empathy can be a bitch sometimes.

We’re not having the best of days here at Castle Frostbite. One of Raven’s pups (the girl) turned out to have a cleft palate, and despite our efforts, she couldn’t get any food down. With a cleft palate, puppies can’t get the proper suction going to suck on the mother’s nipples, and hand-feeding often results in the puppy aspirating food because it goes from the oral cavity into the nasal cavity and thus back into the airway.

We were unwilling to wait for her inevitable and crummy death via either aspiration pneumonia or starvation, so we took her to the vet a little while ago to give her a quick and pain-free passing.

It’s always hard to lose a pet, even if you’ve only had them around for a day or two. When you lose a dog you’ve had for ten or fifteen years, that’s sad and awful, but it’s a whole different thing to lose a pup. They’re so small and fragile, and when you have to let them go, all their potential goes with them–everything they could have been, and all the love you would have bestowed on them over the years: the stuffed animals not mauled, the balls not fetched, and the trashcans not raided.

Sometimes, the knowledge that you did the right thing doesn’t make it any easier. But that’s the nature of the thing when you choose to own pets. You trade the time you have with them for the heartbreak when they have to leave. And sometimes, that time is very short indeed.

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his parole was denied for the 14th time.

Over at the Florida Marine Mammal Penitentiary, an inmate killed a warden in species-appropriate fashion yesterday.

Now, I’m not a tree-hugging hemp wearer, but I know that orcas are highly intelligent animals with fairly complex social structures.  Putting a bunch of them into a little tank to spend the rest of their lives in there would be like chucking a human into a clear-walled version of ADX Florence supermax.  Actually, it’s even worse than that, because the inmates at SeaWorld are trained to perform.

I know that if you locked me in a transparent room for the rest of my life, fed me the same three things every week, and made me perform five shows a day for chunky tourists from Wisconsin, it wouldn’t take me very long to snap like a stale pretzel.

a vote for gun control is a vote for thunderdome.

Every martial art that involves direct unarmed hand-to-hand fighting has weight classes.  This is done because a bantamweight boxer will get his clock cleaned by a heavyweight ninety-nine out of a hundred times.  Sending a 115-pound fighter up against a 220-pound fighter is simply not an even contest, because the heavyweight can deal (and absorb) much more powerful punches.

Let me repeat that little factoid: even a trained fighter in prime shape has no realistic chance of winning an unarmed fight against a heavier opponent.

Now, would you consider it fair if we took the bantamweight out of the ring, and replaced him with a 60-year-old grandmother with diabetes?  How about a 110-pound college student who’s never punched anything or anyone in her life?  Or maybe a 50-year-old, near-sighted convenience store clerk?  A 28-year-old bank teller who’s eight months pregnant?  Would those opponents be a more even match for our heavyweight?  Would you consider any of those pairings a fair fight?

Well, if you think that law-abiding citizens shouldn’t be allowed to carry guns for self-defense, you’re essentially in favor of pushing all those folks into that ring with the heavyweight, because that’s the power balance on the street.  There are no weight classes, no referees, and no fair fights. 

Even if you imagine for just a moment that we could make all the guns magically disappear with the stroke of a legislative pen, you’d still have violent criminals out there, and they usually prepare the ring in their favor ahead of time.  They have no interest in fair fights, and they don’t pick their marks with an eye on keeping within the proper weight class.  They pick the time, they pick the place, and they pick the victim…who gets shoved into that ring at a moment’s notice.  One second you’re walking into the Stop-N-Rob to pay for your gas and grab some beef jerky, the next you’re in the middle of a fight for your life, with no referee around to call the low blows. 

The truth is that criminals who make a living threatening injury or death for the contents of a cash register or a wallet won’t be greatly handicapped by any laws that prohibit the carrying of guns.  They carry them anyway, but as I’ve pointed out, they’d still tilt the favors in their odds even if the magic gun control fairy could make all the guns go *poof* overnight.  Gun control is tossing their intended victims into the ring with them after forcibly disarming them…to make sure the violence doesn’t escalate.

Now, you let Grandma carry that .38 in her purse, and all of a sudden it’s no longer a automatic loss for her, even if you don’t handicap the heavyweight.  Whatever he can come up with, up to and including producing his own gun, the odds are roughly even at that point.  With that sixteen-ounce piece of alloy and steel in her hand, Grandma can suddenly negate the huge disparities in physical ability and fighting skill.

(On a side note regarding the sufficiency of being able to summon a cop via phone instead: take that gun from Grandma, and put a cell phone in her hand.  Does the fight become any more fair?  Does Grandma stand a better chance of walking away unharmed now?  Or do you think that heavyweight can punch Grandma halfway into the next zip code before she has finished dialing 911?)

Some gun control fans will say that everyone going armed will mean that the criminals will just pack bigger guns and shoot first every time, but they’re missing the point.  When you know your potential marks aren’t allowed to pack heat, you have a low-risk work environment.  You can pick the weakest-looking victim, and set all the parameters for the impending confrontation the way you want them.  When people aren’t prevented from carrying weapons, you never know which one of them has the means to even out the odds, and every mugging or convenience store register grab becomes a potential lethal confrontation or murder conviction.  It makes the job of the violent criminal a much riskier vocation, and serves to discourage rather than encourage the use of physical force.

