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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Who Hunts The Hunters?

Obvious title is obvious.

I play a lot of video games. I mean, a lot.

Primarily, I play cooperative game modes. In some of those cooperative game modes, sometimes the interfaces are poorly coded, such as in Mass Effect: Andromeda. In these more poorly coded interfaces, often the voice chat is on by default, and there's a surprisingly generous portion of the playerbase that doesn't realize this. As a result, you often hear a lot of background noise: dogs barking, heavy breathing, televisions, cars driving by, jackhammers, people having sex, someone being horribly murdered in the background, or a combination of any of the above.

Stay with me. This is relevant, I promise.

Over the last week or so, Bully Hunters was announced. It is ostensibly an elite squad of possibly female gamers on call 24/7 to hunt down and exact revenge on toxic male gamers that harass other female gamers that are just trying to play a game. They announced a livestream event, an hour to show off their system in action, hunting down a bully live and providing statistics on why they're necessary.

And then the stream happened.



An hour turned into 35 minutes of unadulterated cringe.

The experts they brought on parroted Gender Studies talking points, which really came as no surprise. The in-game footage they showed was choppy and looked like it was either poorly encoded, pre-recorded footage or was being played on a computer from 2002. The presenters were stiff and uncharismatic, the audience was lifeless, and the event cues were ripped straight from a garage-level presentation of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. But it didn't stop there.

The statistics discussed by the 'professionals' -- a clinical counselor with a focus on living with diabetes and a clinical psychologist with a focus on marriage counseling -- were revealed to have been extrapolated by a self-reporting survey of 874 people on social media platforms Twitter and Reddit, and inflated from the 874 respondents to a total of 3 million women being driven out of gaming.

One "casual gamer," therosethorn, was revealed to be not only the casual gamer with a level 1 account owning only one game, but the bully, the bully hunter, and several other bully hunters as well. Not to mention that one of her previous names (and the url of her profile page) was testbhv1 (test bully hunter victim 1?).

Full disclosure here: this screenshot was taken from my own Steam account while I was writing this, as I'd lost the original screenshot. That's right, it's still there.


An additional problem arises in that, unless I'm mistaken, you can't hear the enemy team (let alone join a game in-progress if you're playing competitively) in Counterstrike: Global Offensive. If she was able to hear the bully, that means they were on the same team, and if she invited the Bully Hunter in, then she'd go to the same team, thereby making that glorious knife kill from earlier nigh-on impossible. If she somehow joined the opposing team, then due to the hectic nature of a CS:GO match, she'd stand just as much a chance of killing the person that called her for help as she did killing the bully, or even being killed by the bully herself, which is something that happens anyway. I'm not kidding, you play one of these games, and you die a lot. One more death will mean literally nothing to you.

A few watchful eyes happened to notice the prominent SteelSeries branding backing the Bully Hunters, and asked them directly about it. SteelSeries, a fairly well-respected gaming peripheral company (I even have a Fallout-themed headset they made) initially stood their ground when asked, but eventually buckled after being confronted by the shady nature of the entire event.

And I can't blame them at all. After Bully Hunters host and spokesperson Natalie Casanova aka ZombiUnicorn was exposed as having used a slur on a livestream several times (something that poor PewDiePie was crucified for), and using a gendered slur in several tweets, people kept digging, and found that the entire thing was slapped together by marketing company FCB Chicago. Eventually other sponsors Vertagear and, ironically, the Diverse Gaming Coalition also folded, throwing FCB Chicago and, in the case of the latter, ZombiUnicorn under the bus.

This is bad. Not only does it paint people that play games in general in a bad light, but it also paints women that play games as personally helpless, having to bring in outside help to fight their battles for them. I've played with a lot of women in my time; some of my best long-term co-op partners have been women, and I've always trusted them to hold their own, whether they're tanking for my medic or I'm tanking for their medic, and have never been let down. But this? You don't stop 'bullies' by giving them air-time or more exposure. You don't give them an easily exploitable platform so they can play nice until they convince you they're hunter material. Instead, you starve them of oxygen. You give them no reaction until they get bored. Do you want to see the most effective weapon against in-game harassment? I'll show you:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Monday, April 16, 2018

Assorted Calibers Podcast Episode 002

In this week's podcast:
  • Erin and Weerd discuss Youtube’s new gun policy.
  • Savage1R explains how one actually acquires cryptocurrencies.
  • The Weer’d Audio Fisk is Megyn Kelly’s Lecture on the Parkland Massacre.
  • and Weer’d interviews Gail Pepin of the Massad Ayoob Group about how she became pro-gun.

Show notes:

We have a Patreon now! Join now for the low, low cost of $4/month (that's $1/podcast) and you'll get to listen to our podcast on Friday instead of Mondays!

Listen here.
You can also download the episode here.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Semper Fidelis, Gunny Ermey



I had the pleasure of meeting Gunny once.

It was the 2016 NRA Annual Meeting, and I was on the hotel shuttle bus that would take me to the convention. Just as we were about to leave, some guy asked the driver if he would take the bus to the side entrance to pick up his friend, Lee. The bus driver agreed, took us there, and we waited.

And waited.

And the guy said "Come on, Lee, hurry up" while I grumbled silently about what kind of prima donna can't make it to the front where the bus is but needs his own pickup?

Then I saw Gunny come out of the hotel and walk to the bus, and all of my irritation evaporated. I had to exert physical effort to keep from fangirling all over the place, especially when he sat down across the aisle from me.

Like you'd expect, the Gunny kept up a running commentary about what a shitshow the traffic was, and how he'd sat through it every day, and that most of the NRA Board of Directors didn't show up until the actual voting day and some didn't show up at all, and things like that. It was pretty much an Authentic Gunny Experience, complete with profanity.

When we reached the convention center, I allowed myself a little lapse and said "It's a pleasure to meet you, Gunny. Keep doing what you're doing" and offered my hand. He smiled and shook it.

I can just see him calling cadence for the Heavenly Host. "You may be archangels, maggots, but I'm going to turn you into MARINES!"

Friday, April 13, 2018

Another Status Report on my Face

I realized I haven't told you folks about the new plastic surgeon I've been seeing, so here's the backstory followed by what happened when I went to see him on Wednesday.

After I had that terrible appointment with my lazy, useless, callous, no-good plastic surgeon, I fired him and went in search of another one. Fortunately for me, one of my neighbors is an LPN who works for a local Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon (the exact same kind of doctor who sewed my lips up after the attack) and who had noticed we had one less dog on our nightly walks, which led to a conversation about the injury. She, too, thought my old plastic surgeon was full of crap, and was confident that her boss could fix me up. She even set me up with a free consultation with him!

During the appointment, the OMS was a whirlwind of activity like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil: he came in, examined me, said "Oh yeah, we can fix this easily by doing X, Y, and Z," and then he was out of the room. My friend the LPN set some things up, the doctor whirled into the room again, and gave me several injections of something called Kenalog right in the scar tissue (I'm pleased to report that I could actually feel the needle going in, which is an odd thing to be happy about but that means I have less nerve damage to that area than I feared) before he whirled out again. Then the LPN gave me some scar reducing gel, telling me to use it 2x a day and to continue rubbing itamin E into my scar once a day, and that I'd need to come back in six weeks.

