she consistently misinterpret him in the more scandalous, less politically correct, more umbrage-stoking direction?

I hadn’t followed Peterson enough to know what I thought of him when I watched the interview, but I have since gone out and listened to several of his lectures and interviews and I find a lot of good meat in his arguments, though I don’t wholly agree with him because I think Jungians take their archetypes far too seriously.  I’m just pointing out that Newman’s interview techniques were unhelpful and unfair because they were untruthful. Those who credulously accept the interviewer’s characterizations will emerge with the impression that a prominent academic holds troubling views that, in fact, he does not actually believe or advocate. Distorted impressions of what figures like Peterson mean by the words that they speak can only exacerbate overall polarization between their followers and others, which will actually make it harder for their critics to push back against any wrong ideas.Lots of culture-war fights are unavoidable because they are rooted in earnest, deeply-felt disagreements over the best values or societal goods. The best we can do is have those fights with some civility rules to prevent duels at dawn. Disagreements are inevitable in a pluralistic democracy, but reducing needless division requires that we accurate characterize the views of folks with differing opinions, rather than distort their works so that existing divides become more intractable. That sort of exaggeration or hyperbolic misrepresentation is epidemic in the Western world today and we are long overdue for addressing it … for everyone’s sake.
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