Independence Day

“Too often in recent history liberal governments have been wrecked on rocks of loose fiscal policy.”

Here’s a revolutionary idea.

Independence Day commemorates our declaration of independence from the King of England. The revolution officially began two days earlier when the Second Continental Congress approved the legal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain, a resolution proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia in June. After voting for independence on July 2, Congress debated and revised the Declaration itself for two whole days and approved it on July 4.

In the centuries since, only the 111th Congress has moved with anywhere near the speed of that first gathering, since the 111th Congress passed trillions of dollars of spending on millions of pages of bills in less than 100 days. And no one in Washington read any of them.

The Declaration of Independence fits on one page. Everyone in the Continental Congress read the whole thing.

In Peoria just one hundred fifty-seven years ago Rep. Abraham Lincoln said,

Nearly eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning July 4, 1776we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a “sacred right of self-government.” … Our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. … Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it.

Lincoln spoke of the enslavement of persons. Today our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust by a government that would enslave We the Overtaxed People, taking more and more of our rights and our land and our life’s blood to its own purpose.

Just to rekindle our liberal friends, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the “loose fiscal policy” quote.

The second session of the 114th Congress is back to its usual wiener roasts (they have “worked” 81 days this year and are off for the months of July and August) and Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus is indeed still fiddling in Washington.

Two hundred thirty-five years ago today, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum and an artillery salute for the soldiers who fought off the foreign monarchy that did enslave us. It is now time to mark July 4 with a double ration of electoral salute to those who would be the modern monarchy of government.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. Can you do that? Take the test if you dare.

Much of our litigious life today grew out of English Common Law. We abandoned one really good idea in the first Revolution, though. We abandoned the No Confidence vote.

An earlier version of this column appeared in 2011.


Just the Facts

My friends Jon and Pamela Friar were holding forth over dinner about how much safer we would be if we didn’t have “automatic assault weapons.”

“I don’t know much about guns,” Jon said, “but we need to control automatic weapons better.” Jon is a science guy, pro-choice, and very data driven in the rest of his life, so I wondered why he isn’t fact driven in this discussion.

“Oh, but we are. Everything I’ve ever read shows how dangerous the choices we’ve made are.”


And yet, with everything they’ve read, they don’t know any facts.

“I don’t know much about guns,” he said.

AR-15 and AK-47 RiflesThe AR-15 was designed by Armalite to meet the US Army requirement for a new rifle, chambered for a new intermediate cartridge. It was adopted by the US Army as the M16 and became a standard issue infantry weapon. It cycles by “direct gas impingement” that it differs from earlier gas systems and initially fired a .223 Remington/5.56×45mm slug. AR-15 offerings for the civilian market are different. The civilian AR-15 started with Colt’s original semi-automatic “Sporter” rifles, manufactured since 1963. All the current clones are still simply semi-automatic rifles that look like the original AR-15. Semi-automatic rifles are not select fire / burst or full automatic capable.

The legendary AK-47 is also a selective-fire, military rifle. It was developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov in the last year of World War II. It is gas-operated and fires a 7.62×39mm slug. The Kalashnikov and its variants are the most widely used military rifles in the world. Civilian models are available from China, (East) Germany, Egypt, Hungary, Iraq, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, and even Russia in semiauto only. Century International Arms, founded in St. Albans, Vermont, is a major importer and remanufacturer AK-style rifles for the civilian market.

Unless those rifles are illegally altered, they are not full automatics. Full auto weapons have been regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968, and the Hughes Amendment in 1986.

Jon and Pam don’t know that a 5.56mm NATO round (or the similar .223 Remington) for the AR-15 has a muzzle velocity around 3,200 fps, and energy of 1,282 ft-lbs at the muzzle but only half that at 200 yards. The AK-47’s 7.62mm is a more powerful slug with a lower muzzle velocity around 2,300 fps, and energy of 1,507 ft-lbs at the muzzle with a drop to half that at 200 yards.

They don’t know the .223 is one of the most common cartridges in use here for varmint rifles as well as semi-automatic rifles such as Ruger Mini-14/5P.

They don’t know the popular 30-30 hunting rifle is very similar to the AK-47 with a muzzle velocity around 2,389 fps, and energy of 1,901 ft-lbs at the muzzle.