Another school of thought (if you can grace it with that label) states that Grandma always has the option to just turn over the contents of her purse, give the opponent what he wants, and hopefully be allowed to leave that ring without any violence taking place.  Disregarding the fact that violence has already occurred (the implied threat of death or injury), just look at that course of action from a behavioral standpoint.  If you make an illegal activity low-risk and high-reward, and you guarantee that the attacker gets what he wants every time he mugs someone, do you think you’ll get a.) less, or b.) much more of that illegal activity?

Disarming the law-abiding doesn’t do a thing to control the lawless.  It’s the legal and moral equivalent of grabbing some random person off the street, taking away anything that could be used as an effective weapon, tossing them into the ring with a trained heavyweight boxer who has had days and weeks to prepare for the fight, and telling the surprised and unwilling opponent to “fight fair”.

do they even have a PR person left in philly?

So the Eagles signed that dog-killing scum Michael Vick.

I’m sure there was some sort of communications issue.  Maybe his agent was driving through a tunnel at the time.

“Philadelphia Eagles?  Aw, fuck.  I thought you said ‘Kill a pen full of beagles.’”

Here’s a new rule I proposed on Twitter a while back: any team that plays the Eagles gets a pack of hungry pitbulls on their side.

you keep using that word. i do not think it means what you think it means.

Yesterday morning, on my weekly sojourn into town for Dadcation Day, I spotted a bumper sticker in the Borders parking lot that had me shaking my head:

HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT

Now, health care is certainly an important commodity.  I sure like being able to see a doctor when something ails me, and to get my teeth cleaned and fixed on occasion.  I’m also a big fan of antibiotics, x-rays, vaccinations for the kids, and all the other medical advances that have doubled human lifespans in just a few generations.  Health care is great, and I wouldn’t want to be without access to it.

But a “human right”?  Hippie, please.

I have no doubt that the owner of the thusly-stickered car considers him- or herself to be educated, informed, and thoroughly on top of things.  By proclaiming health care a “right”, however, he or she demonstrates a rather galling unfamiliarity with the nature of rights.

Let’s get the most obvious point out of the way first.  You cannot have a right to something that necessitates a financial obligation on someone else’s part. 

When you look at our Bill of Rights, which enumerates (not “grants”) a bunch of rights, you won’t find a single Amendment in there that recognizes the right to receive a material commodity, free of charge or otherwise.  In order for me to let you enjoy all the rights enumerated in that fine document, all that’s required of me is to leave you the hell alone, which doesn’t cost me a penny.  Your rights to free speech, to free exercise of your religion, or to be free from unreasonable search and seizure do not make the slightest dent in my wallet or my schedule.  The Second Amendment refers to a physical commodity (arms), but it only recognizes that you have the right to own a gun if you have the desire and means to acquire one, not the right to get one for free from the rest of us.

If you promote health care to a human right on the same level with freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, or freedom of speech, you face an interesting quandary.  Health care, unlike all those other things mentioned, is a commodity, exactly like the bread and milk on the shelf at your grocery store.  That commodity needs to be created and distributed by other people.  Doctors aren’t made by waving a Magic Government Wand, they are educated at medical school.  Penicillin and Tamiflu don’t grow on trees in some publically-owned grove, they are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies.  If you have a right to all those things, then those doctors and medical companies have the duty and obligation to provide you with it.

Now picture every single doctor, hospital, and pharmaceutical plant in the country closing overnight.  The doctors are sick of piling on a quarter million in student loans just to work sixty-hour weeks for crap pay and the risk of ruinous lawsuits.  From sea to shining sea, every single doctor in every specialty just closes shop, and takes up basket weaving or Slabovian folk dance instead.

What happened to your “right” to medical care? How are you going to claim that right when nobody is able to provide that exam, or make you that blood pressure medication?

Oh, I know that the argument put forth by the owner of that bumper sticker would be something along the lines of “government has/should have the duty to provide it.”  The problem with that, of course is that government doesn’t actually produce anything to provide.  Government isn’t in the business of creating stuff, it’s in the distribution business—widget A shuffled to consumer B, for a not-so-small cut of the profits to feed all the people working in the distribution center.  Government takes a resource from someone, allocates or transforms it (tax dollars to asphalt to roads, for example), and then redistributes it.  The government cannot provide you with health care directly, it can only take someone’s money and pay some doctor or pharmacist to do the job.  What would the government do if all the doctors in the country just didn’t want to be doctors anymore, and all the medical students followed suit as well and dropped out?  If health care is a human right, shouldn’t the government then be able to arrest all those doctors and bring them up on federal charges of human and civil rights violations?  If health care is a human right, shouldn’t the government be able to charge any doctor thusly who refuses to treat a patient for free right now?

