Illinois House Passes Firearms Restraining Order

 

We passed a “Firearms Restraining Order” bill in the Illinois House Wednesday. I spent a lot of time on this bill, and have written about it on my blog. I believe it strikes a balance between preserving civil liberties and Second Amendment rights with the responsibility we have to protect public safety. Here are my initial floor comments on the bill:

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President Trump Cancels Summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un

 

In a letter to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un on Thursday morning, President Trump cancelled the planned June 12 summit in Singapore between the United States and North Korea. In withdrawing from the talks, Trump cited Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement,” stating he felt it would be “inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned.” The president did express his willingness to meet with Kim at a future date.

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ACF#34: The Searchers

 

Today, I am joined by Prof. John Marini for the first in a series of podcasts on Great Westerns. We start with The Searchers, John Ford’s thematic treatment of the sacred law of the family. American freedom out West and the nature-civilization conflict are treated in parallel in a story that blends comedy and tragedy with an eye to Homer. This is John Wayne’s greatest role and it is an education about human things wrapped into one. Listen and share, friends!

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After Santa Fe Shooting, Houston’s Police Chief Plays Politics

 

My most recent column over at PJ Media concerns Art Acevedo, chief of the Houston Police Department, who has risen to national attention in the wake of the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. The night of the shooting, Acevedo took to Facebook and posted an impassioned plea for “action” from lawmakers to address gun violence. What this action should be he did not specify, neither in the post nor in the many media appearances he has made since, except to call for a law requiring secure storage of firearms when children are present.

Such a law has been on the books in Texas since 1995 (scroll down to section 46.13), so it’s still unclear what recommendations Chief Acevedo would make. What is clear is that he is enjoying his moment in the sun, having been covered in glowing terms by CBS, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone, among many others.

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Quote of the Day: Legislation

 

“The urge to pass new laws must be seen as an illness, not much different from the urge to bite old women. Anyone suspected of suffering from it should either be treated with the appropriate pills or, if it is too late for that, elected to parliament [or congress, as the case may be] and paid a huge salary with endless holidays, to do nothing whatever.” – Auberon Waugh

Every time something tragic happens there are calls for legislators to “do something.” What to do, whether it is wise or foolish, is less important than passing some new law. Years ago, when I was writing for Listen Magazine (now gone) I wrote an article about a couple of teens who created a fantasy politics game — it was similar to a fantasy football league. You picked a “team” of legislators, and got points as they created legislation.

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Trump Is Not a Second-Class President

 

There is a lot of breathless pearl-clutching going on because Trump just ordered an investigation into the allegedly bogus surveillance of his campaign allegedly for national security reasons (but possibly for political reasons).

They say that Trump is interfering with an investigation by targeting those who started the investigation. But all prosecutions are subject to scrutiny. We do not allow prosecutors in this country to act with impunity – they are constrained by the law and must operate under appropriate oversight.

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About That “Spark of Divinity”

 

I agree with Nancy Pelosi. There’s a “spark of divinity” in every person on earth, even the worst.

One reason I stopped listening to Mark Levin is that I couldn’t stand his habit of calling bad guys “cockroaches.” It reminded me too much of Rwanda. The frenzy of murder that overcame that country in 1994 was preceded by a radio campaign denouncing the Tutsis as cockroaches.

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Exactly How Many Presidential Candidates Did President Obama Spy On?

 

Because of its implications, this is an uncomfortable question; let me first briefly outline the framework against which the question is asked.

The following are facts that do not appear to be in dispute by anyone who isn’t a card-carrying member of Team Obama:

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The Commencement Speech You Never Hear

 

My youngest son’s college graduation ceremony was scheduled to be held outdoors. The invitation specified that it would be moved inside to the gym only in the event of “severe” weather. As it turned out, the day was unseasonably cold (low 50s) with occasional drizzle – probably about as nasty as the weather gets in May without qualifying for severe status.

Yet my husband and I huddled together in the stands of Franklin Field and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Ceremonies are important. We need markers for the milestones of our lives. They seal the moment that is both an ending and a beginning.