Let me tell you, those three things really reduced the swelling. If you look at these selfies I took during my trip to Fredericksburg, you can see the scar if you look really hard (it's hidden under dermablend -- which, by the way, is expensive but worth the cost) but it's not obvious and it's definitely not puffy.


That brings us to a few days ago, when I had my 6-week checkup. Both the LPN and OMS were really pleased with how the scar had visibly reduced in thickness, and so they gave me another round of Kenalog injections (which actually hurt worse than last time, which again I'll interpret as a good thing). Then they used a laser on the scar, focusing on the red parts where the stitching was, to blend the color in with the rest of my face.

I'm not going to say it was pleasant, but it wasn't bad. It hurt worse when I got my tattoo. Heck, the Kenalog injections hurt worse! But let me tell you, I looked AWFUL afterwards because the lasered areas were irritated like heck and oozing blood, so no pictures of that here.

I have another appointment in 2 more weeks, probably to see how my skin has recovered from the laser. I'll let you know how that goes.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Dumpster Fire-Side Chat With Wil

Wil, it's not always about you or your crusade. 


I had an interesting chat with a new co-worker today. Isaac -- we'll call him Isaac, as that's not his name but he looks like an Isaac to me --was talking with another coworker about people smoking weed. I asked him simply, "Who are they hurting?" He asked if I was Libertarian. I said that, while I respect some of their ideas, I'm not anti-government enough to call myself that.

He then went on to hopefully ask if I was Conservative. I told him my political compasses usually put me in the lower left quadrant, leaning Left with small L libertarian tendencies. He jokingly said "We'll bring you to the Right side yet."

Good luck, pal. If Erin hasn't converted me after 10 years of being a good example, I doubt you'll make much progress overnight.

But that's not why we're here. Tonight, we're here to talk to one my favourite self-imposed punching bags, one Wil Wheaton.

Pull up a seat, William. I'd like to ask you a question: Why?


William, how old are you? Oh Christ, you were born in 1972? You're that much older than me? No, sit back down, I'm not done yet. Pour me another drink, will ya fella? Cheers.

William, why would you screenshot just the article photo and the headline, and then read your own interpretation of the article? And then follow that up with the pound-signs for #fuck racism and #fuck racists. And why would you leave a space in the hashtags? You know that breaks a hashtag, right? You should know, being the world's oldest Millenial.

See, and the worst part is, William "Ban the Nazis" Wheaton, aka William "I'm a good person" Wheaton, is that you left no link to the original source. I had to dig up previous versions of a few different articles to determine that the image and headline were altered from this Washington Post article. You know, the left-leaning Washington Post. Or is this another example of Liberals Get The Bullet Too? (Is it still a bullet? Do you California Revolutionaries still use that phrase, or have you replaced "bullet" because of how problematic it is? Or do you hate us lowly untermensch Liberals so much that we justify usage of the damnable firearm?)

William, did you read the article? It mentions Black Panther exactly once. Then it goes on to talk about Ready Player One and A Wrinkle In Time in reference to theatre blockbusters, and Bright and The Cloverfield Paradox in reference to alternative format releases. The spirit and message of the article is that, as the production and advertising budgets of big blockbuster movies inflates, so does the amount they need to earn to be profitable, so a movie that makes, for example $500 million with a production budget of $250 million and advertising of $150 million can't be considered profitable. It also talks about how the domestic box office is meaning less and less as US profits flatline and profits in other countries like China are carrying otherwise mediocre successes (like, say Warcraft) to smashing successes.

William, I'd say you're better than this, but you're literally not. I've talked about you more than I've talked about any one person on this blog. I sought to save you before you were lost, and now I chastise you for taking a cheap, manufactured opportunity to push a narrative.

Stop it, William. Not because you're better than this, but because we are.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Assorted Calibers Podcast Episode 001


NOT a dream!

NOT a hoax!

NOT an April Fool's trick!

Episode 1 of the Assorted Calibers Podcast is out NOW!

My Address at UMW's 2A Day

So, first the bad news:  I didn't record it. I was going to record it; I had the digital recorder with me; but for whatever reason, I forgot I had it and left it in my purse instead of taking it to the podium and turning it on.

Sure, I've got the speech written down and it wouldn't take a lot of work to post it here, but I got to thinking:
  • If I keep copying my speeches here, then that means I will either have to write a new speech every time I'm asked to speak before a group (which gets tiresome), or risk people becoming irritated that they "aren't getting their money's worth" if I recycle an old one.
  • However, if I don't post that speech here, then I can re-use it (with some tweaks for my audience's demographic and updates to keep it relevant) over and over again, and only the people who had seen my other speeches would be irritated... and let's face it, if you're a big enough fan that you come to see me speak multiple times then you're doing it because you think I am awesome and not because my speeches are awesome. 
Which isn't to say I'll never post a speech here again. If I speak at Gun Rights Policy Conference this year, for example, I'll certainly post the video. I'm just keeping this one in reserve. That said, let me tell you about 2A Day at University of Mary Washington.


The short version of a very long chain of events is this:
  • Natalie Johns, the young lady who created the UMW Firearms Club, invited me to speak at her event. I said yes, then told Cam Edwards that I'd be in the area, and would he be interested in 1) interviewing me and 2) doing a segment on UMW's 2A Day?
  • He said yes, and he invited both Natalie and myself to appear on his show. Natalie then went one step further and invited Cam to speak at the event, and he said yes because he's a great guy and he's never spoken at a university before. 
  • He tweeted about it to his 32,000 followers, and because he's an employee of the NRA they tweeted about it to their 642,000 followers, and the university promptly began to freak out. This is because the event was originally scheduled to be held in an auditorium that would only hold 115 people and they didn't know if many, many more NRA people would come listen to him talk, and they didn't want to turn people away. So the day before the event, it was moved to a much larger auditorium that could hold 1,500 people. 
  • This unfortunately turned out to be wishful thinking, as the number of attendees was very small, and looked much smaller in such a large auditorium. Natalie, who is as close to Twilight Sparkle as a person can get (and I mean that as a compliment) was devastated by the lack of turnout. At the beginning of the event (the NRA University presentation), she texted me with a distraught "There are more police here than attendees!"
  • If I had to blame anything, I'd say it was a combination of "liberal campus", "even held on Friday when most students would rather be partying for the weekend", and "rainy weather kept the undecided folks away". 
  • When I arrived to do my speech, Natalie came up to me and in apologetic tones said something to the effect of "The good news is that we've doubled our attendance. The bad news is that they're all people who have objected to and protested against this event, so be prepared." I nodded, and expected a lot of heckling or disruption in the manner of Trigglypuff
  • That didn't happen, though. The new attendees (who occupied the front two rows) were quiet during my speech. I don't know how much of it they listened to, because they were texting a lot on their phones, but they didn't disrupt anything. 
  • My presentation was all right, I guess. The speech was written well, but in terms of delivery, I could have done a lot better. I'm a natural pacer, so when I was given the opportunity to use a remote mic instead of one attached to the podium, I took the remote. This would have worked fine, if I had more practice with the damn thing and had my speech memorized. I didn't, so I had to have my tablet in one hand and the mic in the other, which meant I ended up gesturing with them, which meant that I looked like I was using props. It also meant I didn't have consistent voice levels because I wasn't bringing the mic back to the same place each time. 
  • Ugh. I'll do better next time, I promise. 
  • After I finished my presentation, there was a Q&A period. The people in front seemed irritated that I, a queer person, was somehow affiliated with the NRA, which they felt was toxic and hateful towards queer people. I tried to answer their questions as best I could, but it seemed like they wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than a total denunciation of the NRA as the next version of the KKK, which I refused to do. They left unhappy, but other than that denunciation (which I wasn't going to do) I can't think of anything I could have said or done which would have made them happy. They filed out not long after that.
  • Cam gave an amazing speech. He really knocked it out of the park. I don't know if he had it memorized, or made it up on the spot, or was just really good at making it seem like he wasn't looking at notes, but regardless he gave a good performance with an excellent message. This is what happens when you get a professional to speak, folks, and next to him I look like Schmucky the Clown. 
  • Then there was a Q&A session, where I got to sit between Cam Edwards and the gentleman who runs the NRA Shooting Range. I felt like I was a kid at the grownup table, but everyone was happy to have me around and actually listened to, and built off of, what I said. I don't recall all of what was said, but here's what I remember:
    • Someone in the Firearms Club apologized for the people who gave me a hard time, saying he didn't know they were going to be so rude. I said "Oh, honey, they were being polite. They didn't make any personal attacks at all!" This came as a surprise to most of the students, but the other speakers just nodded. 
    • Someone asked us what guns we carried. I'm the only one who listed the brand of defensive ammo I use. 
    • The topic of "What can we do to protect our rights?" was brought up, and my response is to capitalize on the fun of shooting guns. Anti-gunners never seem to have any fun and instead appear to be uptight and scolding sorts. You never hear about anyone going to the not-shooting range and having fun not-shooting, but we all know about the New Shooter Grin. We need more people to know how fun freedom can be, because people who have fun shooting guns usually end up buying them, and gun owners almost always become gun voters
  • Also, Cargosquid came to see me and brought his daughter along! Hi, Squiddie, it was great seeing you! Hugs to you and your daughter. 

