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Serenity

Let me begin by setting the stage a little, and telling you about me.  There's not much about me that's relevant to a movie review, but because Serenity originated from a television series, this preface is necessary: I don't watch a lot of television. 

Perhaps that doesn't get the point across.  The last television series I followed regularly was Babylon 5, which ended in the last century.  Cable news programs persisted until 2 years ago, but they also reached the end of my patience.  So, in order for me to see a television series, it needs to be available on DVD, and it needs to have generated enough interest for me to have noticed... and then it needs to be good enough to deserve a permanent copy. 

Firefly begin to show up on my radar screen by way of Claire Wolfe.  Yes, that Claire -- the "Is it time to shoot them yet?" one.  We're talking here about a television series, produced from the infamously-liberal mainsteam media, by a director who had just spent the past decade or so turning a blonde cheerleader into a vampire-slaying national obsession.  And his next project is winning praise from Claire Wolfe?

So I looked into it.  And it turns out the Firefly is not typical Hollywood fare at all.  The series followed the adventures of Malcomb Reynolds, a veteran of the Civil War between the Alliance and the Independent Worlds, who "retired" to a tiny cargo ship with an eccentric crew and a list of business opportunities that starts at mildly illegal and only gets worse from there.  Smuggling, theft, bank robbery, kidnapping... it's all in a day's work for Serenity and her crew.

If you're wondering how this series managed to survive... it didn't.  Firefly was canceled before the first season ended.  (If I had to guess, I'd say that the episode where the Serenity undertakes to defend the local house of ill repute from the local sheriff was the straw that broke the media executives' back).   But for the 11 episodes they made and broadcast, Firefly was something unique: a well-written, well-produced show with reasonably talented actors that celebrated independence, freedom, and liberty, characters who neither needed or wanted government.  There was nothing else like it.

But then the media released the series on DVDs.  Unlike broadcast, DVD sales are not dependent on scheduling, obscure timeslots, or competing shows on other networks. Firefly sold like gangbusters.  And the result was enough to convince the right people that maybe the show was hitting a chord somewhere.  And of course, the cancellation had left a gaping plot hole in the series just when fans were starting to figure out what was really going on with some of the more mysterious characters.

The result was Serenity: a full-length movie to pick up where the series left off and deliver some badly needed answers. 

Those answers pack one hell of a punch.

If you're a fan of the TV series, you need to see the movie.  Unlike most movie adaptations, it doesn't waste time telling the "introduction" story; it picks up where the series left off and finishes the established arc.  The feel is a very close match for the series, making up in polish and intensity what it looses in casual humor and witty reparte.  You'll be on familiar ground.

For those who haven't seen the TV series, you'll be happier watching it first.  Borrow it from a friend and watch a few episodes.  If you like what you see enough to finish out the series, you'll like the movie.  If not, you won't.  If you can't manage that, though, by all means see the movie anyway.  It stands alone quite well, and the additional background from the series is a bonus rather than a requirement.
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2005-09-29 01:59:34.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

New Orleans Police Chief resigns...

Yes, P Edwin Compass, police chief of the City of New Orleans, has resigned.  Was it the widespread desertion and looting by police officers?  Or was it his decision to order the illegal confiscation of lawfully-owned firearms

The media mentions the former prominently, while ignoring the latter.  But Compass did not resign until shortly after the NRA and the SAF received an injunction prohibiting further firearm confiscations -- a consent decree in which Mayor Nagin hung Compass out to dry, refusing to admit to any delegation of authority or give any official sanction to disarmament orders.

I know what I think.

Hat tip to SayUncle, who got it from Jay.
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2005-09-27 16:14:24.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

More details on the NO lawsuit...

... from Of Arms and the Law.  The plaintiff in that case had his arms seized while he was in his boat.  That is to say, he was not in his home.  That changes the legal situation; it shifts from possession of arms on private property to the legality of "open carry" of firearms, at least for this plaintiff.  That makes it harder, since regulations on the carry of firearms outside private property are on firmer precedential ground than confiscation of firearms from the home.  Let's get some plaintiffs in this case that had their guns seized from their homes.  That little old lady who got tackled by California's finest should do.

