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Key Elements of Fitz’s Victory

I’m seeing a lot of articles pointing to our Congressional race as the rare GOP hold in a district that went for Hillary.

By contrast, look at the few districts where House Democrats fell short of expectations. Despite Democratic domination in the Philadelphia suburbs, Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick was one of the few Clinton-district Republicans to prevail. He was running against Scott Wallace, a wealthy self-funder with tenuous ties to the district who held out-of-the-mainstream views on law enforcement and foreign policy.

The other suburban districts all fell to the Dems. This is mostly due to the Dem-controlled PA Supreme Court gerrymandering those districts to favor Democrats. But it’s worth taking a look at Fitz, and understanding the key elements of his win.

  • The PA Supreme Court decided to preserve the tradition that Bucks County must be contained within a single Congressional district. To make the numbers work, we’ve always had a small part of another county added to us. Once it was part of Philadelphia. Then they remove part of Philly and added a few Montco exurbs to make it a little safer for Republicans. The PA Supreme Court, to make the district lean more Democratic, moved the part of Montco that completes our district in closer to the city to make it more Dem leaning. But Bucks County is now the most red of the ring counties, so they didn’t have the free hand to completely rewrite the political map that they had with other congressional districts. It went from slight GOP lean to slight Dem lean.
  • His opponent was a loon, and he wasn’t. The Bucks County Dems have usually made the mistake of running loons against the incumbent. All they had to do this time was not be crazy, and they couldn’t even manage that. Fitzpatrick might be a squishy RINO, but he’s not crazy.
  • Fitz embraced more traditional Democratic positions than may Republicans in the area. He won the endorsement of the AFL-CIO. I probably don’t want to know what he had to promise to get that, but it was a smart move on his part to woo the unions.

Understand that in the ring counties (and I include Chester County in this even though it’s not technically a ring county), the upper to upper middle class hoity toity were the loyal base of the Republican Party. That loyalty has flipped, and the GOP isn’t getting them back. But too many of the GOP candidates and leadership around here don’t get that: they stick to the old messaging and act as if the coalition hasn’t changed. They want to blame Trump for their losses, but aren’t looking at the coalition that brought Trump to power and how different it looks than the one they think is still viable.

For the foreseeable future, the GOP has lost the hoity toity, and they need to find voters to replace them with. There’s no path forward for the GOP here that doesn’t involve seducing the working class vote, which you aren’t going to do by embracing hoity toity issues like gun control. I only have two NRA endorsed candidates left in the area, and both did better than the candidates that did not carry endorsements. My state rep won with a comfortable margin. Tomlinson, my State Senator is holding on to a razor thin margin, and he’s probably going to a recount. It’s a squeaker, but he’s in the lead as of now. He had a strong challenger.

I’ll be honest, as long as Nancy Pelosi is taking the gavel, I couldn’t have cared less of Fitz lost his seat to a nutty Dem. We might have a chance at unseating a nutty Dem in a better year for Republicans, but I don’t see things getting better for Republicans around here with the current crop of dopes and dinosaurs that are running the party.

Lame Duck Session

Seeing a meme go around social media about passing National Reciprocity or SHARE in lame duck, just like Obamacare. Facts:

  • National reciprocity already passed the House. The House was never our problem. The Senate is our problem. The Senate is now less of a problem because we flipped at least one “no” vote (McCaskill) to a “yes” vote, but we don’t get that Senate until Nancy Pelosi takes back the gavel.
  • Obamacare did not pass in lame duck session. It became law in March of 2010, well before the midterms where Dems took a “shellacking.”
  • SHARE could pass the House in lame duck, but the problem is still the Senate.

For the foreseeable future, our agenda at the federal level isn’t going anywhere. Bloomberg has successfully halted our momentum and pushed us back to a defensive position. What we have to hope for are judicial confirmation, lots of them. I also have to say, I wish RGB a full recovery, but maybe it’s time for her to retire and look after her health. I know I wouldn’t still want to be working at 85.

The Populist Backlash & Transnational Respectability

We’re pretty clearly in the middle of a global nationalist populist backlash against transnationalism.