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Korzybski, Words, and Abstraction

 

Korzybski. I’m not sure where or when I first heard the name. I do know the who, though. H. Beam Piper was the finest writer that most people have never heard of. He was primarily a science fiction writer from the mid-1940s to 1964, when he died. He introduced me to many other writers and ideas. James Branch Cabell? The time theories of J. W. Dunne? Charles Oman’s The Art of War? Carl von Clausewitz? All of these and more were referenced in his works. And Korzybski.

“That sounds like Korzybski,” Pierre said, as they turned onto Route 19 in the village and headed east. “You’ve read Science and Sanity?”

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Calling out “White People”

 

I was on a bus in Seattle the other day sitting next to someone I met that day and will likely never meet again. We had gotten into a conversation about each other’s religious backgrounds. He went first.

“Yeah, back home I went to a Lutheran church [I’m not sure of the denomination, but it was something liturgical]. It sucked. I don’t like traditional stuff, and that’s all it was. Everyone was super old and like 90 percent white.”

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I Am Unhappy with Trump on China

 

I am unhappy that Trump is following the same sort of airy mess that Bush and Obama did with China. They steal our IP and we do nothing.

China is the threat to our Republic at the current time. They want to be the Asian power. The United States needs to remain the Asian power. I know many libertarians disagree on this. Tough. Someone has to be the world’s superpower, and if we retreat to a regional power in North America, China will expand and threaten freedom.

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About Tomi, That Lawyer, and Mob Justice

 

The other day at the playground I overheard a few fathers chatting about the legalization of sports gambling. One asked, “What kind of impact do you think this Supreme Court decision will have on our society?” The other replied, “Our society is already crumbling, what’s the difference?” Everyone around laughed and took a big sigh. Because he was right.

Having never been alive during another time in human history, perhaps it’s difficult to judge, but it certainly feels as though basic decency and kindness are a thing of the past. One striking event in the last day reminded us of this:

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Data Is Just Like Oil, Other Than These Few Minor Differences

 

You may have heard something about “data being the new oil” or some such. Just as petroleum drove economies in the 20th century, so will digital information in the 21st. I really started hearing about this framing after a May 2017 cover story by The Economist. The piece had a pretty snappy lede:

An oil refinery is an industrial cathedral, a place of power, drama and dark recesses: ornate cracking towers its gothic pinnacles, flaring gas its stained glass, the stench of hydrocarbons its heady incense. Data centres, in contrast, offer a less obvious spectacle: windowless grey buildings that boast no height or ornament, they seem to stretch to infinity. Yet the two have much in common. For one thing, both are stuffed with pipes. In refineries these collect petrol, propane and other components of crude oil, which have been separated by heat. In big data centres they transport air to cool tens of thousands of computers which extract value—patterns, predictions and other insights—from raw digital information. Both also fulfill the same role: producing crucial feedstocks for the world economy. Whether cars, plastics or many drugs—without the components of crude, much of modern life would not exist. The distillations of data centres, for their part, power all kinds of online services and, increasingly, the real world as devices become more and more connected. Data are to this century what oil was to the last one: a driver of growth and change. Flows of data have created new infrastructure, new businesses, new monopolies, new politics and—crucially—new economics. Digital information is unlike any previous resource; it is extracted, refined, valued, bought and sold in different ways. It changes the rules for markets and it demands new approaches from regulators. Many a battle will be fought over who should own, and benefit from, data.

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Lessons Learned from My Dog

 

Seven years ago, while hunting in a very remote area, I found a puppy. Really, he found me. I was walking down a trail, turned around and he was following me. He was in bad shape. He was malnourished and had a festering wound on his head. He looked at me with sad eyes and gave me no choice but to bring him home.

Buddy is the kind of dog that everybody likes. He is a people magnet. Everyone that sees him wants to stoop down and pet him. My wife and I have joked that we should rent him out to people who are looking to meet other people. Take him for a walk down the walking trail in the park and you are guaranteed to have people come up and talk to you with smiles on their faces. Forget internet dating services, just take Buddy for a walk.

