My friend Jonathan Stray put together an entirely fact-based FAQ on American gun violence for The Atlantic. Everybody can learn something from this. →
The NRA’s major constituency isn’t their individual members, but gun manufacturers. We are entering the era of 3-D printers (I have several friends who own them), and it’s entirely possible to print a gun. Including counterfeit guns. The stock, the barrel, the receiver—everything. Adam Penenberg explains how this is liable to to have the NRA begging congress for regulation of the indstury, rather the opposite of the present situation. →
I have no doubt that I would have been a member of the NRA as it existed a few decades ago. Every time I think about joining, they do something absolutely insane. It seems they tried to do just such a thing in Tennessee, and it’s backfiring on them. The NRA tried to get a bill passed that would prohibit business owners from banning firearms from their property. As you can imagine, that was received poorly, and Republican leaders refused to support it. An infuriated NRA is trying to toss one of those leaders from office now. →
“Shotgun Golf will soon take America by storm,” said Hunter S. Thompson in this 2004 article. I would definitely play this, though I’d be even more likely to play it with Bill Murray. →
- Harvard Business Review: Put Your Best People On Your Most Boring Challenges
I agree completely with this suggestion that the exciting work shouldn't be saved for enthusiastic, capable employees. The most interesting, important, effective work that I've done professionally was working on tasks or projects that were considered boring. This summer the FDA asked me to advise on how to improve the efficiency of the process by which they approve breakthrough medical technologies. I declined, and instead spent some time advising them on how to overhaul the process by which everything *else*—all the boring stuff—gets approved. Why? Because those were the changes would have the most impact—turning something slow and mediocre into something efficient and extraordinary. They were a little baffled by my interest, but wound up being excited by my proposed changes. I hope they implement some of them.
- New York Times: Homework and Jacuzzis as Dorms Move to McMansions in California
Suburbia is famously unable to be modified to suit changing use patterns. While an urban block can be refurbished cyclically (factory becomes loft apartments becomes attorneys' offices becomes factory), a McMansion can't be divided up into apartments and is rather unlikely to become an office. But college kids have figured out that they can split up the enormous houses among a half-dozen roommates, living well for $250/month. The neighbors, having believed they were buying into a homogeneous community of middle-class, middle-aged people, are apparently less than thrilled.
- Daily Progress: UVa replaces weapons policy
Ken Cuccinelli published a July opinion that held that university weapon bans couldn't be policies, but had to be regulations, and thus UVA couldn't ban guns. As best as I can tell, a "policy" is a rule created by the university, but a "regulation" is one that's created by the board of visitors and published in the Virginia Register. So UVA has turned their policy into a regulation, and will publish it in the Virginia Register. Problem solved.
- Rotten Tomatoes: Jack and Jill
Adam Sandler's new movie has a 2% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It is summarized as such: "Although it features an inexplicably committed performance from Al Pacino, Jack and Jill is impossible to recommend on any level whatsoever."
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an advisory opinion on firearms on campuses (PDF) a few days ago. Before I even read it, I knew I’d be torn about his conclusions, whatever they would prove to be. I own a few firearms (long guns, not handguns), and I paid close attention to Heller a few years ago, though I didn’t root for either side in that case—it was just clarity that I’d hoped for. Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Mount Solon) had asked Cuccinelli for his opinion on whether UVA may prohibit firearms within university buildings, a topic on which there’s been a fair amount of debate over in the past few years, especially after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. Cuccinelli’s response was:
It is my opinion that, under the present state of the law, the University lawfully may promulgate a policy that prohibits persons from openly carrying a firearm in the buildings that are subject to the policy. It is further my opinion that with respect to persons who have a concealed carry permit, because the University adopted a policy rather than a regulation, it has not “otherwise prohibited by law” persons with a concealed carry permit from possessing a handgun, and, therefore, the policies may not be used to prohibit persons with such a permit from carrying a concealed firearm into the buildings covered by the policy.
In short, Cuccinelli finds that universities have the power to enact such prohibitions. (In Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, wrote that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on…laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.” So the SCOTUS provides backup on this point.) But there is that bit of important hair-splitting, the matter of a “policy” vs. a “regulation.” What’s the difference? Well, § 18.2-308 (“Personal protection; carrying concealed weapons; when lawful to carry”) says:
The granting of a concealed handgun permit shall not thereby authorize the possession of any handgun or other weapon on property or in places where such possession is otherwise prohibited by law or is prohibited by the owner of private property.
“Prohibited by law.” So what’s a “law”? We find that in Title 2.2, Chapter 40 of the state code (“Administrative Process Act”), which leads with a listing of definitions, including this definition of a regulation:
“Rule” or “regulation” means any statement of general application, having the force of law, affecting the rights or conduct of any person, adopted by an agency in accordance with the authority conferred on it by applicable basic laws.
