Free Markets, Free People

shooting

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 16 Jan 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Gabby Giffords shooting and the response to it.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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‘No sale’ on the ‘hateful’ rhetoric/Tucson shooting connection

According to a CBS New poll It appears the American public isn’t buying the attempt to connect what is termed “hateful” rhetoric and the Tucson shooting of Rep. Giffords:

Overall, 57 percent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did. Republicans were more likely to feel the two were unrelated – 69 percent said rhetoric was not to blame; 19 percent said it played a part. Democrats were more split on the issue – 49 percent saw no connection; 42 percent said there was.

Independents more closely reflected the overall breakdown – 56 percent said rhetoric had nothing to do with the attack; 33 percent felt it did.

So a note to the left trying to make political hay with this incident – the meme is not resonating.  And, as usual, you’ve underestimated the good sense of the American people and their ability to separate political nonsense from the truth.  I think we can reasonably call the attempt to establish the “hateful rhetoric caused the shooting” a “FAIL.”

~McQ

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Political opportunism never lets a crisis go to waste

I continue to be incredulous of the blatant political opportunism this shooting of Rep. Giffords has unleashed on the left. OK, not really. But in a way, it is the Paul Wellstone memorial all over again on a national level.

First, all of this angst over political rhetoric is so overwrought and overblown as to be laughable.  There has never been a time in the history of this land that the language hasn’t been rough or partisan.  Never.  Pretending this is the worst it has ever been is simply historically inaccurate.  It may be more obvious now because of mass communications and the democratization of opinion, but it isn’t at all any different than it ever has been.  Folks, do a little digging in the history books.  Hell, use Google. I’m not going to do you homework for you, but trust me on this – this era isn’t any better or worse than the vast majority of the rest of them.

Secondly, the entire premise of those calling for the toning down of the rhetoric originally was that it was the cause on the attack on Giffords.  Now it is becoming more and more apparent that isn’t the case.  But it provides such an opportunity for the left to demonize the right that the talking heads and political advisors continue to make that point even while they walk it back a little with a disclaimer about this guy being a nut.   It now goes something like “we must ratchet the vitriol and rhetoric down, even if this guy wasn’t a right wing nut influenced by it”.

Really? 

Why?

Right now the only reason they can come up with is “it could happen”.  When they first started harping on this nonsense, soon after the shooting, you got the impression that the left was 99.9% sure this guy was a right-wing militia member or something.  As it turns out he was the .01% loon instead.  But that hasn’t slowed down the messaging has it?

And, as I mentioned in another post, political strategists see this as a golden opportunity for the president to speak out on something that didn’t occur.  Oh, forget the last part of that – we’ll pretend it did to give Obama’s forthcoming words some sort of foundation of relevance.  One of those political strategists who are enamored with the opportunity is the odious Paul Begala:

Paul Begala, one of Clinton’s top political advisers during the 1990s, thinks Obama has a genuine opportunity to re-define the nation’s political debate – a promise he first made in his breakout 2004 speech to the Democratic convention —and reclaim moral high ground lost during the last two years of intense partisan combat.

“One of the things I learned from Oklahoma City is not to rush to judgment…We don’t know this Arizona animal’s motive,” said Begala.

But almost irrespective of that, it wouldn’t hurt for all of us to tone things down a bit – myself included. If the President uses this tragedy to challenge us all to move to higher ground, it would be a welcome message. And if the right tries to demonize him for doing that, they will look small and petty and extreme.” [emphasis mine]

Begala learned “not to rush to judgment” in the OK City tragedy?  Did he really?  So why is he doing it now by attempting to tie political rhetoric (“tone things down a bit”) to the shooting in Tucson (the reason for any speech Obama might make)? 

Well in reality I guess he doesn’t.  Note the “but almost irrespective of that” phrase.  He’s saying, hey it really doesn’t matter if the dream scenario didn’t play out (right winger shoots left wing pol), this is still a great opportunity for the President to pull a Bill Clinton and demonize the right (although he doesn’t say that specifically, that’s precisely what Clinton did – Limbaugh and the militias were the bad guys then) and connect with the people (which he sorely needs to do).  And, of course, if the right fights back, well “they will look small and petty”?