Taken just after the panel finished. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

My Appearance on Lock -N- Load Radio's Weaponized Women Show

Yesterday I had the honor of being a guest on my friend Tatiana Whitlock's show, "Weaponized Women".


If you missed the show, do not fret; you can listen to it here.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Calypso's Storm

While up in Virginia, some friends took me to a place called the Colonial Tavern where we all had adult beverages with our meal. The waitress asked me what I wanted, and all I could see on the menu were the usual draft beers and lagers, so I said "I don't know. I like my drinks to be fruity, girly things which taste like candy. Can you do something like that for me?"

She smiled widely at this and said "I can mix something for you, sure. Would you like that?" I said yes, and she brought me a Calypso's Storm. It was so tasty that I had to ask her for the recipe, and here it is:
Calypso's Storm
  • 1 shot Captain Morgan
  • 1 shot Malibu
  • 1/2 shot Watermelon Pucker
Fill glass with pineapple juice, top with grenadine, garnish with a cherry (in the drink) and orange slice (on the glass). 
If you're at the Colonial Tavern in Fredericksburg and have a cute waitress named Grace, be sure to tip her well and tell her I said hi!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Pretty Cunning, Don't You Think?

Cam Edwards is a lovely fellow who not only accepted my gift of an OBS t-shirt but also wore it during his presentation at UMW's 2A Day. Don't let anyone tell you that everyone associated with the NRA is toxic and homophobic and/or transphobic, because we have our arms around each other and a homophobe / transphobe wouldn't do that.

I mean, if anything am the jerk because I gave him gifts that equate to "Please be my billboard and give me free advertising." And he was happy to do just that! 

Oh, and he used the OBS mug I gave him for the entirety of Friday's program

What a gentleman. I'm honored to call him a friend.


Monday, April 2, 2018

My Appearance on Cam & Company, 3/30/18



The Firearms Club of the University of Mary Washington holds its 2A Day today from 3 PM to 10 PM at the 4,000 student campus in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It features raffles, auctions, an NRA U training seminar and speakers including Cam and Erin Palette, founder of Operation Blazing Sword. Natalie Johns is the club founder and president. She started it with a Facebook post that drew over 1,000 comments. This is Erin's first time speaking at a traditional liberal arts school. She founded Operation Blazing Sword the Monday after the Pulse nightclub shooting. The gun community was more accepting when she came out as transgender than the transgender community was in accepting her as a gun owner. The operation has a network of more than 1,500 trainers nationwide to introduce the community to firearms so they can decide if it's something they want to pursue for self-defense or sport. Erin, Natalie and Cam agree that we can be very different people, but gun rights are nonpartisan and discriminate against no one. Originally aired on Cam & Co 03/30/18.

Let me tell you, Natalie Johns is a tiger in a kitten's body. She's going places, and if I've helped her even a little bit, then I've done something good in my life.

Please tell me: How visible is my scarring? I can see it, but then I know to look for it.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Won't Somebody Think Of The Children?

That's all I can hear. 

I'd like to share a little detail about myself: I was not raised in a religious environment. I think the closest was that one of my Irish grandparents forbade me from being raised Catholic. One of the Catholic grandparents, I believe. As a result, I was raised around very little religious influence and did not attend a church with any regularity until I was in high school, at which point a tall, freckled ginger invited me to go to her youth group meetings with her.

I feel, in the long run, I may have been a bad influence on her. She's since gone on to marry the school's most intense metal-head and had a couple of offspring with him.

I was ejected from this congregation after nearly a year of asking too many questions and bringing in other people who asked too many questions. I have a tendency to ask difficult questions, and as I've grown, the language and placement of my questions have been refined to the point where they can be boiled down to "Is it, though?"

This approach to life not only leads to interesting answers, but to conflict as well. Such as every time a white dude commits a crime, and the inevitable progressive cry of "It's terrorism" goes up and I'm compelled to ask "Is it, though?"



I've always preferred ballistics to energy
The most entertaining train of thought that I've heard recently has been regarding the Parkland students that have had their smug teenage faces plastered over every Left-leaning news outlet: "Just when I thought ______ couldn't go any lower, they stoop to making fun of children."

Well, I'm not exactly who you're aiming at, but yes, I would stoop to making fun of children.

I can't stand children. But above all that, I used to be one. I used to be a snotty, idealistic little brat that wanted to be the hero of my own story, and then after attending a high school in Alabama and being a freaky little goth kid at said school, very nearly becoming a headline myself in one of these stories. I remember how emotionally charged and how uneducated about the world I was, so I will absolutely make fun of children, and most importantly, why do you sound like Helen goddamn Lovejoy? Why have you spent the last few decades laughing at anyone who said "Won't somebody think of the children" just to turn around and say the exact thing the moment there's some children who got on CNN and said exactly what you wanted to hear?

But no, I don't think they're 'crisis actors.' I don't think they're just doing it for attention, but damn if they didn't get attention; Emma Gonzalez and David The Hogg are gonna have a career in front of them. Did you know Emma has her own article in Teen Vogue discussing her hair, or lack thereof?

