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Today’s DoubleQuotes 2: mine own

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- smart guns and science fiction, transubstantiation, AE van Vogt, Frank Herbert, and PK Dick ]
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Many of my books are in storage at the moment, so I’m borrowing from a review to interest you in A. E. van Vogt‘s book The Weapon Shops of Isher if you don’t already know it. It’s pretty timely.

It’s curious, too, that The Weapon Shops of Isher by A. E. van Vogt should happen to concern grand political themes like dictatorship, an imperial cult, government theft of private property, the suppression of dissent, and gun ownership. Being science fiction, it also includes time travel, and invisibility suits, and doorknobs that reach out to, and weapons that jump into, the right people’s hands.

The lower panel, above, shows science fiction becoming science fact — the controversial prototype of the Armatix iP1 .22-caliber smart gun

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Here are the two key texts for the fiction and the fact, in the form of a second DoubleQuote — first the fiction, then the 2014 fact:

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Putting together the DoubleQuotes with the van Vogt cover threw me through a loop, because I could swear I remembered something about Frank Herbert‘s Dune having a cover that was “borrowed” for use on another book, as though all non-earth planets were the same. After some searching, I realized that it wasn’t this cover that matched the cover of Dune, but a cover used on PK Dick‘s Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich — so here’s that DQ, showing events on Arrakis (Dune) and (presumably) Mars (Three Stigmata):

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My personal reasons for interest in these three books, beyond the fact that each is splendid?

  • The Weapons Shops: the idea of guns that can only be used in self defence is interesting
  • Dune: deals with a Mahdi and questions of jihad
  • The Three Stigmata: makes a comparison between transubstantiation & altered states
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    Heavy breathing on the line: Uniform disbelief

    Saturday, June 29th, 2013

    [dots connected by Lynn C. Rees]

    Sigh

    Sigh

    What did Lucius Aemilius Paullus know and when did he know it?

    Once upon a time

    During my first year’s encampment General Scott visited West Point, and reviewed the cadets. With his commanding figure, his quite colossal size and showy uniform, I thought him the finest specimen of manhood my eyes had ever beheld, and the most to be envied.

    General Winfield Scott

    I could never resemble him in appearance, but I believe I did have a presentiment for a moment that some day I should occupy his place on review—although I had no intention then of remaining in the army. My experience in a horse-trade ten years before, and the ridicule it caused me, were too fresh in my mind for me to communicate this presentiment to even my most intimate chum.

    Flashback.

    There was a Mr. Ralston living within a few miles of the village, who owned a colt which I very much wanted. My father had offered twenty dollars for it, but Ralston wanted twenty-five. I was so anxious to have the colt, that after the owner left, I begged to be allowed to take him at the price demanded. My father yielded, but said twenty dollars was all the horse was worth, and told me to offer that price; if it was not accepted I was to offer twenty-two and a half, and if that would not get him, to give the twenty-five.

    I at once mounted a horse and went for the colt. When I got to Mr. Ralston’s house, I said to him: “Papa says I may offer you twenty dollars for the colt, but if you won’t take that, I am to offer twenty-two and a half, and if you won’t take that, to give you twenty-five.” 

    It would not require a Connecticut man to guess the price finally agreed upon…

    I could not have been over eight years old at the time. This transaction caused me great heart-burning. The story got out among the boys of the village, and it was a long time before I heard the last of it.

    It was a setup.
    (more…)

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    Fireworks: guns as dual-purpose devices?

    Friday, March 15th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- the merest trifle -- concerning things that go flash and bang, with potentially lethal consequences ]
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    It’s exuberance, exhilaration, it’s celebration, it’s party time. It’s dangerous and stupid like the man says, and it’s unfortunate when your neighbors just happen to bear the brunt of it. It’s also pretty much human nature, in some places it’s how you celebrate your daughter’s wedding…

    For your contemplative consideration:

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    here’s the video to which the tweet in the upper panel above refers:

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    The quote in the lower panel comes from a New York Times Magazine article today, Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?

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    Guns and The New Paternalism

    Thursday, December 27th, 2012

    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg      Photo credit: The New York Times 

    Longtime reader and blogfriend Eddie Beaver sent me a link to an article by NYT columnist, Ross Douthat. In my view, Douthat has written a fairly important observation of a political dynamic that is broader than the simply the new push by the elite for new and stringent gun control legislation:

    Bloomberg, LaPierre and the Void

    FOR a week after the Newtown shooting, the conversation was dominated by the self-righteous certainties of the American center-left. In print and on the airwaves, the chorus was nearly universal: the only possible response to Adam Lanza’s rampage was an immediate crusade for gun control, the necessary firearm restrictions were all self-evident, and anyone who doubted their efficacy had the blood of children on his hands.

    The leading gun control chorister was Michael Bloomberg, and this was fitting, because on a range of issues New York’s mayor has become the de facto spokesman for the self-consciously centrist liberalism of the Acela Corridor elite. Like so many members of that class, Bloomberg combines immense talent with immense provincialism: his view of American politics is basically the famous New Yorker cover showing Manhattan’s West Side overshadowing the world, and his bedrock assumption is that the liberal paternalism with which New York is governed can and should be a model for the nation as a whole.

    ….Unfortunately for our country, the Bloomberg versus LaPierre contrast is basically all of American politics today. Our society is divided between an ascendant center-left that’s far too confident in its own rigor and righteousness and a conservatism that’s marched into an ideological cul-de-sac and is currently battering its head against the wall.