In fact, why stop there?  If health care is a human right, surely food has to be bumped to the same status?  I mean, lack of health care means you’ll die sooner, possibly in a decade or two—but lack of food means you’ll die in a few weeks.  Why don’t we just make food a human right, too, and seize the means of production over at Wonder Bread to make sure they won’t profit from their bread while people starve, deprived of the inalienable human right to stuff themselves with free starchy carbs?  And why stop there? Is the all-you-can-eat buffet over at CiCi’s Pizza a human right, too? Can we bring up the folks at Denny’s for human rights violations if they dare present us with a check at the end of the meal?

Health care is important, and awesome, and I’m a huge fan of it.  It is not, however, a human right.  It’s a commodity just like any other product and service, and thus cannot be a right by definition.  Calling it a “human right” sort of makes a mockery of the term, since actually treating it like a human right would make a whole class of professionals slaves to the rest of us.

target audience megafail.

Further proof that H-S Precision just Doesn’t Get It:

Stingray of Atomic Nerds gets a one-minute interview with the H-S Precision company reps at the NRA convention; almost gets punched in the teeth for his efforts.

To clarify: I wouldn’t do business with H-S Precision if it was the only way to keep a truckload of cocker spaniel puppies from being dumped into an active volcano.  I hope the company dies a quick and well-deserved death, on account of their potential customers staying away in droves.

H-S Precision: Target audience MEGAFAIL.  They didn’t just fail to pick up the clue phone, they failed to have one installed to begin with.

won’t you save the queer-hating dodo?

“The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.”  –Friedrich Nietzsche

Yesterday, on the way back from the dentist with the kids, I heard a commercial on the radio that annoyed me greatly.

Apparently, Vermont has a same-sex marriage bill floating around in Montpelier, and the commercial was in opposition of that bill.  It started out with a kid’s voice saying, “If my daddy marries another man…who will be my mommy?”  Then the narrator mentioned the same-sex marriage bill, professed a popular outrage against legislators who had nothing better to do that to “mess with marriage”.  The money statement was the claim that the gay marriage bill would harm existing marriages, and then the commercial ended with a kid’s voice again, saying “I want a mommy and a daddy!”

This commercial bugged me on several levels.  First, there’s the blatant Argument from Emotion–the kid being concerned about daddy running off and marrying another man.  That’s a ham-fisted attempt at emotional manipulation that has nothing at all to do with the facts.  (In reality, the national divorce rate hovers at 50+ percent for established “straight” marriages, so his daddy is statistically far more likely to divorce his mommy and shack up with the IHOP waitress than with some leather-wearing gay biker dude.) Very few straight marriages end because one party suddenly turns gay, and the legality of gay marriage will have little to no impact on that sliver of a percentage point, statistically speaking. 

(You can be sure I’ll remember that commercial the next time someone tells me with a straight face that “liberals argue from emotion instead of logic”.  In truth, conservatives also fall back on the security blanket of feelings when the logic runs out on them.  As a general rule, the side that has to resort to arguing from emotion has lost the argument.)

The second part that’s bothersome is the claim that someone else’s marriage threatens my own.  Look, folks: if the NH State House made it legal overnight for people to enter in marriage with their poodle or their ficus plant, you know what kind of effect it would have on my own marriage?  Zero. None.  Zip.  It would not make me love my wife even a smidgen less, it would not invalidate our marriage certificate, and it would not take the rings off our hands or nullify the vows we made when we slipped them onto each other’s fingers.

I’ve shared my opinion on gay marriage in this spot already (here and here), and my opinion is still unswayed.  If anything, I’m even more resolutely in favor of it after having to listen to that hand-wringing little piece of agitprop on the radio.  The government has no business being in the business of deciding who can or cannot get married.  That’s a thing that needs to stay between the willing and consenting partners, their priest/rabbi/shaman/imam/minister of choice, and (if applicable) their chosen deity.  Marriage licenses are a vestigial remnant of a time when the majority used the power of the government to make sure that only the properly-hued folk could get married, just like carry permits were introduced to make sure that only the properly-hued folk could defend themselves in public. 

Same-sex marriage is opposed with the same arguments that were once used to oppose interracial marriages…and just like miscegenation laws, same-sex marriage bans are destined to go the way of the dodo.  And before it goes extinct altogether, gay marriage prohibition will serve to show just how quickly some conservatives will abandon their principle of “states’ rights” when it comes to a hot-button issue.  The next time someone puts forward a Constitutional Amendment in “defense of marriage” (like I need some spineless sack of blubber in a suit to “defend” my marriage!), imagine it’s your marriage that will be canceled or denied with the stroke of a pen.

Defending marriage by denying it some people is backwards, bone-headed, and counterproductive.  If anything comes even close to devaluing marriage, it’s the fact that some people want to keep it a straights-only privilege.  As  a heterosexual white male, I get to ride in the front of the bus pretty much all the time, but I have no right to be proud of that fact, and I’ll gargle a bag of razor blades before I spend a penny of my money or a second of my time working to keep gays sitting in the back.