Civil Service vs. The Spoils System

This is a topic I’ve long struggled with: are we better off with modern civil service protections, or would we be better off under the Spoils System? Lately, I’ve tended to agree with Glenn Reynolds “that the entire Civil Service system should be scrapped.” I’m think the civil service tends to perpetuate the opinions and prerogatives of a small handful of elites, and is fundamentally anti-democratic. Not that I always believe “anti-democratic” is a bad word, but it has to serve a purpose in the framework of individual liberty and protecting political minorities from the worst excesses of democratic government. I think civil service protections fail this test. I’d like to highlight his current top comment in Glenn Reynolds post, which I think offers food for thought. His commenter supports a return of the Spoils System:

A real spoils system would have several advantages:

  1. You could get rid of them all by electing a new party to office.
  2. Bureaucrats might be restrained by knowing that they will soon be turfed out into the private sector so they will want rules that they could live under after the next election.
  3. They might also be restrained by the knowledge that if their behavior got to obnoxious they would cost their party votes and potentially end their employment.
  4. Everyone would realize they are partisan hacks and thus not excuse their overreach behind some sort of non-partisan good government BS.

Lately, I’ve been thinking the same thing. The downside is there are people in the civil service right now who are actually knowledgable, do a reasonable job, and not political hacks. But there are far too many political hacks hiding behind civil service protections. These days I tend to agree we’d be better off with the spoils system, provided it was operated with the knowledge and understanding that there’s a lot the government does that requires people who are competent and willing to work hard. I’d hate to see, for example, document preservation exports cut loose at the National Archives because they were hired by the “wrong party.” But I’m willing to concede that civil servants who live by the sword (politics) can also die by it. That’s probably how it should be. An awful lot of civil service protections were generally meant to promote big, permanent government and rule by unaccountable “experts.”

The Importance and Dangers of “Othering” for Our Opponents

Image Courtesy of Mimi and Eunice

Image Courtesy of Mimi and Eunice

I had originally wanted to get this into yesterday’s post, but I couldn’t make it work without descending into “let me ramble on semi-coherently about yet another thing.” That’s a blogging style that I’ll leave to the resident expert, Brady Board Member Joan Peterson. In any kind of political fight you’re usually going to see both sides engaging in “othering,” namely setting your opponents outside the class of reasonable people, and often, even outside the class of people.

Most of us find it highly insulting, and I’m certainly no exception. I don’t like being compared to an unthinking animal, to the bottom rungs of society, or the lowest of the low any more than other people do. I don’t particularly appreciate seeing my liberty interested boiled down to some faceless “corporate gun lobby,” nor do I like seeing my views misrepresented as supporting “deep pocketed gun manufacturers,” or “merchants of death.”

But there’s an important strategic reason that they engage in this, and that’s because, “Hey, let’s go take away something important and meaningful from your friends, family and neighbors,” doesn’t have quite the same motivational ring as, “Let’s go stick it to those dumb, ignorant, stooges of the merchants of death!” That’s the first strategic goal of othering; people need an enemy and villain. Your friends, family and neighbors don’t make great enemies and villains unless you’re demented. So you have to be convinced that “those people” aren’t any of those things. For us, Bloomberg makes a great villain. He others himself. How many of us have megalomaniacal billionaires as friends, family or neighbors? No one? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

But there is a second prong to othering, one that can be introduced through this article by Tony Canales that speaks of liberal gun owners:

Writer Christopher Ketcham essentially comes out of the gun-ban closet and admits, openly, that as a Way-Lefty he and a number of his friends still like their guns. Furthermore, the reasons to have firearms  essentially parallel the very rationale of the Founding Fathers, that being of the need for the average citizen to oppose governmental tyranny as well as having the ability to defend oneself when being confronted by criminals and wildlife bent on harm.

The other purpose of it is to silence those people on your own side of the cultural divide for fear that they will be likewise othered into the negative cultural stereotype. In short, othering helps keep liberal and moderate gun owner’s mouths shut, and prevents them from speaking out. Anything we on our side do that makes people feel uncomfortable about joining us (I don’t know, like carrying AR-15s to Chilis at the low ready) only helps the other side other us.

But there is a downside to othering for our opponents: the crap they say about us is highly antagonistic to ordinary gun owners. Their othering can be a powerful means to bring more people into political engagement with the gun rights issue. When they accuse NRA of being “the corporate gun lobby,” it might be laughably false, but most gun owners aren’t NRA members. When they mention that gun owners only live in places that don’t have roads, are stupid for owning guns, and presumably also lack proper dental care, that insults about 80 million Americans, which is well more than half of the electorate if they all voted. Our opponents have a habit, going back many years, of taking things too far, of overreaching, and losing. What I worry about is seeing the same thing on my side of the issue.