    ….The establishment view is interventionist, corporatist and culturally liberal. It thinks that issues like health care and climate change and immigration are best worked out through comprehensive bills drawn up by enlightened officials working hand in glove with business interests. It regards sexual liberty as sacrosanct, and other liberties — from the freedoms of churches to the rights of gun owners — as negotiable at best. It thinks that the elite should pay slightly higher taxes, and everyone else should give up guns, SUVs and Big Gulps and live more like, well, Manhattanites. It allows the president an entirely free hand overseas, and takes the Bush-Obama continuities in foreign policy for granted.

    Douthat’s criticism of a reflexively angry but unimaginative and politically inept Right is correct, but class trumps mere Left-Right distinctions regarding gun control, with celebrity pundit Fareed Zakaria and conservative press baron Rupert Murdoch aligning with fellow Manhattan West Side billionaire and gun control zealot, Mayor Michael  Bloomberg  and various worthies in calling for UK style “gun bans”.

    Britain of course, does not have a 2nd Amendment or, for that matter, a written Constitution that acts as a bar to government curtailment of civil liberties and both Parliament and British courts have different views on the limits of basic rights of free speech, self-defense (not just with guns), property and other liberties than the American norm. In light of the  2nd Amendment and District of Columbia vs. Heller, that sort of draconian legislation that makes gun ownership a privilege of the very few, would be obviously unconstitutional. If Illinois, for example must comply with a Federal Appellate Court order to permit citizens under new legislation to carry concealed guns, it is rather unlikely the Federal courts will entertain a confiscatory national gun control law that would trample not only the 2nd Amendment, but the 4th, 5th and 14th along the way. Nor would the governors of a majority of American states be on board for this, nor most Congressmen from rural states or the high tens of millions of Americans who own guns and reside in zip codes outside of Georgetown and Manhattan.

    However, a healthy disregard for the strictures of Constitutional law and the liberties of ordinary citizens is a hallmark of the New Paternalism of our increasingly oligarchic elite, composed of superwealthy billionaires, hedge fund managers, Fortune 500 CEOs and the technocratic-political-legal class sporting ivy league pedigrees. They are even worse on the 4th Amendment and individual privacy than on gun rights look disapprovingly at the First, which constrains their ability to censor and punish unenlightened opinions or political criticism. Outside of gay marriage and abortion, I am hard pressed to think of a single individual liberty our elite holds in unqualified esteem or at least in as much esteem in their own presumed competence to rule.

    As Douthat noted, this not merely about guns, but of this small group having a searing contempt for the way the majority of Americans live their lives and a manifest, bipartisan, desire to regulate them for their own good in matters great and small. To decide how other Americans should educate their children; whether they should go to college and if so, what they should be permitted to study;  how much and what kind of food they should be allowed to eat or drink; whether their religion should be treated with deference in public policy or dismissed for the greater good; where they should live and how far back their “middle-class” living standards should be cut or pensions reduced, transformed or eliminated for the benefit of those whose incompetently  mismanaged companies, banks and   equities firms were so recently bailed out by taxpayers and the Federal Reserve.

    It would be one thing, of course, if these high minded New Paternalists intended to live under the laws they eagerly want to impose on the rest of us, but largely they intend a different set of rules for themselves. They are ardent gun-control advocates who pack heat, public pension reformers who loot their employee’s pensions to enrich themselves, ed reformers who send their kids to posh private schools , crusaders against obesity who love junk food, zealous environmentalists with giant carbon footprints and advocates of tax reform whose corporations pay no taxes. Their mismatch between words and deeds is so vast as to almost be admirable – say what you like about this cabal’s lack of humility or sense stewardship, they hit the jackpot when it came to chutzpah.

    If Hubris mated with Hypocrisy, their offspring would look much like the present American leadership class.

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    Finding a novel use for my two-quote format..

    Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

    [ by Charles Cameron -- on straight shooting, but more about logic than guns ]
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    If you tie me down across some railroad tracks (no, that’s not me) and I can feel a train coming and you say you’ll cut me loose if and only if I vote for or against “gun control” I’ll hastily but reluctantly admit to being for it.

    The haste, you’ll understand, comes from my not wishing to be cut in three or four by the onrushing train, while the reluctance comes from my sense that my political opinions, such as they are, are usually more indicative of my generally kindly nature than of any rigorous analysis of likely first, second, third and nth order impacts of whatever it is we’re discussing.

    But okay, my sympathies are with gun control — while my awareness of my own ignorance prompts me not to put much stock in those sympathies.

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    But then I come across this article in Forbes, which disturbs me enough to prompt me into a new idea, a novel use for my SPECS or DoubleQuotes format.

    I’ll use that format to present you with two paragraphs from that article, one of them slightly abridged, which follow one another directly. And my question for you, as you read them, is how can the authors get from the top paragraph, with all its questions and cautious qualifications, to the one immediately below it, with its claim of unquestioning certainty.

    I’d say that the paragraph that immediately follows the first one doesn’t follow from it at all, logically speaking — I’d say there’s a non sequitur in there. And for me, that’s a novel use of the two quotes format — to suggest that someone is taking an impermissible leap.

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    Because as far as I can see, the only way to get from the first paragraph to the second is via a leap of hope — a determination, present from the beginning, to arrive at a fixed conclusion, in this case, that firing guns is addictive.

    As I’ve said, I have some sympathy with gun control legislation — but I don’t much like it when sympathies masquerade as science, even when I share them.

    So what do we call that kind of leap?

    Leaping to a hasty conclusion? Jumping the gun, perhaps? Jumping the shark?

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