If you had to boil the current political climate to one sentence, I think that would be it. It’s not just true in the United States, but across the whole western world. Fighting against globalization is a fool’s errand. Eventually, globalism will win, because it’s technology that’s driving it. The real fight is over whether the global order will be arranged by those who wield economic and political power for their own benefit and for the benefit of people like them, or whether the global order will be democratic and driven and arranged in such a way as to benefit the most people. In either system, the nation state probably becomes less important. In the former system, transnational institutions become less democratic and more powerful as nation states become weaker.

Currently few of our transnational institutions are democratic. The UN certainly is not. The EU has some window dressing that’s democratic, but the EU at its core it’s an undemocratic institution. The transnational corporations at the heart of the global order are not democratic at all, and have hardly any accountability.

People pretty much everywhere are voting the people who have arranged this order out of power. The United States is not immune to the populist backlash, as we learned in 2016. Trump basically took office on a promise to restore strong nationalist institutions in order to check transnational institutions that a large portion of the population believed were stacked against them. Victor Orban of Hungary is cast from the same mold. All Trump’s rhetoric on trade, the wall, immigration, etc, fits that model. It also fits with trends that we see in Europe.

All this nationalist populism is extremely threatening to the people who are arranging transnational institutions to benefit themselves. Everything you’ve been seeing in the gun issue lately fits that. Google censoring pro-gun views? Facebook doing the same? Big transnational companies like Levi’s donating large amounts to gun control? Financial institutions refusing to do business with gun makers, the NRA, etc? NRA not being able to obtain basic business insurance? That’s all been the people who control these transnational institutions attempting to put the brakes on populist sentiment using the institutional power they maintain control over. You didn’t see this happening a decade ago because a decade ago a lot of these institutions didn’t exist, or hadn’t cemented power. Facebook literally went from nothing, to a transnational corporation that can and possibly does decide national elections in 13 years. Think about that.

Very little is more threatening to an established order than the idea that they might be the targets of an armed revolt. Despite what many people think, it’s not because transnational elites want to kill you. Few of them are potential mass murderers, and most of them really do believe the order they are establishing is kind, civilized, and will benefit humanity. In fact, mass murderers have more often been from populist movements. Nazism and Bolshevism were not movements of elites. What transnational elites want to maintain first and foremost is the acceptance and respect of other transnational elites who are like themselves.

In most countries, the established order can keep their thumb on the peasantry to maintain an order to their liking and still maintain respectability. In the democratic countries of Europe, ordinary people can still complain, and still participate in their democratic institutions, but they can’t complain that much. In authoritarian states like China and Russia, ordinary people can’t complain in any meaningful way at all. While China might be fairly concerned with respectability, Russia is not really at all.

It’s a different story here. Our peasantry can complain: with guns and bullets. It’s almost happened a few times recently in the US, so this isn’t some abstract possibility, only applicable in theory. We’ve seen it. And the people who did it are, for the most part, still alive and not in prison. Some people will argue this is a bug. I think it’s a feature. It’s a feature because while I believe in democratic institutions, I don’t worship at the altar of majority rule. We’ve seen that democratic institutions can be coopted. We’ve seen it’s possible for an indifferent and entitlted majority to ignore minority interests completely.

Whether some want to admit it or not, having an armed population is a significant check for minorities against the depredations of the majority. I’m not speaking only of racial or religious minorities necessarily here, though it’s true for them too. It goes back to the old quote from Al Capone: “You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” To the kind of people arranging the transnational order, this is the Worst Thing Ever. Not necessarily because it threatens their power in the immediate, but because it threatens their respectability with other people like them.

Cliven Bundy and his family are still alive. Is there any reader out there who thinks Eric Holder couldn’t have given an order to ruthlessly crush the Bundys and anyone who came to their aid? Almost certainly he could have. Whether that would have set in motion a chain of events that would have escalated toward a much wider conflict I think is debatable, and I think it probably would have. But in the immediate, Holder could have wiped them out. There would have been bloodshed on both sides, but in the short term, Holder would have won. But he didn’t give that order. Why? Because he would have lost all respect from other transnational elites. Ruthlessly crushing rebellions isn’t a respectable business these days in those circles. That kind of thing might get you respect in Moscow, but not Davos.