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If Irish Eyes Shall Die

 

The following is a pro-life post on Ireland’s upcoming abortion referendum not by me, but another Irishman: Tim Jackson. I’m sharing it due to its power. It is astonishing.

A well known newspaper requested a short piece from me, so I wrote these thoughts down, but it has since been indicated that it probably won’t be accepted…here goes:

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Power of Words: Table Talk

 

Growing up, supper was served at the dinner table. Attendance was mandatory. There was no television in the house to distract or draw us away as quickly as we could eat.

When we were done eating, the table was cleared, and a large pot of tea was put on the table. This was the signal for family talk, which could turn into a verbal free-for-all. From this, on top of all the books in the house, augmented by frequent library trips, four young people turned into very expressive adults. Our parents set the expectation that each of us could speak for ourselves, and be part of a conversation with adults.

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When the Villain Is More Heroic Than the Heroes

 

The objective of morality is picking the highest quality you can and pursuing it. But that pursuit takes many forms, and sometimes things are not as black and white as they would seem.

One aspect of being moral is kindness. But kindness isn’t everything because sometimes one needs to be cruel to get things accomplished toward a moral end. A father’s first duty to his son is to parent him, not be his friend, and that means discipline when needed.

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Quote of the Day: Elementary Justice? Or Not?

 

“Well, I am afraid I can’t help you, Lestrade,” said Holmes. “The fact is that I knew this fellow Milverton, that I considered him one of the most dangerous men in London, and that I think there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge. No, it’s no use arguing. I have made up my mind. My sympathies are with the criminals rather than with the victim, and I will not handle this case.” — The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton

Like many another successful author, this one was ambivalent about his relationship with his greatest creation. He found Holmes distracting and annoying, and frequently talked of “slaying” him and “winding him up for good and all.” (His one attempt to do so was, obviously not all that successful. It appeared that publishers would pay any amount for more of the great detective, and the fellow with a difficult, not very well-off life, who hadn’t succeeded at almost anything else he tried, was yoked to Sherlock Holmes for the remainder of his.)

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GOP Leads Dems by 6 in Latest Generic Poll

 

Oh, my. Reuters has polled registered voters every week with the following question: “Thinking about the elections in 2018, if the election for U.S. Congress were held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate in your district where you live?” Here are the results:

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AI and a Very Idealistic Description of Evil

 

Being interested in Artificial Intelligence, when I ran across this article in The Atlantic I was hoping to find something interesting. The article focuses on Judea Pearl, an AI researcher who pioneered Bayesian (calling Midget Faded Rattlesnake) networks for machine leaning. Pearl is disappointed that most AI research nowadays is centered around his previous bailiwick of machine learning (what he calls fancy curve fitting) and not around his new interest, which is around causal reasoning models.

This is all well and good and somewhat interesting, however near the end of the article he and the interviewer talk about free will and have the following exchange about evil.

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Book Review: Between Worlds Never to Return

 

For as long as Texas was an independent republic or part of the United States those within it have been citizens, not subjects. That was true in the 19th-century Germanies. “Between Worlds Never to Return,” a novel about German immigration to Texas, by Barbara Ortwein illustrates the difference.

Set in the 1840s, the novel follows Karl Engelbach and his son Johann as they abandon their farm in Hesse to come to Texas. The senior Engelbach is a revolutionary. He wants inappropriate things: the freedom to say what you want and to travel without permits. When soldiers raid the political meeting Karl is attending and kill Karl’s brother, Karl must flee. A childhood friend (also present at the meeting, but not caught) is part of an effort to establish a German colony in the Republic of Texas. He sends Karl that way.

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A Modern Day Cinderella

 

I got up in the middle of the night for Diana and Charles’ wedding in 1981. I watched Kate Middleton and Prince William exchange vows. Then I staggered in at 3:34 AM Central to watch Prince Harry take Meghan Markle as his princess.

I realized I could have slept in another two hours, but they said people camped out for days! Thousands lined the roads to Windsor Castle. Major networks were broadcasting from every angle, which was a challenge, given all those hats! 

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