So “othering” is a tactic that pretty much everyone uses in political battles. It’s distasteful, but it’s reality. But one can take it too far, and fortunately for us, our opponents do a lot of the hard work for us when it comes to bringing more people into the issue. I think it’s wise to keep their folly in mind when we look at our own side’s behavior.

California Breaking Up?

California is going to have a 2016 ballot measure to break itself into six different states. From my point of view, I see two solid blue states (Silicon Valley and West California), three red states (Jefferson, North California, and Central California), and a purple state (South California). Neither side really gains much overall. However, this is basically without legal effect:

Not only must the breakup plan score an unlikely victory at the ballot box in 2016, it must also win the approval of Congress.

No, it must also win the approval of the California Legislature. Article IV, Section 3 of the United States Constitution:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The people of California are not the “Legislature of the State concerned.” Unsurprisingly, both parties are fighting it. I don’t think anyone really wants to roll the dice with how this all would end up. From my view it looks like a marginally worse deal for Democrats. Maybe some native Californians who know the political landscape better might disagree.

Gun Control 2.0

In our community, there’s a lot of talk about Gun Culture 1.0, representing the more traditional shooting sports culture, based around traditional shooting sports like hunting, shotgun sports, bullseye shooting, etc, and Gun Culture 2.0 which revolves around gun culture based on self-defense. As the argument for this division goes, Gun Culture 2.0 is more evangelic and politically engaged with the issue, having more dog in the fight than just their hobby. Gun Culture 1.0 was more passive, sometimes willing to defend itself when attacked, but reluctant to rock the boat and challenge the status quo, as long as their sports weren’t directly threatened.

I don’t think we should make the mistake of presuming our opponents are obstinate about change, or are somehow incapable of reinventing themselves. I propose what we’ve been witnessing, since Bloomberg’s outfit changed its moniker and subsumed Shannon Watts’ organization, is an attempt  to bring about a transition to Gun Control 2.0, in direct opposition to Gun Culture 2.0.

Gun control 1.0 centered around attempting to ban handguns, or at the least heavily restrict access to the chosen few. It was largely a movement of elites, and depended heavily on traditional media. Gun Control 1.0 was a colossal failure by the 1990s, and nearly everyone knew it. Gun Control 1.1 was brought about by Josh Sugarmann, who floated the idea that the public were more open minded about banning things they thought were machine guns, and the movement could take advantage of that confusion in order to build momentum for further regulation. Gun Control 1.1 was not so much a failure. With rare exception, most of the gun bans and onerous gun regulations we’ve seen in a small handful of states are a product of the past two decades. We also saw significant new federal regulations, though we’ve regained some of that ground. Nonetheless, by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it had become apparent that Gun Control 1.1 was out of steam to anyone who had an ounce of honesty. It was still a movement of elites, and still dependent on the power of traditional media to influence public opinion and prompt people to action. Those institutions are in decline.

Up until the Everytown transition, Bloomberg’s efforts were very much in the Gun Control 1.1 mold, though the idea of using Mayors is something no one had ever tried before (and for good reason, if you remember all the black eyes they took every time a MAIG mayor was convicted of this or that). We won the political fight after Sandy Hook because our opponents were still fighting like it was the 1990s. It would be difficult for anyone but a delusional fanatic to view outright defeat after the worst mass shooting in the country as anything other than abject failure, calling for the movement to reinvent itself. If there is to be a face for Gun Control 2.0, it’s Shannon Watts. I don’t think she should be lightly dismissed, and believe she is very dangerous to our rights. We underestimate her at our own peril. I see a number of trends that are worrying to me.

The first trend is that many gun owners who have only been in the issue while we’ve been charging up the hill probably don’t realize for most of that time our opponents had virtually no money. They were more in the “trying to save our phony baloney jobs” mode, rather than “fight the enemy at all costs” mode. You’re not going to undertake any major new or risky initiatives that could change the dynamic of the fight if your primary concern is whether you’ll still have a job next year. That all changes when you have a wealthy billionaire patron who can well-fund your organization with relative ease. When the survival of your organization is a given, you have a lot more room to try new things.

And trying new things is what Shannon Watts is busy doing. She’s trying to make her own horizontal interpretive community to match ours. That’s clear as crystal with all the information she’s been gathering under various guises, and if she has decent data analysis tools, she’ll get an idea of which people are most ripe to push for further action and deeper involvement. She could also get a pretty effective GOTV (Get out the Vote) machine going with what she’s been collecting if she’s smart enough to mine the data in an intelligent manner. There’s a lot of options when you have money to burn, and have the technology to micro target in a manner similar to the methods that swept Obama into power.