Did you know that David Hogg has been featured heavily for attacking advertisers, supporters, or even companies that have discounts with the NRA?(Wait, hang on, that link may have been wrong. My bad.)

I will not stop saying that Gonzalez looks like a Fallout character.

I will not stop pointing out the irony of her wearing a Cuban patch on her coat.

I will not stop saying that Hogg looks like a special effect, or that he and his sister's armband gambit was hilarious.

I'm not sure whether to make a sandwich joke, a fascism joke, or an American Psycho joke.

These are kids who got thrust into the spotlight and ran with it. They're public figures now, subject to criticism and ridicule. If you don't want them to face that, then don't promote them.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Assorted Calibers Podcast: the Logo

I had a notion and some time this morning, so I threw together a rough draft of what I thought our logo ought to look like. Weerd tells me he likes it, so I guess we're going with it.


I asked Oleg Volk to take some pictures of ammunition for us so that we don't have to pay Shutterstock to remove their dumb watermark. Expect a much nicer version of this logo when the episodes officially drop.

By the way, we have a Facebook group now, so be sure to join so you can pester Weerd about when the podcast is going to air! ;)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Busy For the Next Week

Back in January I referenced, but didn't explain, a family crisis that I was working with my mom to fix. I don't want to get deep into the details, but the short version is that my 82 year old father, who has Parkinson's Disease, has degenerated such that he is no longer capable of handling the family's finances. We found this out when, unable to hide it any longer, he admitted that we were deeply in debt, were losing more money than we were bringing in, and that the family's savings were gone. Needless to say, this caused a lot of anger and resentment, and both my mother and I have had to learn the intricacies of our family's financial situation and try to figure out what could be done about it.

We've considered filing for bankruptcy, and we've considered getting a reverse mortgage, and we rejected both for reasons which are good but I don't want to explain. We've settled on trying to get the house refinanced in such a way that it will reduce our monthly bills (both on the principle payment and by using the money to consolidate and pay off credit card dept), but that requires inspectors to get all up in our bidness, as the kids say, and that means mom and I are busy cleaning up the house in preparation for a bunch of people to tromp through it and invade our privacy. That's basically going to be my life for the next few days.

Then Wednesday I'll be packing for my speaking engagement in Fredericksburg, VA, which I know shouldn't take all day but you don't know my life. Then I leave on a jet plane Thursday, speak on Friday, and then see some folks in Virginia on Saturday before flying home Sunday morning.

So I'm going to be quite busy and may not be able to post anything here until I return. Hopefully Salem will have something tasty for us on Wednesday.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Pellatarrum: Dwarf Migrations

Given that the dwarven city-state of Agnakorem is both resource-rich and of infinite height, one wonders why dwarves exist anywhere else. After all, was it not designed to be a dwarven paradise?

It was, but that doesn't mean the residents of heaven are angels. Or, to paraphrase Sartre, "Hell is other dwarves." There are a few reasons for this.

  • Dwarf society is extremely conservative. We're talking "1950s America meets the Stepford Wives" conservative. Dwarven society is just so, and it's been that way for millennia, and it works well so there's no reason for anything there to change. If you want things to change, then you're just being selfish -- have you no respect for tradition and heritage? Why do you want to meddle and make things difficult for others?
  • Everybody knows everyone else's business. Imagine Agnakorem as an apartment building; specifically, one of those buildings in New York City where bored housewives look out the windows to see who's coming and going, and bored children play on the stoop. Comings and goings are seen, arguments are overheard, new possessions are noticed as they're being brought up the stairs, kids are tattling and adults are gossiping. There is little to no privacy due to the close quarters and the clannish nature of dwarven society, and so anyone who is just a little bit different is noticed and talked about.
  • There is a fixed order of doing things and if you don't have seniority, you're on the bottom. Let's say that you're a dwarven craftsman, and you discover a new technique for forging mithril that is faster and easier than the traditional method. Not only will no one else use your new-fangled method -- it isn't tried and true, after all -- but no one else will buy your material, either, because it's clearly shoddy because it isn't properly forged. No one wants to apprentice to you, because you selfishly believe that your idea is better than the wisdom of your ancestors, and so not only are you a disgrace to your clan and your profession, but you also taint everyone who studies under you. Or works with you. Or sells to you. Or is related to you. Or... you get the idea.

    The only way a new idea ever gets adopted is if a craftsman submits it to the Council of Smiths, who will carefully look over the proposal and ask questions (like defending your dissertation, only worse), and then if some small glimmer of merit is seen, then a study is commissioned where the long-term impact of your idea is considered. Yes, perhaps you can forge mithril faster, but what will that do the price of mithril? Will the speed of production increase the demand for mithril items? Can the miners meet that supply? Will the increased amount of mithril on the market devalue the commodity? And what about the crafters who make their living forging tools for mithril-workers? Look, there's an entire economic ecosystem here, all very delicate and balanced, and one little change can have catastrophic effects. Let's study it for a century and see what happens -- we don't want to move too quickly now!
  • Dwarves live a long time, so you might have to wait decades or longer for things to change. Imagine a family-run corporation where everyone in management is effectively immortal. It's not enough to have merit; you have to wait for an opening. And if people rarely die or get promoted, there's very little room for upward advancement.
So any dwarf who is a little bit different from the norm, or who is nontraditional, or who likes privacy, or wants to try a new technique, or has more ambition than patience is likely to say "Screw this! I'm out of here. I'm going to find my own mineral vein, and set up my own forge/shop/school/colony, and do things my way!" These dwarves are often charismatic and take friends and family with them when they leave. 

This makes everyone happy: disruptive elements are removed from traditional Agnakorem society, and the young dwarves get to do things their own way... until, of course, they become the Council of Smiths, telling upstart dwarves of the next generation to slow down, think things through, and act in the (new) traditional manner. 

And thus the cycle repeats.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sit! Good boy. Beg! Good boy. Shake hands! NO NOT LIKE THAT



Ladies and gentlemen. What you have just witnessed was a man annoying his girlfriend and making fun of a reviled Authoritarian government system. This was uploaded originally in April of 2016. Over a month later, he was arrested. He was found guilty of being "Grossly Offensive" just yesterday. Off all the things I could talk about this week, it absolutely had to be this one.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a free speech supporter. Not just a supporter of the First Amendment, but the idea of freedom of speech and freedom of expression as well. As long as you aren't causing actual harm, you should not face legal consequence; and if you face social consequence, you should have every right to defend your position.

Being of a strong Irish descent, I used to playfully tease an ex-girlfriend of mine who was of strong Scottish descent that "At least the Irish put up a fight! Scotland rolled over and took it after William Wallace." Part of me really did believe it (probably that same part of me that had signed up to the Sinn Fein mailing list for a few years). But either way, I still really wanted to visit Scotland one day.

Not anymore, though. Fair Glasgow, you have been struck from my bucket list; I'm not setting foot in the country that plans on jailing a man for teaching his dog to shake hands in a tastelessly funny way.

From The Great Dictator to Monty Python's "Mr. Hitler" to Captain America: The First Avenger's skits with Cap punching out Hitler, Hitler and the Nazis have been played for laughs at their expense dozens of times. Games from Wolfenstein to Sniper Elite have let you play out the fantasy of being the one that kills Hitler, not to mention scores of Nazi soldiers. And that's not even getting into memes -- how many remixes of that bunker scene have we seen? I don't even need to say the name of the movie for you to know what I'm talking about. Chances are you've laughed yourself hoarse over some version of that scene that you've found particularly hilarious.