What if the right fights back by throwing the facts of the case (loon, not right winger, shot Giffords not because of rhetoric, but because he’s a loon) in the President’s face and standing firmly on 1st Amendment grounds to resist the call to curb political speech, Mr. Begala?  Who’ll look rather diminished then, sir?

Begala’s not the only operative salivating on the chance to capitalize on this tragedy:

Veteran Democratic consultant Dan Gerstein said the crisis “really plays to Obama’s strengths as consensus-builder” and gives him the opportunity to build a deeper emotional connection with the people he governs.

“He’ll be active, but also very careful not to appear like he’s blaming or politicizing,” Gerstein predicted.

Since when has Obama yet demonstrated he is a “consensus-builder?”  On what?  And when in his last two years hasn’t he “blamed” or “politicized” just about everything?  If I hear anything more about his “predecessor” or about what he “inherited” I’ll puke.   If Gerstein is Obama’s consultant, it isn’t at all difficult to understand why Obama is in trouble.  Gerstein obviously has Obama mixed up with someone else.

Gerstein goes on:

“The biggest question about him is strength – can he be a strong leader? This tragedy will give him an opportunity to answer that question and build a closer emotional connection with the middle of the electorate that sees this as a reflection of something disturbing about our politics.”

I can answer that question – making a speech about a shooting and calling for toned down rhetoric and less partisanship (while having use heated rhetoric, blaming and blatant partisanship) does not make someone a leader, Mr. Gerstein.  It doesn’t make him a strong leader or a weak leader or even a mediocre leader.  Leadership is about action, decisions and consequences.   It isn’t a passive word as folks like Gerstein seem to think.

Will it help him “connect” with the middle of the electorate?  Have his speeches in the past done so?  Sure, when he was a total unknown, his words were pretty, inspiring and hopeful.  But now the “middle of the electorate” know him much better and he has an actual record of 2 years.  Pretty and high-minded speeches aren’t going to impress anyone anymore.

The rest of the POLITICO article discusses the similarities and differences between Tucson and Oklahoma City as well as the differences between Clinton and Obama.  But here is the nut of the premise that the left is trying to lay on the right at the moment:

And Clinton has made clear he believes that the trend he identified in the 1990s – the connection between radical speech and violent deeds – still exists.

Even though Timothy McVeigh explicitly cited Waco as his reason for bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City, this premise continues to exist as if it has been proven.  Yet, again, when the violence is cited and radical speech blamed, we find little to convince us that there’s any connection.  The nutcase that shot Giffords dreamed up his own reasons for going after her it seems, independent of anyone else’s rhetoric.

How inconvenient for those who would love to shut us up.

Clinton said in an oped during the time of the OK City bombing:

“Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy,”

I don’t think any reasoning person on the right disagrees with that statement.  What they will disagree with is what constitutes “advocacy” for violence.

Well, here’s a clue – it’s not crosshairs on a political map.  If one can reasonably deduce what that means in context with a political campaign, you understand without a second thought that it is a metaphorical device.  So are may other terms.  But the left is attacking that in the normal contextless and disingenuous way they do their business:

A key ally, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), for example, explicitly called out Palin for injecting gun imagery into politics, arguing that her use of crosshairs over districts – including Giffords’ — in an email pitch to SarahPAC supporters incited violence.

“We live in a world of violent images … the phrase ‘don’t retreat, reload’ — putting crosshairs on congressional districts as targets … they invite the unstable,” Durbin told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Our political speech should not be held hostage by the “unstable”.  And this latest nut is a perfect example of the point.  It appears he was not swayed by anything to do with political speech by anyone but Giffords.  He was obsessed with her and for all we know, he got his orders to shoot her from the chicken pot pie he ate the night before.

Durbin’s nonsense notwithstanding, we cannot and must not make ourselves hostages to what could happen if some nut decides to take something literally.   There is a difference between a random nutball deciding for whatever reason to do something and a movement that advocates violence as a solution to political problem.  We must not bow to the pressure to accommodate the former by denying our free speech and we must not accept the latter as a solution to anything.  But what we can’t do is lump the former with the latter and just curb our speech “in case” it might set one of the nuts off.  That’s precisely what Durbin and his ilk are suggesting.