They hate your gun because your gun is a threat to their respectability. They can never be the equal to the European transnationalists, because no matter how carefully things are arranged, as long as you remain armed, you get to have a say. You can force them to risk their respectability by behaving more like Tsar Vladimir, or having to actually listen to you and take your interests seriously. They find both options distasteful. Most pro-gun people intrinsically understand this. And yes, many anti-gun folks do as well. Bloomberg, I’m convinced, understands this completely.

Wilson Out at Defense Distributed

The company is being taken over by Paloma Heindorff. This is very good news, because Defense Distributed continuing to exist as an entity will preserve the lawsuits that are at the heart of this whole matter. This is a huge issue for me because it touches on both the hacker, maker and gun subcultures. We have a right to tinker! There certainly is some right to be able to make and modify arms as well. But most importantly, we certainly have a right to share information, and CAD drawings are nothing but information.

The free exchange of information and ideas is the basis of a free society, and being told we can’t because some people like our Governor and Attorney General deem said information “dangerous” is a more dangerous a road to travel than any they imagine they can try to avoid.

I don’t understand all the people who think this is a setup. Why is it so hard to believe that a self-described crypto anarchist young man likes himself some hookers, frequented a site where it’s known you can find that kind of action, and either intentionally or accidentally solicited a girl who was underage? This is a known risk with soliciting prostitutes, especially in states where age-of-consent is a strict liability crime. Wilson certainly won’t be the first guy to get in trouble under these kinds of circumstances. Based on the evidence the police claim to have, I would not want to be in Wilson’s shoes.

Feinstein v. Kavanaugh

Good Poster

To defeat I-1639 in Washington:

The Original Plastic Gun Threat

Dave Kopel has a great article over at the Volokh Conspiracy on the original plastic gun panic that happened in the 1980s.

“Qaddafi Buying Austrian Plastic Pistol.” That was the headline from columnists Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta in Washington Post on January 15, 1986. According to the article, “The Libyans are said to be trying covert methods to obtain these weapons.”

Today, Glocks are ubiquitous, one of the most common pistols, with many models. But in January 1986, they were little known in America, where only a few thousnd had been sold.

Swiftly, the gun control lobbies began warning Americans about the “plastic pistol.” They dubbed them “terrorist specials” or the “Hijackers Special.” Supposedly, this plastic gun was designed to sneak through metal detectors.

I remember that panic about Qaddafi trying to get a hold of Glocks. It’s interesting that quick law enforcement adoption is likely what saved a lot of pistols.

The comment section over there is a den of cliched wookie suitery:

“Thanks for admitting the NRA compromised.”

Of course it did, because the alternative to an “undetectable firearms” law that actually banned no guns was a much broader law that would have banned nearly all small, concealable firearms before the concealed carry revolution even got off the ground. If you say something like this while adjusting your trusty LCP you carry in your pocket, you’re an idiot.

Remember, “Something must be done!” is the impetus for most of this bullshit. NRA gave them “something” that didn’t ban a single gun, and it put the issue to bed long enough for technological change to make Metzenbaum’s position politically untenable.

“Remember Reagan signed the only outright Federal gun ban.”

Yes, as part of a much broader bill that was intended to prevent the gun culture from being extinguished. No one I’ve ever spoken with who was involved in the FOPA fight thinks that scuttling the whole thing over the Hughes Amendment would have been a wise idea.

So far we’re weathering the 3D gun scare a lot better than we weathered the original plastic gun hysteria. I was only 10 in 1986, but I remember the hype in the news. At the time, I wasn’t aware the whole issue was essentially bullshit: I did not come from a gun owning family. The difference is communication is much better these days, and it’s easier to counter disinformation campaigns. Social media has changed a lot, both for good and ill.

Can’t Stop the Signal, Part II

Yesterday, Alyssa Milano’s NoRA (wow, that’s just so clever) group managed to get shut down briefly, but they relocated and have come back online.

I have to admit, it checks all the boxes for being the work of Ladd Everitt, formerly of CSGV. Maybe it’s one of his protégés, because last I checked Ladd was still wasting his time with George Takei. But #DownloadableDeath is the kind of over the top hysterics that Ladd could be rightly proud of.