They don’t know the .308 tops that with a muzzle velocity of 2,820 fps, and energy of 2,648 ft-lbs. Likewise, the .30-06 hunting rifle has a muzzle velocity around 2,800 fps, and energy of 2,872 ft-lbs at the muzzle. It keeps most of that at 200 yards with muzzle velocity still at 2,403 fps, and energy of 2,115 ft-lbs at that distance, more powerful at that distance than the AK-47 up close.

Every one of those rifles has plenty of killing power. The “assault rifles” just look fiercer. So do modern pickup trucks (which kill more people).

The real question here is this: since the “assault weapon” you abhor is similar (and in many ways less capable than many popular hunting-style rifles, don’t you really just want to ban all American citizens from owning all guns?

Jon and Pam spent most of his working in the middle east where ISIS is now a government. I’m not sure how they feel about taking away the weapons from “rebels” in Syria, Iraq, and other countries there who are fighting that “government” for their freedom and very lives.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
–Thomas Jefferson in a 1787 letter to William Stephens Smith

Jon and Pam believe a few citizens cannot defeat a modern army or secret police force. They didn’t know that the history of rebellions against tyranny has always featured a ragtag bunch of citizens going up against a superior government force. The British host, f’rex, was undefeated until they met the fighting farmers of the Colonies and we know how that turned out. The ragtag rebels may not always win but, if they didn’t try, we surely lose.

I wonder how Jon and Pam figure it’s good for the citizens there with sticks and stones to go up against the well-armed, well trained ISIS fighters but bad to take that right away from citizens here.

Oh. I understand. They know our government will protect us from … oh wait.

Doing #1 and #2

Climate Scientists, the Phrenologists of 2016

Sometimes I suffer from low blood pressure; I often use the Science Friday podcast to bring it back up to normal. [For the record, SWMBO says I use it to see if I can get the sphygmomanometer to pop the bulb at the top of the column.]

The bumps on my head don’t explain that, either.

Two ‘casts from December got my attention: Do Scientists Have the Duty to Speak Out? and Why Science Needs Failure to Succeed. Each focused on a new book:

In the first, Naomi Oreskes spreads more disinformation and name calling in the name of a (carbon) tax and “sensible regulations” than good science. Host Ira Flatow1 asks if the slogan, “If you see something, say something,” applies to scientists. “If they see a risk to the planet, for example, should they say something about it?” he wondered. In her book Merchants of Doubt,2 Ms. Oreskes “says some scientists undersell the conclusions of their work, and this ‘scientific conservatism has led to under-estimation of climate-related changes’.”


The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Al Gore said, underestimating the issue and the wealth to be looted.

The very same day, Mr. Flatow interviewed Stuart Firestein about his new book, Failure: Why Science Is So Successful,3 the neuroscientist “makes a case for science as ‘less of an edifice built on great and imponderable pillars, and more as a quite normal human activity’.” His point “one must try to fail” reminds us that “real science is a revision in progress, always. It proceeds in fits and starts of ignorance.”

The political scientists leading the AGW charge will not admit contrary data.

Phrenologists thought their science was immutable, too.

Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.
— Ambrose Bierce
Science is uncertain. Theories are subject to revision; observations are open to a variety of interpretations, and scientists quarrel amongst themselves. This is disillusioning for those untrained in the scientific method, who thus turn to the rigid certainty of the Bible instead. There is something comfortable about a view that allows for no deviation and that spares you the painful necessity of having to think.
— Isaac Asimov
In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.
— Carl Sagan

In 2014’s We Only Have 500 Days Left to Avoid Climate Chaos! I discussed the fact that climate “science” today is a Harris poll and the way the Far Green consortium has distorted real science with their religious insistence that their science is right and fixed. Their purpose is to keep the Green flowing. The green research dollars. The green investment dollars. The green tax dollars.

Science requires a comfort with being wrong, a tolerance for failure, Mr. Firestein reminded us. But political Climate Scientists have a bible that cannot fail and is never contradictable.

And that, dear friends, is why our political Climate Scientists are the Phrenologists of the 21st Century.

1 Mr. Flatow is well-known for his statement that “the science is fixed” over all anthropogenic global warming.
2 Ms. Oreskes received her Bachelor of Science in mining geology from the Royal School of Mines of Imperial College, University of London and earned her PhD from the Graduate Special Program in Geological Research and History of Science at Stanford. She is the author of or has contributed to a number of respected essays and technical reports in economic geology.
3 Stuart J. Firestein, PhD, chairs the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University where his lab researches the vertebrate olfactory receptor neuron and where he teaches neuroscience. He does accept AGW but recognizes that “uncertainty is a dirty word” in the argument.