But at the moment, the question seems to have become: Can the police legally prohibit carrying firearms openly under the 2nd Amendment (remember, freedom to keep and bear arms)?  Under the Louisiana Constitution?

I suspect we're about to find out.

Someone who wants to research the law in Louisiana on this would get a lot of links...
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2005-09-27 12:16:22.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Cramer has a copy of the NO injunction...

... and it doesn't quite add up.  As far as I can tell, it amounts to a claim that the confiscation never happened and was not official policy.  They are on videotape about this ("Only the police can have guns").  We have at least one report (via the Geek with a .45, only 2 degrees from the eyewitness) of National Guard units confiscating firearms.  We have a video of what are, apparantly, California Highway Patrol officers tackling an old woman to take her revolver, and leaving gun owners in handcuffs while their weapons were confiscated ("They were jealous because ours were bigger than theirs.").

I expect that the city will now engage in a massive coverup, and simultaneously try to argue that they only confiscated guns from people who were somehow not law-abiding; they'll probably claim any confiscations were from people who threatened the police.  Remember that this is all after-the-fact whitewashing.  We have them on tape. 

UPDATE: We still don't know exactly what happened in that New Orleans courtroom.  But thanks to this interview with Alan Gottlieb of the 2nd Amendment Foundation, recorded just before the injunction was issued, we can start to guess.  In it, Alan says that the judge is waiting for one thing: he wanted to see the video clip himself.  So we can presume that the judge saw the denials from the Nagin and Compass and wanted to see evidence that they were lying to him.  Reasonable, and since he later issued the injunction, it appears he was satisfied. 

In order to figure out what's going on, it's useful to summarize and paraphrase the confusing statements in the injunction:
  1. Nagin states he has neither ordered the seizure of lawfully-possessed firearms from law-abiding citizens, nor delegated the authority to do so.
  2. Compass acknowledges that he was not delegated the authority to do so from Nagin, and any alleged statements from him to that effect do not represent the policy of Nagin personally or the City of New Orleans.
  3. Nagin and Compass deny that any seizures occurred.
  4. Nagin and Compass deny that it is the policy or practice to seize firearms from law-abiding citizens, either officially or unofficially.
So, can we figure out what is going on by finding a version of events that is consistent with this statement and with the news reports we have seen?

I will start by taking a moment to point out that the ABC news video does NOT name the police officer making the statement.  It has been attributed to Compass in print but not in the video itself.   Similarly, it's risky to take the claims of Nagin and Compass in court at face value; their lawyers may well want to concede nothing at all at this early stage, especially if they don't see any way to defend their actions legally.  So with that in mind, here's what I deduce from the injunction:

First, Nagin is hanging Compass out to dry.  Nagin claims he did not delegate any authority and Compass affirms that.  Nagin will blame his underlings, deny having anything to do with it, and get away with it unless there's something written down or on tape with his name attached.

Second, Compass acknowledges that he was not delegated any authority to order confiscations from the Mayor, and that any statements attributed to him to that effect do not represent the policy of Nagin or the City of New Orleans.

Third, Nagin and Compass deny that any seizures took place. This should probably be read to mean that they do not admit to knowing any seizures took place.  If they can't sustain that denial they can claim that they thought their seizures were lawful and still be within the bounds of this statement.  If they can't sustain that they may be able to claim that out-of-state officers and National Guard troops conducted the seizures without orders.  They may be preparing to claim that people disobeying mandatory evacuation orders are not law-abiding citizens.  They may also be preparing to pass the buck downwards. 

Fourth, Nagin and Compass deny that seizing firearms from law-abiding citizens is the policy of the City of New Orleans.  The only way this makes any sense at all when combined with the video we have is if the video is not Compass talking, or if the context of the video has a lot more information than we're seeing.  I can't rule out either possibility, although the man in the video does look like Compass (compare with other images of Compass).

Overall, though, it's clear that Nagin doesn't want to defend the confiscations and is hanging his subordinate out to dry (whether deserved or not).  Compass may be sincerely denying any knowledge, or more likely, his lawyers are conceding nothing as part of their defense strategy.   Either way, he's not saying that no seizures took place; he's saying that no illegal seizures took place.

This is not a real denial that confiscations took place; it's ass-covering.