Why is the ban a policy and not a regulation? I have no idea. I speculate that regulations require the Board of Visitors to approve them, and policies do not, but I’m really just making that up. Presumably the university could address this by simply making this prohibition a regulation and that would be that.
There is one bit of Cuccinelli’s decision that I’m not totally convinced of, though it doesn’t help that I’m not attorney. In support of his conclusion that a policy does not have the force of law, he cites the definition of regulation (as I have, above), but “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” as Carl Sagan once wrote. Cuccinelli’s only support of the idea that this is an actual matter of state law comes in the form of a citation of a case, in footnote 17, wherein he writes:
See also Woods v. Commonwealth, 26 Va. App. 450, 457, n. 3, 495 S.E.2d 505,509 n. 3 (1998) (“a statement of policy does not have the force of law ….”) (quoting Shenango Tshp. Bd. of Supvsrs. v. Pa. Pub. Util. Comm’n, 686 A.2d 910, 914 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1996)).
So I did see also Woods v. Commonwealth, and I’m not impressed. A footnote on page 9 of that decision includes a series of examples of “other jurisdictions [that] recognize the power of administrative agencies to adopt interpretative rules or guidelines,” with quotes from decisions from Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. These quotes are just examples within a footnote—the words in those quotes are not standing in for the court’s own, in the manner of my use of the quote from Sagan above. It smacks of desperation for Cuccinelli to lean on this as his sole affirmative evidence that there is precedent for the notion that a policy does not have the force of law. I’m not saying that a policy is law. I have no idea. But if this is the best he’s got, I’m not real confident that it’s good enough.
I am glad to have this opinion as the basis to begin a larger discussion about this, but I hope that smarter folks than me (and less partisan folks than Cuccinelli) will weigh in on the specifics of this in the weeks ahead.
- TPM: ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Opens Fire On Store Because It Ran Out Of Crawfish
42-year-old Larry Wayne Kelly—yes, middle name "Wayne"— opened fire on Pensacola's L&T Seafood Market with an AK-47 after they sold out of crawfish. When police tried to arrest them, he tried to run them down with his car. But it's OK, Kelly says, because he's a "sovereign citizen"—laws don't apply to him.
- Quora: Is the cryptocurrency Bitcoin a good idea?
This economist makes a good argument that Bitcoin is, at best, a terrible idea and, at worst, a scam.
- Wikipedia: List of IARC Group 2B carcinogens
I thought it was big news that the World Health Organization had classified cell phones as a potential carcinogen, until I read more about "Group 2B," as it's been classified. Also on the list is baby powder, carpentry, coffee, and pickles. These are things that may or may not be carcinogens—nobody knows for sure. Most humans on the planet have mobiles phones, yet brain tumors are no more common now than they've ever been—that seems to settle it for me, at least given the current paucity of evidence.
- NPR: Florida Bill Could Muzzle Doctors On Gun Safety
An NRA-written bill has passed the Florida legislature, and is likely to be signed by the governor, that will make it illegal for doctors to advise patients on gun safety. (Pediatricians frequently advise new parents on how to store firearms safely, and doctors concerned about teenagers' mental health want to make sure they're not a danger to themselves or others.) Every time I think about joining the NRA, they remind me that they are wretched human beings.
- Boing Boing: Portable Pepper Mill
I like Boing Boing a lot, I really do. I tire of Cory Doctorow writing about Cory Doctorow—nearly everything he writes—and I even subscribe via a Yahoo Pipe that removes anything containing the word "steampunk," but easily 10% of the posts are pure gold. But their "Cool Tools" section has gotten totally ridiculous. Exhibit A is this post, where the unnamed author says that she would "never go anywhere without [her] portable pepper mill," and then pimps the Vic Firth Pump and Grind Pepper Mill, complete with Amazon referral link. Which raises such questions as a) She really doesn't go to many places, does she? b) Aren't all pepper mills portable? and c) When did she become such an asshole?
- The Guardian: Osama bin Laden death—The conspiracy theories
Here's what the crazies think. A Fox News anchor says that Obama is lying about Bin Laden's death to get reelected. Glenn Beck says Bin Laden is alive, as a captive, being interrogated about where he's hiding his secret nuclear bomb. Conservative radio host Alex Jones says that Bin Laden was killed nine years ago, but was kept frozen until such as time as it would be convenient to claim that he'd just been killed.
- Bacon’s Rebellion: Why, Bob, Why?
Peter Galuszka contrasts Bob McDonnell's cutting $0.4M in funding for public broadcasting from the state budget and giving $3.5M to Steven Spielberg to make a movie. Not only is cutting funding for public broadcasting an economically unsound decision (that's how schools get some of their educational materials, which they'll now have to pay for to get from elsewhere), but giving 775% more to a private film production company a few days later is deeply hypocritical.