But here we are now. A man annoys his girlfriend by teaching his dog to shake to a historically vile set of words, even saying "there's nothing less cute than a Nazi," and his country arrests him, drags on legal proceedings for almost two years, and finds him literally guilty of being offensive.

To the crown of Scotland:
I am Salem and I confess.

I have been #GrosslyOffensive.

I wish to be barred from entering your country.

On pain of death if need be.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

All Aboard the Hype Train!

Buckle up, buttercups, because at least one of these announcements is going to BLOW. YOUR. MINDS.



The Return of Weerdy and Pony
Last night, Weerd Beard and I recorded episode 001 of the Assorted Calibers Podcast!

ACP (yes, that was deliberate) is the spiritual successor to the GunBlog VarietyCast. Not only will we talk about issues of the day relevant to gunnies, but we also have gunnie contributors talking about the things they find interesting.

In Episode 001, I discuss Florida's new gun control bill SB 7026 and what it means for Floridians. There's also a Patented Weerd Audio Fisk (tm), and new contributor Savage1R from We Like Shooting tells us about bitcoins in his Savage Segment.

Want to know more? Of course you do! So stay tuned for more information on when the Assorted Calibers Podcast drops!

UMW Speaking Engagement
On March 30th I will be in Fredericksburg, VA at the University of Mary Washington for their first annual 2A Day! As you can see by the schedule below, there will be a lot of great speakers, so if you're able please come by and hear me speak.


For those interested in attending, this map shows the parking areas (circled in blue) relative to the building where the even is being held (circled in red).

Stop by and say hi!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Pellatarrum: A Brief History of the Fire War

Really, it's the elves' fault.

Everyone thinks the Fire War is the fault of the orcs. and to be fair, they did start the war. But you see, there's an important distinction between "Who started it" and "Who caused it", and it's the elves who caused it.

Back before Pellatarrum was created, when the Heroes Who Would Be As Gods discussed their rebellion, the original plan was to overthrow the genie races and have each servitor race live in their native elemental plane as conquerors: air for dragons, earth for dwarves, fire for orcs and water for elves. However, that plan was quickly revised during the initial slave uprising when it was discovered just how powerful and how entrenched the genies were. The four races' strategy was converted into something which looked like a rag-tag rebellion but was really a delaying action while They Who Became As Gods looked for places where their people could escape and the genies would not follow.

Unfortunately, their choices were limited. The negative energy plane was nothing but entropy and death, with positive energy plane not much better because the life energy radiating from it would be too much for any mortal body to contain. The ethereal plane was a realm of formless mist with no resources for sustaining a civilization, and the timeless nature of the astral meant that their populations would never grow and their people would forever be stuck in stasis.

Therefore, it was decided (mainly by the dwarves, but the dragons thought it was a good idea and so everyone else went along with it) that they would make their own realm for their people to live, one with bountiful resources for all and toxic to geniekind.

Thus began the quest for the Engines of Creation, objects of mystery and wonder of which little is still known. The wisest sages of Pellatarrum can only describe them as "conceptual lenses" (Do you mean they're lenses for concepts? Or do you mean that they are lenses in a conceptual sense? ... yes.) which focus the raw creative force of the positive energy plane into true substance. Through means unknown, They Who Became As Gods re-aligned the Engines of Creation for a brief period of time, creating Pellatarrum according to the dwarven blueprint.

And everything was fine... for a time. The dwarves lived in the Dayspire, the elves in the seas, the dragons ruled the skies, and the orcs had everywhere else. Yes, all right, technically the dragons lived on the ground and under the ground and underwater and wherever else they wanted, but 1) they were big and 2) they were loners, not a growing and sprawling civilization, so the orcs were generally okay with this because they had all the rest of the land. Besides, dragons are apex predators, and orcs respect strength.

Yes, everything was fine for thousands of years, until the elf schism. Something happened within their culture to split them so thoroughly that roughly half of their population fled the seas and used magic to evolve themselves for land habitation.

This was, to put it plainly, a massive problem for the orcs, because now they were competing with the elves for territory and resources. While elves didn't reproduce as quickly as orcs, they lived far longer, which gave them an edge in terms of knowledge and power. More importantly, to the orcs this was a violation of the treaty which had been forged at the creation of the world. Was the full and proper name of the realm, written in the tongues of the four races, not "This beautiful thing, crafted with toil, and home to all orcs?"  It was right there in the name, and yet the elves invaded their lands and violated the compact. To the orcs, this was not just a legal misunderstanding or a diplomatic gaffe; this was invasion. This was rank betrayal and theft. And they would not stand for it.

So, in proper orcish fashion, they invaded the elves right back, to show them how it felt and to drive them back to the sea where they belonged. Naturally, the elves didn't care for this and counter-attacked, and soon it was open warfare.

Both sides petitioned the dwarves and dragons for redress of grievances. The dwarves essentially said "This isn't our problem and we don't like either of you enough to make it our problem. Work it out or kill each other as you see fit, but leave us alone." The dragons had to be swayed on an individual basis; some sided with the orcs, some with the elves, but most of them also just wanted to be left alone.

Then the orcs had The Idea. Since elves magically evolved themselves to live on the land, the orcs could do similar (they were not the broken, barbaric race of today, but a people of great strength and magical power). They took advantage of their short lifespans and rapid breeding cycles by force-evolving themselves into perfect warriors, and then they created many races to serve in their armies. Goblinoids, ogres, beastmen; all had a part in the Great Conflagration, with the orcs as their heroes and generals. The war was long, and bloody, and took many orcish generations (both in terms of time and in terms of lives lost). But the Fire Army was powerful, and they broke the back of the elven foothold and began to drive them back to the sea.

If the orcs could have contented themselves with beating the elves, they would have won, and Pellatarrum would be a different place indeed. But they were insulted by the dwarves' lack of honor, and irritated with the aloofness of the dragons, and decided that they would make "home to all orcs" a literal truth by destroying everything which was not orcish.

The fact that the elves, dwarves and dragons needed to create ambassador races to facilitate diplomacy and cooperation during the war shows just how real the risk to them was. Think "Zerg Rush" on a massive scale, bolstered by powerful magics and champions who could inflict hideous casualties even after being dealt a mortal wound. The Great Conflagration was indeed like a terrible wildfire, whipping itself into greater and greater fervor, consuming everything in its path.

The Fire War was terrible in ways that Pellatarrum has never seen again. It was every fantasy battle you've ever seen the movies combined with World War 2. Yes, even the atom bombs. It reshaped the landscape, flattening mountains and creating valleys, boiling seas and burning nearly everything into ash. The most brutal, decisive battle of the war took place around the Dayspire, which had been turned into a massive weapons factory and siege engine platform. Dragons and elves lured and herded the Fire Army into cleared killing fields around the dwarven stronghold, then took shelter in pre-made bunkers which ringed the perimeter. Their job was to prevent the army from escaping while the dwarves annihilated them with technology, and magic, and raw elemental power.