UPDATE: I was able to obtain the full court order from Clayton Cramer.  There are two interesting points from the material he did not quote.  First, there is a simple declaration that the injunction does not contravene any presently-declared state of emergency within the state.  This might have the effect of rendering it powerless, if there is in fact a (purportedly) legal power to confiscate firearms during a state of emergency.  Second, and potentially much more serious, the order requires the defendents to return confiscated firearms upon the presentation of identification and a receipt.

Although the situation is obviously still very chaotic, in all the reports I have read or seen, only one mentioned receipts.  That report indicated that receipts were not being given.

I can't imagine that the NRA/SAF lawyers would have overlooked that.  Either their plaintiff has a receipt, or the judge wasn't listening to the part about not giving out receipts.

Following this one is going to be interesting.

UPDATE: The plot thickens.  This Houston Chronicle story quotes the NRA's Wayne LaPierre as saying "there were no receipts given."

UPDATE: According to Gun Law News the plaintiff already has his guns back.  No word on everyone else who wasn't specifically named in the NRA/SAF lawsuit.
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2005-09-24 18:04:33.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Carnival of Cordite #31...

is ready for you, with more details on New Orleans and quite a lot else.

2005-09-24 13:48:57.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Serenity blogger screening...

For those who have been questioning whether they should wait for a confirmation email on the pre-screening of Serenity to bloggers: I just received my confirmation email.  Others have suggested that there may not be one.  I'm looking forward to it.  While Joss Whedon never quite hit the level of genius displayed by Babylon 5, he's been producing the best thing on television since the main arc of B5 ended.

If you're not familiar with the premise, here's the synopsis:
Joss Whedon, the OscarŪ - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a  small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family  -- squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.
I'm not sure how well the things that I like about the series will carry over into the movie, but there's only one way to find out. 

The only thing that makes me nervous is the great big sword and axe prominently featured on some of the promotional graphics.  It looks too Buffyesque to me, however fond I am of swordplay in general; it simply doesn't fit the scenario.  I'll just have to wait and see how they handle that.

I like the graphic below better. 


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2005-09-24 13:35:25.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

A ban on hunting?

Mr. Completely has the scoop on a proposed hunting ban on Whidbey Island.  He's also got email addresses you can send your comments to.   
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2005-09-24 12:43:39.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Terrorism and the US

There is a consistent assertion seen in the media that the United States has not been the victim of terrorism at home since the 9-11 attacks (including the anthrax incidents at about the same time), although there have been thwarted attempts.  While I don't dispute that there have not been any additional attacks on the scale of 9-11, that doesn't mean that there is no terrorism.  It may simply mean that we aren't recognizing it as terrorism.  The sniper attacks in and around Washington, DC are a good example.  The media treated that as a criminal act rather than a terrorist attack.  Alphecca has more evidence that Al Qaeda's operational capability in America has been sufficiently degraded that their operatives are lost in the noise of common street crime.
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2005-09-24 12:16:50.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Not legal advice...

Earlier this week, I received the following fairly interesting query by email:
I am in the U.S and if someone tried to break into my house and I do not know him or her and I assume their going to hurt me I have every right to kill them?  Not on purpose but at least stop them. im 15 if that has anything to do with it. I live in Texas also
I am, of course, not a lawyer, and I responded as such.  You need to ask a lawyer if you want to get a legal answer you can rely on.  But it's also possible to just read the law for yourself, and decide based on that.  That's why we have written laws.  And while I'm not going to give legal advice, when I saw Volokh's post on Texas laws concerning the use of deadly force on thieves or looters I thought it was worth mentioning.  It doesn't deal with the law on using deadly force to protect yourself or others, just on protecting property.

I should mention as well that what the law allows for is not always the wisest course of action.  You don't want to be pushing the legal envelope in court on a murder charge.  But as the saying goes, if it comes down to the decision to shoot or not to shoot, it is better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.
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2005-09-24 12:02:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Speaking of John Ross...

He's got a bunch of new Ross in Range columns up.  His column about how to be a more effective advocate for freedom is particularly good.

2005-09-24 11:34:46.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Unintended Consequences

Most of the people in the gun rights community are familiar with a novel called Unintended Consequences by John Ross.  It's a strange book; a fictional political thriller, a history lesson, and a warning to overreaching politicians that their actions have consequences that they may not have intended.  The main character of that novel is one Henry Bowman, and it seems that someone has taken that name as their online pseudonym to write about his intent to make a last stand.  If that's how he wants to spend his last few minutes on earth, I admire his courage, but I do not expect the outcome of his choice to make a difference. 