I see evidence that they are having some success. Not blow away success, mind you, but there’s plenty of evidence that she is indeed being at least partially successful at building an organization. The thing that should scare everyone reading this post is we probably won’t have any idea how successful she’s been until there’s another pretext similar or worse than Sandy Hook. We could be in a position where we’re forced to surrender ground. Even if that ground is minor, it’s going to be spun as a huge victory. It will convince supporters that gun control is possible, and once that floodgate opens, it might not close again, or if we’re lucky will close only after we’ve been badly bloodied.

This is not to say Shannon Watts and Everytown is going to become an unstoppable force; it’s not to say that her efforts are going to pay off in legislative victories and we’re helpless to stop her. The next time we face in battle we might sweep her from the field again. But we might not. From my point of view she’s doing all the right things. She’s doing what I would do if I were a leader on their side of the movement. Granted, a lot of things stand in her way. For one, her patron is an immanently dislikable megalomaniac who can’t keep his mouth shut. Everytime Bloomberg opens his mouth, it writes the next NRA fundraising letter. For two, the politicians like Feinstein, who don’t know what century this is, can’t help but to overreach and say things and introduce bills and amendments that cause our side to rise to the occasion. But fools like Feinstein won’t be around forever, and while I get the impression that Gun Culture 2.0 types on our side are, on balance, more passionate about the issue than both our opponents and those gunnies who came before us, we’ve seen the tremendous downside to having passion without any discipline, common sense, or any idea about how to engage oneself in civil society. This goes broader and deeper than the jackasses OCing rifles into restaurants and retail stores.

So how do we counter this terrible thing? For one, we have to bloody their noses in both the 2014 and 2016 elections. We have to set the perception early that Bloomberg and Watts’ organization is a paper tiger, before she really has a change to get some momentum going. We have to convince their volunteers and donor base that it’s a lost cause; that they won’t win no matter how hard they try. We have to demoralize them. But in order to do that, we need to be out there on the ground, and using the best tools at our disposal to ensure that the gun vote turns out. We need to ensure politicians see action and signs of life from our movement. We can’t stay complacent. We can’t keep focused on our old enemies, like CSGV and Brady who are now irrelevant and I believe soon to be on life support. If Shannon Watts is even half as successful as I fear, we’re going to have the kind of fight on our hands the likes of which most of us have never seen in our lifetimes, and we ourselves need to be realistic about what we could be facing.

Halfway Through July News Links

Is it the middle of July already? Time does indeed fly when you’re busy. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to let up anytime soon. In addition to working at a client, I’m still doing my regular job, and things there are getting a bit backed up. Running a blog is like having two jobs, so when I have two jobs that I get paid for, three (i.e. this blog) is a bit too much to handle. But I appreciate Bitter filling in. As it often is in the summer, gun news is a bit slow. But let’s see what I have here in the tabs:

Be careful when you leave America. Since my new client is in New Jersey, it’s something I have to be cognizant of. A single .22 hollow point that escaped from your range bag after a day of shooting can land you in New Jersey State Prison for a good while.

Culturally, hunting is in a lot more trouble than shooting. You see plenty of hunters arguing against trophy hunting too when these things come up. It’s never a good idea to feed your presumptive allies to your enemies in the hope that they’ll eat you last.

Do gun owners have any rights liberals are bound to respect? Well, they don’t seem to think so.

Professor Nick Johnson looks at those who are undermining our right to Keep and Bear Arms. He looks into the book “The Second Amendment: A Biography.” I started reading it, got about 1/3rd of the way through. I’ll finish it when I have more time.

Gun control is well and truly a folly with modern technology. But that’s not going to convince people to give it up.

Chicagoland is acting up again, treating shall-issue as may issue. Lawsuits are already filed. It’s funny that the gun control folks justify this intrusion thusly: “If you can’t fly on a plane because of being on a secret government list, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.” Well who said that ought to be constitutional in the first place? Last I heard, there was an implicit right to travel.

Is there hope for the future? I think it’s good advice. Of course, one way to neutralize attacks on social issues is to actually not be on the wrong side of younger voter’s values.

I have to agree with Joe. I don’t see any problem with that ad. Even if you’ve taught your kids well, you haven’t taught your friends’ kids.

OSU students sue over illegal campus gun ban.

Does the Religious Freedom Restoration Act violate separation of powers? Not necessary off topic. The article mentions City of Boerne v. Flores (1997). If we get national reciprocity, I can promise you that you’ll be seeing more of that case.

Missouri is considering passing a RKBA provision very similar to the one passed in Louisiana. The more states that do this, the better. It shows that the people aren’t happy with this intermediate scrutiny two-step dance the federal courts have been doing. The Louisiana Supreme Court recently upheld prohibitions on violent felons possessing arms under strict scrutiny, so there should be less credible scaremongering this time.

Just when you thought the stupid couldn’t get any stupider. Seems there’s a lot of stupid going around these days.  I have to agree with Jeff Soyer. The way to convince people we’re not a bunch of loose cannons with guns is not to act like loose cannons with guns.