When all was said and done:
  • Agnakorem was a holed, smoldering mess that had lost much of its defenses and more than a few outer layers. 
  • The dwarven army was exhausted, having used nearly all of its weapons and resources in the war. 
  • The elves were nearly extinct, numbering only in the low hundreds and with no home to speak of. (So great was their schism that only a few returned to the sea.)
  • The dragons had lost nearly half their adult population. Fortunately, they had laid many eggs in preparation for such an event, and there were plenty of kobolds to sing their eggs through gestation. 
  • The orcish civilization ceased to exist. Those who survived fled into the wilderness as refugees, where they had to compete with the other orc-spawned races for resources.
It took centuries for the land to recover. Humans and gnomes, having been granted their freedom, built towns and cities. The elves secreted themselves in the deep forest and the dark jungle, using isolation as a shield while they rebuilt their civilization and studied the magics the orcs used in the war. The dwarves repaired as much damage as they could and returned to being craftmen, albeit ones with an eye towards defensive weaponry. The kobolds were content to serve their dragon overlords. And as for the orcs, one of the few things that the allied races agree upon is that the orcs must never, ever, be allowed to return to their former greatness, so they periodically attack and destroy any orc settlement they can find. The only reason that the orc race is not extinct is because good warriors are also good survivors. Just to be blunt about it: yes, the three races of dwarf, elf and dragon cheerfully committed genocide during the Fire War, and if they could have killed every single orc child they would have.

As you can imagine, the Fire War is a touchy subject.
  • Don't mention it orcs at all. If you're lucky, they'll be ignorant and not know what you're talking about. More likely, it will be seen as a challenge ("You're calling me weak and defeated? I'll show you who is weak and defeated!") that ends in bloodshed. 
  • Dragons these days don't care (much) about what the orcs are up to, but they have their spies and their strings to pull if necessary. Some red dragons, though, are very interested in what a new orcish nation could achieve. 
  • The dwarves are shamed by their actions -- partly because of the atrocities they committed, and partly because if they hadn't been so isolationist the Grand Conflagration might not have happened -- but they aren't so shamed that they've found room in their hearts to forgive the orcs of today. 
  • Elves, on the other hand, practically relish the thought of killing orcs, and those they capture are ritually sacrificed. Elven hatred of orcs is so concentrated, so refined, that it's (nervously) joked that elves don't truly want to kill all orcs, because that would mean there would be no more orcs left to kill; instead, they want to put them in farms so they can be killed in quantity at leisure. 
  • Halflings avoid orcs whenever possible. 
  • Humans and gnomes are the only non-orcmade peoples willing to give orcs a chance. Sometimes that turns out well, and sometimes it's rewarded with violence. 

In many ways, Pellatarrum is quite literally post-apocalyptic. It's just managed to clean up rather nicely.

Friday, March 16, 2018

"Transgender" Does Not Mean "Mentally Ill"

Just about a month ago I posted this picture across social media, and it took off like a rocket. While I'm glad it was so well-received, more than a few replies were in the vein of "Well, isn't it? Transgenderism is listed in the  DSM-V."

... actually, those were the polite comments. More than a few were rather insistent in their declaration that "all trannies be crazy, yo."

So strap in, folks, this is going to be a long one and may take a few installments.

First, a note on terminology
This is another instance of "I hope you don't think I'm scolding you; that's not my intention. I just want to help some well-meaning but misinformed/uninformed people avoid an awkward situation."
  • "Transgenderism" is not the proper term. The clinical term for "being transgender" is gender dysphoria or gender incongruence. To quote Jae Alexis Lee on Quora
In referring to transgender issues as “transgenderism” it can be framed as an ideology, philosophy, political strategy… It places transgender issues in the realm of Environmentalism, Feminism, Libertarianism and any other -ism you’d care to think about. If a thing is a philosophy, ideology or political strategy then it can be diminished from the status of objective fact to controversial opinion. Once you move something from fact to opinion then it’s easier to build “everyone has an opinion” arguments and to place specious arguments on more equal footing.
  • "Tranny" is a word you need to be very, very careful with. Many people find it incredibly offensive, right up there with the sexual epithet beginning with C and the racial epithet beginning with N. Now I personally find the word hilarious, and I will often use the word to describe myself (and only myself) because if I laugh at it, it can't be used as a weapon against me. But I would never describe another trans person using that word unless I was specifically told to, and so as a courtesy you shouldn't either. 

If it's not an illness, why is it in the DSM-V?
The short answer is that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition deals with the brain and its problems. Some of those problems are psychological, like fears and traumas and neuroses. But some of those problems are biochemical or neurological, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. And some can be either: depression, for example, can be caused by a chemical imbalance within the brain, or it can be caused by something really traumatic happening to you.

In other words, if it's a "brain issue" instead of a "body issue" like a cold or the flu, it's listed in the DSM-V. If you're diagnosed with something from that book it doesn't mean you're crazy. It may mean you're mentally ill inasmuch as you aren't at optimum mental health, but that doesn't mean you're a threat to yourself or others, which is unfortunately what people think "mental illness" means. This is a topic I'd like to address in greater detail in a later post.

The much longer explanation is a quote taken directly from the American Psychiatric Association, the group which publishes the DSM-V. All underlined phrases are my emphasis.
Gender Dysphoria
In the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), people whose gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify with will be diagnosed with gender dysphoria. This diagnosis is a revision of DSM-IV’s criteria for gender identity disorder and is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults.

Respecting the Patient, Ensuring Access to Care
DSM not only determines how mental disorders are defined and diagnosed, it also impacts how people see themselves and how we see each other. While diagnostic terms facilitate clinical care and access to insurance coverage that supports mental health, these terms can also have a stigmatizing effect. 

DSM-5 aims to avoid stigma and ensure clinical care for individuals who see and feel themselves to be a different gender than their assigned gender. It replaces the diagnostic name “gender identity disorder” with “gender dysphoria,” as well as makes other important clarifications in the criteria. It is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  a mental disorder is "a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning."  Dysphoria is "a state of feeling unwell or unhappy; a feeling of emotional and mental discomfort and suffering from restlessness, malaise, depression or anxiety."

As an analogy, then, dysphoria can be likened to having a cold -- which makes a person miserable but isn't life-threatening -- wheras a disorder is more serious, like being sick with influenza or pneumonia. END AUTHOR'S NOTE.


Need for Change
Persons experiencing gender dysphoria need a diagnostic term that protects their access to care and won’t be used against them in social, occupational, or legal areas. When it comes to access to care, many of the treatment options for this condition include counseling, cross-sex hormones, gender reassignment surgery, and social and legal transition to the desired gender. To get insurance coverage for the medical treatments, individuals need a diagnosis. The Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group was concerned that removing the condition as a psychiatric diagnosis — as some had suggested — would jeopardize access to care.

Part of removing stigma is about choosing the right words. Replacing “disorder” with “dysphoria” in the diagnostic label is not only more appropriate and consistent with familiar clinical sexology terminology, it also removes the connotation that the patient is “disordered.”