Given the opportunity to make an informed choice, I suspect that the character John Ross wrote would have chosen differently than what that particular editorialist has expressed.  Actions perhaps no less radical, but significantly more effective. 

If you've read the book, you know how Henry Bowman fought his fight, and you can make your own decision as to which Bowman to emulate.
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2005-09-24 11:07:31.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Lockyer urges creation of national ballistics identification system

State Attorney General Bill Lockyer Sunday called for the creation of a national ballistics database to track firearms use in the country.

Lockyer says the California Department of Justice is currently evaluating the feasibility and cost of creating and maintaining its own such database for the state.

He urged the federal government to do likewise.

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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Mesa police ordered to pay $500,000 to mistaken identity victim

Aaron S. Markley was an Arizona State University honors student until Mesa police mistook his identity.

He had to drop out of school, lost a home he and his wife had purchased, and spent $40,000 clearing his name.

This week, Mesa police were ordered to shell out $500,000 after a Maricopa County jury found the department was negligent when it falsely accused Markley of selling drugs.

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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Court Refuses Ky. School Shooting Case

The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to revive a lawsuit that blamed Hollywood for a school shooting in Kentucky. The case questioned the responsibility of moviemakers and other entertainment companies for video games and other products that feature violence. The court did not comment in rejecting an appeal filed by the families of three girls killed in 1997 at a high school near Paducah, Ky. They argued that entertainment companies were wrongly using the First Amendment free speech protection to shield themselves from lawsuits. So why can't they apply this reasoning to the 2nd?
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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Baghdad Empties, but Fills With Foreboding

Tuesday was a grim day in Baghdad, perhaps the grimmest since the war began, and with the darkening prospect of worse to come.
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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

FBI Pulls Open Net For Wiretapping

Wiretapping takes on a whole new meaning now that phone calls are being made over the Internet, posing legal and technical hurdles for the FBI as it seeks to prevent the emerging services from becoming a safe haven for criminals and terrorists. The FBI wants regulators to affirm that such services fall under a 1994 law requiring phone companies to build in surveillance capabilities. It also is pushing the industry to create technical standards to make wiretapping easier and cheaper
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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Permit to Carry Irrelevant to Abusive Cops Who Can't Admit a Simple Mistake

On April 13, 1999 Dennis Maly's life changed, and not for the better. His view of the police changed. His view of our justice system changed. And he still shakes with anger when he thinks about that day. That was the day Dennis was arrested in front of his teenage daughter, treated like a common criminal, booked and prosecuted -- for carrying a concealed weapon, despite having a legal permit to do so.
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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Court Gives Bryco/Jennings the (Index) Finger

Once again, someone has managed to blame a few pounds of metal for the demonstrated ineptitude of a few pounds of gray matter. Last week, jurors in a California civil court ruled that gun manufacturer Bryco/Jennings must pay over $50 million to a 16-year-old who became a quadriplegic after his moronic babysitter shot him in the jaw nine years ago. Virtually no one--even the normally "pro-gun" right--seems to be complaining about the verdict. While the right remains silent, the left is hailing the decision as an example of a "legitimate" case of compensation for a "dangerous design flaw" in the gun.
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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Gun Company Wants Teacher's Widow To Pay Legal Costs

A South Florida gun distributor wants the widow of a slain middle school teacher to pay its defense costs from last year's five-week trial. The Valor Corp. says it is entitled to recover legal costs, including attorney's fees, because Pam Grunow, wife of slain teacher Barry Grunow, lost her lawsuit. She had accused the Broward County company of being responsible for her husband's death.

Seems reasonable to me -- the lawsuit is completely silly and an utter waste of time. "Loser pays costs" is a reasonable principle when a suit is particularly frivolous.