If you’re looking for an alternate source for all your 3D CAD needs, you need to look no further than here. Also:

Tam’s reaction to that is pretty much spot on. I’m really hoping the civil rights lawsuits here are going to be epic.

If you want to view the actual TRO issued against Defense Distributed, you can find it here. I would actually argue that Pennsylvania has no standing to join this suit, since making a firearm at home is not illegal under Pennsylvania law. There is no Pennsylvania law our Governor and Attorney General can articulate that Defense Distributed publishing CAD drawings would undermine. Pennsylvania’s entry into this suit is grandstanding, and that’s about it.

If you don’t want to read the whole TRO, I can sum it up for you.

“Because I, judge, sez, you have a strong likelihood of succeeding on the merits, and this downloadable plastic gun mumbo jumbo sounds scary, a Temporary Restraining Order you can haz!”

But seriously, I will try to explain the issue as best I can, and as best as I understand it. The Plaintiffs here, the various state AGs, contend that the Trump Administration has to go through the rule making process prescribed by the Administrative Procedures Act if they want to change the USML (United State Munitions List). The Administration has agreed to pursue that rule change. But in the mean time, Defense Distributed was granted a license to share their CAD drawings. It’s hard for me to see how the various state AGs have a strong likelihood of succeeding on the merits. The AECA allows the President to grant waivers. Defense Distributed has argued that the decision to grant a license is not even judicable, and cites ample precedent that shows in similar context, the courts, even the 9th Circuit, have agreed it is not.

This is not even considering the First Amendment claims here.

Bloomberg is Looking for Fault Lines

I suspect that the true goal of all the bump stock and 3D printing hysteria is to limit home gun smithing and make working on your own firearms a legally risky maneuver. Well, I should say, more legally risky than it already is. You can also reach AR-15s this way without going for a full on ban because the fact that it’s highly customizable. Eliminate the ability to customize without going to a licensed pro and you might not have your ban, but you’ll push the more dedicated owners out of the hobby. Once you start cutting numbers, then the ban is more politically feasible. Where the gun control movement has managed to find success over the years is by finding an exploiting fault lines among gun owners.

At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, I don’t think the bump stock bans that also happened to greatly increase the legal hazard of doing ordinary customizations on a semi-automatic firearm were an accident. If they just wanted a bump stock ban, a bit of a wording change to make the language more precise, and they’d have won without much fight. But they keep pushing the same language in state after state.

Then this 3D printing bullshit blows up into a huge thing. If it were the Brady Campaign, I might just see it as something they view as good fundraising, and dismiss any strategic thought being behind it. But Bloomberg didn’t end up a billionaire by being a fool or an idiot, and Everytown doesn’t really have to worry about fundraising as long as Bloomberg is writing checks. So I’m more inclined to think there’s a plan.

If I’m right, it’s a smart one, and unfortunately has a chance of working. Trying to ban sharing CAD files on the Internet is a fool’s errand, but it’s framing the debate in the public in terms that aren’t immediately favorable to us. My worry is Cody Wilson is picking a huge fight on ground I’m not sure is defensible. Most people, including most gun owners, don’t know shit about what dedicated hobbyists are doing with their guns. They know even less about 3D printing or CNC machining. Ground where ignorance rules is fertile ground for people willing to win by waging disinformation campaigns.

While I argue there are topics in the gun issue that are better off flying under the radar, anything that does that is ripe for exploiting by people looking to scaremonger. The antidote to that is familiarity. Defending home gun smithing will actually be easier when every kid has a 3D printer and CNC machining can be done by anyone without having to know much about machining. The more people tinker, even if they aren’t tinkering with guns, the safer every tinkerer is as long as they don’t throw each other the bus. But are we there yet? That’s what I’m not sure about. The question in my mind is whether Cody Wilson is out too far ahead and inviting a counterattack we can’t defend against, or I’m just too cautious. I’m open to either being true, or both.

Get Your 3D Plans

Published over at Code is Free Speech. Also, seen on the Internets:

In a world where there are 3-D printers and thumbdrives (not to mention peer-to-peer file sharing over networks), this fight is already over. About all we can do is pass laws that are 21st-century versions of the 19th-century British law that required a man with a red flag had to precede the dangerous menace of horseless carriages to protect the public.

Yep. That’s exactly what this is.

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