Ultimately, the changes regarding gender dysphoria in DSM-5 respect the individuals identified by offering a diagnostic name that is more appropriate to the symptoms and behaviors they experience without jeopardizing their access to effective treatment options.   
In other words, gender dysphoria is in the DSM-V so that transgender people can be diagnosed with it so their hormone therapy and surgery can be covered with insurance. Without this diagnosis, it would be considered cosmetic.

For example:
  • A woman who wants larger breasts has to pay for that out of pocket because insurance is not cosmetic surgery. 
  • However, a woman who had breast cancer and two radical mastectomies needs breast reconstruction surgery to help return her to the quality of life she had before. 
  • Similarly, because many gender dysphoric people are so at odds with their body that it's causing them real, measurable distress and degrading their quality of life, hormone therapy and surgery is not cosmetic but necessary to improve quality of life. 
  • I say "many" instead of "all" because some trans people get along just fine once they're accepted for who they are and can dress and act accordingly. 

But if you still need treatment, aren't you ill?
People think that being transgender is a sickness that needs to be cured, but that's not the case. Sick people want to return to their state of wellness before they were sick; but transgender people don't want to revert to an earlier state (which would be what, exactly? A time when we didn't know what was wrong with us, only that we were profoundly unhappy and didn't know why or how to fix it? Sounds hellish if you ask me).

Think of it like being born with a birth defect that handicaps you, like missing a leg. There's nothing to cure because you aren't sick. There's no pill which will grow you a new leg. But you see all those two-legged people, running around and playing sports and dancing and just walking up stairs like it's no big deal and that's something you want, too, with all of your heart and soul, and you can't have it.

But look! There's someone with a prosthetic leg! And she's walking and running and living a normal life. That's what you want, too! So you ask to be given a prosthetic leg so that you can feel normal and do all the things everyone else can do!*

That's what transitioning is for us. Wanting to transition isn't a sickness; transitioning is the cure. It's the procedure which allows us to lead happy, productive lives. It helps us overcome our birth defect.


A Mild Rant in the Footnotes
*To continue the analogy, when people say "Transgender folks are mentally ill" they are doing the equivalent of telling that one-legged person "Your desire to have two legs is a sickness. This is how you were born. You just need to learn how to accept it."

Not only is this incredibly cruel, it's amazingly discriminatory; they wouldn't tell a person with bad eyesight that she shouldn't get glasses but rather accept that she was born with bad eyes and just learn to live with being unable to see properly.

Yet so many people feel they are "speaking truth" and "refusing to pander to mental illness" by misgendering us and calling us by our birth names, when what they are really doing is yanking off that girl's prosthetic leg and saying "Hey everyone, look at the cripple!" and laughing as she tries to get it back.

My gender and sexuality neither breaks your leg nor picks your pocket. Stop acting like it does.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ideological Whiplash and the Treatment For It

Siddown, kiddos. Uncle Salem's got the whiskey back, and the white collar's going back on. The Reverend is in. 

I have been asked a few times my thoughts regarding the recent noises that President Trump has made regarding violence and video games.

I am, frankly, unconcerned. This is hardly the first time that video games have been put through the government ringer. I'm old enough to remember the Family Entertainment Protection Act and its sponsor. I've heard the tales of Tipper Gore and the PMRC.

I'm only surprised that it took this long for Trump and Hillary Clinton to align on an issue. I'm also aware that, after analyzing (that's not something that you pay Stormy Daniels not to talk about, in case you need it pointed out) the situation, that it's more than likely this is a giant cloud of hot air that Trump is pushing to distract from the NRA.

What perturbs me about the situation is the moral vanguard of defenders that have arisen to defend the poor, defenseless art form against the big scary cheeto man.

Such as Polygon.

 
Or Feminist Frequency.


Or Vice's Motherboard.


Or any number of examples that I could dig up with a marginal effort.

See, there's something you should realize as you pull an ideological 180 so quickly that your scraggly beards crawl up to cover your prematurely-balding heads: that you're no longer welcome to defend an art form after you spend the better part of the decade bashing it.

You don't get spend five years vacillating between implying and outright declaring that video games will turn you into anything from a rapist to a murderer because the pretty Armenian girl with the teleseminar background bats her eyelashes approvingly at you, then turn around and pretend to be strident defenders of artistic freedom when the mean man in the big house on the hill says the same things she did, albeit not nearly as artistically.

It rings incredibly hollow and lends an inordinate amount of credence to the Trump Derangement Syndrome theory. You truly are pivoting on a position just because he said something you agreed with 10 minutes ago.

Video games survived government overreach once before, and yes, you played a part in that. You're not needed anymore. The internet exists, and gives a voice to each and every person that chooses to use that voice. Even people you don't like. Especially people you've spent the last 5 or so years painting as the most dangerous villains on the planet.

There is the road. Those are some rocks. Kick the rocks. At least the rocks won't kick back.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pellatarrum: Idle Thoughts Lead to Mad Noodlings

Me:  "You know, the Summon Monster spells suck at lower levels. Everything at level 1 sucks, and why would you want to summon anything except elementals at levels 2 and 3?"

Also me, after poking around for a while: "Why are there lightning elementals? Lightning isn't a classical element. Sure, it's the energy associated with Air in Pathfinder, but.... oh. Hmm."

Me, later: "Okay, so I have to dip into 3rd party content to do it -- but it's from a reliable and respected publisher so that's cool -- but I have statted-up elementals for each of the elemental energies. Well, except for fire, because fire is always an energy, but I can deal with that later. But it's so weird that there are listings for mud, magma and salt elementals."

Me, much later: "OK, so regular elementals are their platonic states. Then we have the energy states -- I'll call them 'energetics' -- and they're the ones which have been energized by the positive energy plane. Which means we need negative-energy infused elementals as well -- I think I'll call them 'entropics', nice alliteration there -- and that's great because it means that salt can be the negative form of water. I'll need to come up with entropic forms of the other elements, though. And fire.. okay, I can rationalize that because all of the elemental forms don't have any ranged attacks, so I can further differentiate energetics by making them all blaster types. Which means I need to rename "ice" to "cold", but I can keep the power, and I'll have to stat up a ranged version for fire and call it "heat". Great. But mud and magma are like half-and-half elementals..."

Me, even later: "OK SO I HAVE CREATED A MATRIX TO DEVISE NAMES FOR ALL THE ELEMENTAL HYBRIDS. I'm a little bit crazy, but that's okay. I'm going to need to stat up most of them, but maybe I can steal powers from mephits or other elemental creatures.... but WHY DO THESE THINGS EXIST? Some of these planes don't even touch?"

Me, right before collapsing in exhaustion: CLEARLY THIS IS THE RESULT OF WIZARDS WHO ARE SUMMONING TWO DIFFERENT ELEMENTALS INTO THE SAME SPACE AND SMOOSHING THEM INTO ONE ENTITY. I DON'T KNOW WHY THEY WOULD BUT MY PLAYERS HAVE DONE SOME CRAZY SHIT SO SURELY NPCS CAN BE ALLOWED THE SAME LATITUDE IN WTFERY. 

Me, getting out of bed to write something down because this entire process has shaken something loose: "well that's a clear and easy way to differentiate the major races on a two-axis graph zzzzzzzzz."






Monday, March 12, 2018

Operation Blazing Sword's Position Regarding SB 7026


Operation Blazing Sword wishes to state in unequivocal terms that Florida bill SB 7026, aka the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, is terrible.