Yeah, I know, what, 4 posts in and around the subject?  Can you tell it hacks me off?  I’m disgusted by the cold-blooded opportunism, I’m aghast at the concerted attempt to limit speech and I’m just pissed that anyone would calculate any sort of political win out of an obvious tragedy.

But then, I’m talking about the left here and nothing they do surprises me anymore.

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 09 Jan 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Gabby Giffords shooting and the response to it.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Fools rush in to define Giffords tragedy politically

Even before the blood had dried in the Safeway parking lot in Tucson, both sides and the media were attempting to paint the tragedy of the shooting of Rep. Giffords and other innocent bystanders in a way that boosted (or defended) whatever agenda talking point they wished to advance.

Politicization of an event – any event – that political advocates, activists or politicians see as useful is almost instant anymore. And make no mistake about it – what has been done from the beginning is to politicize this shooting (and that includes the Sheriff of Pima County AZ). Doing so has almost become standard operating procedure. Well that and demanding the event not be politicized. And then, in the post mortem, arguing about which side politicized it first.

Any long time observer of politics, especially in this day of mass communication, knows the speed by which information and opinion move. They also know that those who try to shape opinion have learned they must move quickly in order to see information shaped as they’d prefer to see it.

Of course, in the case of Rep. Giffords, one meme immediately surfaced – "vitriol" as a generic reason was cited as the cause – as in "political vitriol". The unstated (for the most part, at least immediately) source of that vitriol was supposed to be understood by knowing the political party of the victim. Reports were sure to stress "Democratic" Representative Giffords as the one shot.

This before the shooter had even been identified. And I can promise you, cold-blooded political strategists were sizing up the "opportunity" to see how much political throw-weight it had for their issue, agenda or politician.

For example:

One veteran Democratic operative, who blames overheated rhetoric for the shooting, said President Barack Obama should carefully but forcefully do what his predecessor did.

“They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers,” said the Democrat. “Just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.”

Note that this operative couldn’t care less if it really was "overheated rhetoric" or the fault of the Tea Party. That’s the farthest thing from his mind. It is a political opportunity to take advantage of a tragedy to "deftly pin" something outrageous on a political enemy.  He, or she, obviously counsels taking advantage of the opportunity.

And:

Another Democratic strategist said the similarity is that Tucson and Oklahoma City both “take place in a climate of bitter and virulent rhetoric against the government and Democrats.”

This Democrat said that the time had come to insist that Republicans stand up when, for example, a figure such as Fox News commentator Glenn Beck says something incendiary.

So very quickly, without any proof, this became the equivalent of the Oklahoma City tragedy (something which has yet to be proven to have anything to do with virulent rhetoric – McVeigh said it was because of Waco) and it is the job of Republicans to stop it.  Just as Rush Limbaugh was named as a cause of Oklahoma City, the new bête noir of the left, Glenn Beck, is automatically fingered as the reason for this tragedy.  Right out of the playbook.

Finally:

“Today we have seen the results” of “irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric,” former Democratic senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart wrote on Huffington Post. “Those with a megaphone, whether provided by public office or a media outlet, have responsibilities. They cannot avoid the consequences of their blatant efforts to inflame, anger, and outrage.”

Nonsense.  There was absolutely no proof at the time Hart wrote his piece that the shooter was motivated by “irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric”.  In fact, I’d suggest the most irresponsible rhetoric I saw was from those such as Gary Hart who immediately jumped to that conclusion without knowing much at all about the shooter.  Obviously there are responsibilities for those “with a megaphone.”  Ironically Hart most expertly demonstrates how not to fulfill those responsibilities and be exactly what he denounced – irresponsible.

Everyone needs to calm down and quit trying to pin the blame on the other side and take the time to find out the real motivation of the shooter before going off half cocked.  To paraphrase a famous quote about cigars, sometimes a nut is just a nut.  In the future I’d like to see us take a moment, let the information develop and then make conclusions based in fact vs. this new and continuing tendency to jump into something driven by ideology and immediately try to shape the argument to fit the agenda.

It makes those  who do that look like the fools they are.

