Sunday, December 16, 2012

Most disturbing thing I have seen about Newton

Here is my cut down version From the Talking Points Memo blog:

From TPM Reader SS

I’m a pretty left-of-center liberal. Read TPM regularly. Donated nearly $1,000 to BHO’s re-election campaign. But I was raised with guns. More to the point, my childhood was steeped in gun lore: I learned to hand-load ammunition when I was 10 and 11, and - by the time I was 14 - my dad was trusting me to prepare my own handloads. I could (and to some extent, still can) recite chapter and verse of firearms arcana, from muzzle velocities - a product of the type of gunpowder used in one’s handloads; of the weight (in grains) of a projectile; of the length of a gun’s barrel (the longer, the faster); of the temperature and elevation at which one is shooting - to impact energy (measured in footpounds), to trajectories (flatter for heavier bullets; some calibers have an innate advantage over others), and so on. I bring this up to establish my bona-fides. The gun culture that we have today in the U.S. is not the gun culture, so to speak, that I remember from my youth. It’s too simple to say that it’s “sick;” it’s more accurately an absurd fetishization. ...

The guns that I grew up with (in the late-1970’s and 1980’s) were bolt-action rifles: non-automatic weapons, with organic fixtures - i.e., stocks - and limited magazine capacities. ...

I was raised nominally to hunt, although we didn’t do much of that: once a year, at most. More frequently, we’d go to the range and shoot at targets. So I grew up practicing, and enjoying, what’s commonly called benchrest rifle shooting. I still do so (to a limited extent) today....

I can’t remember seeing a semi-automatic weapon of any kind at a shooting range until the mid-1980’s. Even through the early-1990’s, I don’t remember the idea of “personal defense” being a decisive factor in gun ownership. The reverse is true today: I have college-educated friends - all of whom, interestingly, came to guns in their adult lives - for whom gun ownership is unquestionably (and irreducibly) an issue of personal defense. For whom the semi-automatic rifle or pistol - with its matte-black finish, laser site, flashlight mount, and other “tactical” accoutrements - effectively circumscribe what’s meant by the word “gun.” ...

The “tactical” turn is what I want to flag here. It has what I take to be a very specific use-case, but it’s used - liberally - by gun owners outside of the military, outside of law enforcement, outside (if you’ll indulge me) of any conceivable reality-based community: these folks talk in terms of “tactical” weapons, “tactical” scenarios, “tactical applications,” and so on. It’s the lingua franca of gun shops, gun ranges, gun forums, and gun-oriented Youtube videos. (My god, you should see what’s out there on You Tube!) Which begs my question: in precisely which “tactical” scenarios do all of these lunatics imagine that they’re going to use their matte-black, suppressor-fitted, flashlight-ready tactical weapons? They tend to speak of the “tactical” as if it were a fait accompli; as a kind of apodeictic fact: as something that everyone - their customers, interlocutors, fellow forum members, or YouTube viewers - experiences on a regular basis, in everyday life.

They tend to speak of the tactical as reality. And I think there’s a sense in which they’ve constructed their own (batshit insane) reality.

One in which we have to live.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The federal by-elections

Quite unusually the November 26 federal by-elections produced a set of outcomes that managed to deliver bad news in one form or another for all the parties including the Green Party, which actually won large shares of the popular vote in Victoria and Calgary Centre representing large gains over 2011. However, these two constituencies previously featured the sixth and ninth best performances by the Green party in the 2011 election.  Having just three by-elections to contest therefore was as about as good an opportunity as one could ask for to break through and win another riding. But the first-past-the-post electoral system in Canada is remorseless. Big increases in popular vote in two of your strongest ridings that don't produce victories represents a setback. It is not surprising that the Greens are enthusiastic supporters of cooperation among the non-Conservative parties: they would have the most to gain.

The Conservatives won two constituencies but relatively speaking lost ground in all three provinces, although their loss in Ontario was small enough that it might be seen as satisfactory. TC takes the individual results and calculates what a provincial outcome comparable to the 2011 result would look like.  For the Conservatives that would be about 40.5% in Ontario compared to their 44.2% in 2011.  Their relative losses in BC and Alberta were much greater, and in Victoria their poor performance (14.5% compared to 23.5% in 2011) could justifiably be regarded by them with alarm about what it might say about the province as a whole.

The Liberals have been doing well in national polls recently but there was no evidence in the November 26th results of their recent gains at the national level. Perhaps there is no Trudeaumania II outside the confines of the Liberal Party. On the other hand the David McGuinty/Justin Trudeau comments about Alberta did not seem to hurt the Liberals in Calgary Centre where the outcome was not far off the pre-election polls, and a marked improvement for the Liberals over 2011. The Liberals finished in third place in 2011 and have a long way to come back.  These results cannot be seen as encouraging.

The NDP picked up some ground in Durham and finished a poor fourth in Calgary Centre and they were no doubt disappointed by their weak result in Victoria despite winning. It was the one contest that featured a debate about a local policy issue - whether or not there should be a new treatment plant for Victoria's sewage.  Only NDP candidate Murray Rankin strongly supported the plant while the others were opposed (including, remarkably, via some fairly tortured logic Green candidate Donald Galloway), and even, in the case of the Conservative candidate Dale Gann, if it meant reversing previous support.  The case for proceeding with the proposed new plant is well-argued here on the blog of Victoria City Councillor Ben Isitt (who unsuccessfully sought the Victoria NDP nomination).  It appears that most Victorians wish to avoid future local tax increases at the expense of pollution continuing to flow unabated into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There were two good columns on this topic by Victoria Times-Colonist columnist Les Leyne here and here.

One other factor may have been the anti-Mulcair radio campaign that has been running frequently on Vancouver radio stations and likely also in Victoria, something the national NDP may need to regard with alarm.