The Army is looking for a new pistol again. The big problem is the ammunition. Would the world really be a worse place if we announced we were withdrawing from that one aspect of the Hauge Convention?

Why am I not shocked that Bearing Arms is the only place I’ve even heard of this guy?

NYT Declares New “Weapon of War” – Coffee

The New York Times has a piece talking about what some people consider another “weapon of war,” and it is coffee. Of course, in the context of the Civil War, they are probably right about that designation. From the article on the history of coffee in the War Between the States:

For Union soldiers, and the lucky Confederates who could scrounge some, coffee fueled the war. Soldiers drank it before marches, after marches, on patrol, during combat. In their diaries, “coffee” appears more frequently than the words “rifle,” “cannon” or “bullet.” Ragged veterans and tired nurses agreed with one diarist: “Nobody can ‘soldier’ without coffee.”

The piece even mentions “The Coffee Mill Sharps,” though the author apparently hasn’t kept up with the research on this front since it seems that there’s more consensus now that it was never designed to grind coffee, but likely grain.

Regardless of that minor error on the coffee grinding Sharps, the piece was a really interesting read when it comes to the history and value of coffee in this country.

Hickenlooper Ally: You Toothless Rednecks Don’t Even Have Roads

The post title is only a slight exaggeration of what Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s ally, Mike Bloomberg, actually said about Colorado voters who supported last year’s recalls.

The NRA went after two or three state Senators in a part of Colorado where I don’t think there’s roads. It’s as far rural as you can get. And, yes, they lost recall elections. I’m sorry for that. We tried to help ‘em.

Yes, Mike, keep helping the Colorado Democratic Party by talking about what hicks they all are. Maybe you’ll even remember that it was a Democratic district that was responsible for one of those recall losses, a fact that I’m sure makes the statewide Democratic candidates jump for joy that you’re generating these insulting headlines in their state during the election year.

Gun Clubs & Elections

Gun clubs can be organized under any number of tax statuses, but many will put them in a category where they may not be able to engaging in outright electioneering. However, one New York gun club sends a pretty clear message about the issue they want to see resolved without naming any candidates on a giant billboard.

I hate that the only place I ever witnessed really well organized gun clubs willing to get involved in the political fights to the degree that they were legally allowed to was in Massachusetts. It really was a case of too little too late there, and other states don’t have to follow that model if their clubs and organized shooters would get together and engage in just a little bit of activism.

Politics of Personal Destruction

I think the thing that both Sebastian and I hate the most about politics at the moment is that it seems like everyone is so hateful toward everyone else to the point of wanting to see the individuals themselves destroyed. I get that there’s a certain “us vs. them” quality to building political opposition, but in the past, you could still go to the bar and have a drink with someone with whom you disagreed. Now, that seems like something from the past for many folks.

One of the things that brought on my recent frustration with the issue is the Facebook scandal involving Kendall Jones, a young female hunter. She posted pictures from lawful hunts, and Facebook took them down for violating community standards. However, the “Kill Kendall Jones” page is allowed to remain because Facebook says that doesn’t violate any community standards. Now, a Democratic former Congressional candidate is offering $100,000 to anyone who will publish naked pictures of Kendall Jones simply because he doesn’t like that she hunts and wants to see her personally destroyed.

I don’t even know if the political discourse on display can be improved. When someone considers it a reasonable and good idea to start a page calling for the death of someone who simply disagrees with you, I’m not sure there’s much that can be done to bring people like that back to some form of reasonable discussion, even if it still results in disagreement.

Creating Child Porn to “Prove” Child Porn

My outrage meter was off the charts yesterday with something that wasn’t gun-related, but it is related to the issue of freedom and the out-of-control state.

In Northern Virginia, a teen boy’s girlfriend sent sexy pictures of herself and he sent one back. Now they want to charge the kid with felonies for child pornography and are trying to “prove” it’s him by creating their own collection of child pornography to compare it against. When the response by the prosecutor and the cops is to think, “hey, we should haul a 17-year-old boy to a hospital and give him a shot to force an erection so that we can take nudie pictures of him all hot and bothered,” it’s time they need to reconsider their choices in life.

I’d also like to point out that the fact that they aren’t bringing the same charges against the 15-year-old girlfriend appears to be a little sexist.

I’m just curious though why there isn’t someone in the life of DA Claiborne Richardson – a friend or family member – who hasn’t sat down with him and said, “Really? Really? Giving a teen boy a forced erection and taking naked pictures is how you want to be remembered for all of history? Making a kid a felon for showing his girlfriend a video of his d*** that she’s probably already seen in real life many times if she’s sending dirty pictures of herself is what you consider an effective use of the justice system? Don’t you think it’s time to reconsider your life and how out of touch you are with reality if you think this is a perfectly reasonable course of action?”

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