~McQ

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The Twins: A Czech Sa Vz 58 Review

A matching brace of Czech-made SA VZ 58 rifles

A matching brace of Czech-made SA VZ 58 rifles

You may remember me writing some time back about my disappointment in the horribly made and extremely jam-prone M1 Carbines that I purchased for Chris and I last year.  Horrible rifles.  Shoddily made.  I’ll never buy anything from Kahr again.

But, I did need replacements for them, and those replacements have arrived, and are all kitted out–while still being California-legal.

The rifles are Czechoslovalkian Sa Vz 58 civilian rifles.  The handguards, grips, and buttstock are aftermarket accessories from Israeli Arms, who make a complete tactical package–several of them, actually, for the VZ 58.   The accessories are all polymer, and are made to what seems to be a very high level of quality and craftsmanship.  When it comes to stuff for guns, you gotta hand it to those Israelis, boy.

Unlike most other states, unfortunately, California has very restrictive–and quite stupid–firearms laws regarding rifles. According to the California Penal Code:

12276.1 (a) Notwithstanding Section 12276 [which contains a list of specifically prohibited models of rifle, such as the AK-series rifles], “assault weapon” shall also mean any of the following:

(1) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:

(A) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.

(B) A thumbhole stock.

(C) A folding or telescoping stock.

(D) A grenade launcher or flare launcher.

(E) A flash suppressor.

(F) A forward pistol grip.

(2) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

(3) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.

Alas, the California version of the VZ 58 has a fixed, 10-round magazine (any rifle or pistol magazines, fixed or removable, with a capacity greater than 10 rounds are strictly prohibited in California), and the overall length, with the stock fully collapsed, is 32.5″.

Top view of the Rifle, with the stripper clip guide visible at the front of the bold carrier assembly

Top view of the Rifle, with the stripper clip guide visible at the front of the bold carrier assembly

The “foregrip” is actually a bipod, as you can see. And the magazine accepts loading from the same stripper clips that the SKS uses.

You may notice that the rifle has a very AK-like look, but that’s entirely coincidental.  When the Soviets demanded that all Warsaw Pact countries standardize around the 7.62x39mm intermediate rifle cartridge, the Czechs were unamused, since they had an inordinate fondness for the 7.62x51mm round.  Apparently, the Czechs believe that when they  shoot you, you should know you’ve been shot.  Or, maybe, never know at all.

The Czechs were also unamused by the idea that the demand to switch to the AK round also came with the Soviet expectation that their client states would also buy the rifle that chambered it, the AK-47.  The Czechs have had a world-class reputation as gunmakers for centuries, and they were unimpressed by the AK.  So, they accepted the ammo requirement, then let the world-famous Brno arms factory produce a rifle to fire it, the Sa Vz 58.  Other than the cartridge, and a similar gas piston/op rod mechanism, the rifles are completely different.  No parts are interchangeable with the AK.  The parts are all CNC-machined, instead of stamped.  It fires from the closed-bolt position.

Ejection port open, bolt locked to the rear

Ejection port open, bolt locked to the rear

Unlike the AK, it is not a side-ejecting rifle.  Instead, the bolt carrier exposes a huge, honkin’ “ejection port”, which is actually about half of the upper receiver.  I can’t even imagine how you’d get a stovepipe or ejection jam.

The gas piston is in a separate chamber from the  short operating rod, very similar to the SKS gas system, so the receiver is isolated from gas system.  The chamber and barrel, by the way, are also chrome-lined.

Another nice feature is the design of the safety, which pokes down below the receiver.  This means that, even in total darkness, you can feel that the safety is engaged as soon as you grasp the pistol grip.  Flock it up with your trigger finger, and you’re ready to rock and roll.  In a safe and approved manner.

The sling is also from Israeli Arms.  It’s the tactical sling the Israeli Army uses so you hang the weapon across your chest, and bring it up to firing position, if needed, in about a second.

It’s about as accurate as any rifle firing the 7.62×39 round can be, with low recoil, and decently fast target aquisition, especially with a reflex sight mounted on the picatinny rails on the top of the forward handguard.  It’s really a hoot to shoot.

It’s reasonably priced, built like a tank, and is still about 1.5 pounds lighter than the AK.

It’s really a very nice rifle, and I highly recommend it, especially for those of you who don’t like the AK, but who despise the lightweight round and nasty direct-impingement gas system of the AR15-series rifles.