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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Unveils CandidatesOnGuns.org

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) today unveiled http://www.CandidatesOnGuns.org, the only website designed as a clearinghouse for information on Presidential candidates' positions on the gun violence prevention issue.
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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Gun Rights Activist Accused Of Threatening Judge

But instead of appearing to be sentenced at a hearing scheduled last Wednesday, he had a document titled "Notice and Order' delivered to the municipal and state district judges handling his case, according to court records. The document, posted on Stanley's Web site, "ordered" the judges to dismiss the charge and return to him $1,500 in bond money, his "Smith and Wesson 6 shot .357 pistol and 6 each .357 bullets." The document also accused the judges of treason and included a statement he would have his "mutual defenses Pact Militia" order a warrant for their arrest. Bob Grant, district attorney for Adams and Broomfield counties, viewed the notice as a threat against the judges.

This is the kind of activism we don't need. Civil disobedience is one thing; making threats is another. As soon as threats are made the person making them moves from "gun rights activist" to "armed and dangerous lunatic".

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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Who owns truth?

What we have here is a House bill that effectively allows a collection of facts (for example, a database of phone numbers, like the phone book) to be treated by the courts as property. I can perceive their motivation -- that is, corporations want to have some property right with respect to the information they collect on their customers -- but there are a lot of potential problems with this rule.

The law also covers "collections of data" like, for example, building codes. Yes, laws can become the private property of businesses, off-limits for personal reproduction and use. It's apparantly fairly lucrative if you can secure a monopoly on the right to publish the legal code of your city, county, or state! In the case of building codes, anyone who wants to build a new building or modify an older one needs to come to you and buy a copy of the laws they are required to follow.

And that's not even getting into issues like the AMA owning the billing codes hospitals use on itemized bills, so that if you want to decode your hospital bill you need to talk to -- and probably pay -- the AMA.

Read this good summary of the issues. And if you don't like what you see, complain to the committee members.

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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

A Justice's Sense of Privilege

"Thirty-five minutes into the speech we were approached by a woman who identified herself as a deputy U.S. marshal," Ms. Konz told me in a telephone conversation on Friday. "She said that we should not be recording and that she needed to have our tapes."

In the U.S., this is a no-no. Justice Scalia and his colleagues on the court are responsible for guaranteeing such safeguards against tyranny as freedom of the press. In fact, the speech Mr. Scalia was giving at the very moment the marshal moved against the two reporters was about the importance of the Constitution.

Ms. Konz said neither she nor Ms. Grones wanted to comply with the marshal's demand.

Scalia has already apologized and indicated that the marshals were not acting in accordance with his wishes or instructions. In light of that I don't have much of a bone to pick with him. The marshals, however, have clearly absolutely no comprehension of the limitations upon their powers.

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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

This Is Kerry on Drugs

Candidate Kerry's choice for Homeland Security Advisor is a seasoned drug warrior who has already shown his loyalty to the well being of the drug war, no matter how many lives it destroys.

For those who oppose the federal government's disastrous war on drugs, there are many things to dislike about the Bush Administration, not the least of which is its shameless ? and dangerous ? use of the war on terror to prop up the failed drug war and the accompanying $18 billion dollar bureaucracy. And there is no indication that four more years of a Bush presidency will offer anything but more of the same.

But anyone who thinks a vote for John Kerry means a vote for a more liberalized approach to drug policy should think again. Candidate Kerry's choice for Homeland Security Advisor, Rand Beers, is a seasoned drug warrior who has already shown his loyalty to the well being of the drug war, no matter how many lives it destroys, or how many narco- terrorists are enriched along the way.

Anyone under the delusion that Kerry is actually serious about civil liberties should recall that, prior to 9-11, our most pressing civil liberties issues were being spawned by the Drug War. Kerry is all in favor of the Drug War. And that means he's lying through his teeth on civil liberties.

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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments

Kerry's version of the Draft

As part of his 100 day plan to change America, John Kerry will propose a comprehensive service plan that includes requiring mandatory service for high school students and four years of college tuition in exchange for two years of national service.

Now, there's certainly a difference between "community service" and "military service", but in both cases we are talking about a draft; that is, involuntary servitude. At least a military draft is only imposed in dire necessity during wartime; Kerry's version would apply to everyone.

And frankly, that's beyond the pale. Volunteering to help your country is one thing; being compelled to do so on pain of men with guns is a different thing entirely. (And yes, men with guns will come to get you if you don't go to school).

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2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by TriggerFinger. 0 comments
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