Queer people under 21 are denied their Constitutional right to buy a firearm for self-defense. The ages of 18 to 21 is a critical period where young people are discovering their sexuality but are away from home — or perhaps even kicked out of their home due to their sexuality — and thus are in special danger. Federal law already prohibits them from purchasing a handgun, and now they cannot even buy a rifle or shotgun for home defense.

The mandatory three-day waiting period now forces all innocent people 21 years or older to wait before they can obtain the tools to defend themselves from stalkers, rapists, violent exes or family members, and other perpetrators of hate crime, while those who seek to harm these innocents have only a restraining order — a mere piece of paper — to stop them.

While we applaud the notion of armed school guardian, the requirements are so onerous that they are effectively a barrier against qualification. What's more, the requirements of 132 hours of training are far in excess of what is required for police academy graduates, who carry firearms full-time in the line duty and yet have had a median instruction time of only 60 hours*.

In short, this bill puts young queer adults and women of all ages at risk, and demands more instruction of school guardians than it does of actual police.

While Operation Blazing Sword was started as educational outreach to the queer community, we emphasize that our organization and our volunteer instructors do not discriminate and will teach anyone who wants to learn the basics of firearm safety and operation. Therefore, if any teacher in Florida wants to learn how to shoot and acquire their Concealed Weapon Permit, our instructors will be happy to teach them.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

My Thoughts on SB 7026

I would like to congratulate the State of Florida on passing a bill that makes no one happy. That takes skill.

It's technically a compromise, in that compromises usually make no one happy because each side gives a little to get a little, but in this case the compromise seems composed of the absolute worst of both worlds and benefits hardly anyone.

Come, let us analyze what SB 7026, the "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act" does. I'll go through it in order as it appears on the bill:

Creates grants to fund student crime watch programs
There's not a lot of information on this; the section to which it refers, 1006.07(3) simply says
(3) STUDENT CRIME WATCH PROGRAM.—By resolution of the district school board, implement a student crime watch program to promote responsibility among students and to assist in the control of criminal behavior within the schools.
So this bill will allow more money to be given to a nebulous program. This is not a big surprise; government's solutions to many problems is to throw money at it. I expect that this money will be mishandled, misappropriated, and embezzled; business as usual, to be honest.

Creates the Office of Safe Schools
The Office of Safe Schools serves to promote and support safe learning environments by addressing issues of student safety and academic success on state, district, and school levels. Schools that implement school safety measures, drug prevention programs, and positive school climate that promote caring relationships either directly or indirectly facilitate rising student academic achievement.
I assume this will be the governmental body which administers the grant process and oversees the spending of the funds, so read the previous section about graft and mismanagement again.

Creates the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program 
There's a saying that There's nothing which can be done that the Government can't do poorly, and this section is an exemplar of that aphorism.  This section manages to offend both sides of the political aisle by allowing some people to carry guns in school (offending the anti-gun left), but it does so in the stupidest, most inefficient manner possible (offending the pro-gun right).

Let's break it down:
  1. This entire section hinges on whether or not the county sheriff allows it. 
  2. Creates "school guardians" who are allowed to carry on school grounds, but only to react to an active shooter; no other powers are given. TL;DR they have no law enforcement powers. I think it's a sad commentary that this needs to be spelled out, but we live in a stupid world. 
  3. Specifically excluded from the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program are "individuals who exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers as defined in s. 1012.01(2)(a)." That relevant statute reads

    (a) Classroom teachers.—Classroom teachers are staff members assigned the professional activity of instructing students in courses in classroom situations, including basic instruction, exceptional student education, career education, and adult education, including substitute teachers.

    Meaning that actual classroom teachers can't carry, but coaches, librarians, principles, guidance counselors, hall monitors, janitors, secretaries, nurses, etc can all theoretically carry. 
  4. Specifically excluded from that exclusion -- meaning that they can indeed carry firearms -- are 
    • JROTC classroom teachers;
    • active-duty servicemembers (I assume this is there to cover other JROTC staff who aren't specifically teachers;
    • current or former law enforcement officers. 
  5.  The sheriff (see 1, above) gets to appoint who becomes school guardians out of a pool of volunteers. 
  6. These volunteers have requirements that are actually above and beyond what are required for police academy graduates:
    1. Hold a valid CWP. 
    2. Complete 132 total hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training conducted by Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission-certified instructors, which must include:
      • Eighty hours of firearms instruction based on the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission’s Law Enforcement Academy training model, which must include at least 10 percent but no more than 20 percent more rounds fired than associated with academy training. Program participants must achieve an 85 percent pass rate on the firearms training.
      • Sixteen hours of instruction in precision pistol.
      • Eight hours of discretionary shooting instruction using state-of-the-art simulator exercises.
      • Eight hours of instruction in active shooter or assailant scenarios.
      • Eight hours of instruction in defensive tactics.
      • Twelve hours of instruction in legal issues.
    3. Pass a psychological evaluation administered by a psychologist licensed under chapter 490 and designated by the Department of Law Enforcement and submit the results of the evaluation to the sheriff’s office. The Department of Law Enforcement is authorized to provide the sheriff’s office with mental health and substance abuse data for compliance with this paragraph.
    4. Submit to and pass an initial drug test and subsequent random drug tests.
    5. Successfully complete ongoing training, weapon inspection, and firearm qualification on at least an annual basis.
    6. Successfully complete at least 12 hours of a certified nationally recognized diversity training program.
So just to recap here, teachers -- who have already had their background checked because they are working with minors for eight hours a day -- must not only be psychologically tested to see if they're fit to carry a gun in school, but they are also required to become shooting experts and requalify at least once a year and complete 12 hours of diversity training because why the hell not?

I have it on good authority from LawDog that is is more training than police academy graduates get:
"When I went through the Academy in 1993, we had 40 hours of training. And [my Academy] was considered fairly heavy on firearms training, because roughly half of that time was revolver, and the other half semi-auto.
"I don't know of any current State Peace Officer academy that currently does more than 110 hours of firearms training, and most do considerably less.
"The Texas State-mandated annual requalification for peace officers mandates a minimum of 50 rounds, from 3 yards to 15 yards and a 70% pass rate, once a calendar year to maintain your peace officer licence.
"As a contrast, the State of Texas currently requires armed security guards, private investigators and Personal Protection Officers to have a minimum of 10 hours of firearms training to get licensed."
So there you go: Florida legislators truly want armed teachers to possess more shooting experience than police officers.

Really, this entire section ought to be called the We Don't Really Want Anyone Except Cops and JROTC Instructors Armed So We're Going To Make It Nearly Impossible To Qualify Oh And Let's Tack On Coah Feis's Name So It Looks Like We Did Something Program. 

This is what gun-rights activists mean when we say that we don't want the government mandating training requirements before we're allowed to own guns, because they'll end up looking like this: a massive time and money sink designed to keep average people from exercising their rights.

Allows schools to employ retired police officers as school resource officers
There's a lot of legal verbiage after this, but the short version is the title. I expect a lot of schools will do this, and I have no real problem with it, but this is another salary which has to be paid and that money has to come from the school budget. It would be cheaper to allow CWP holders to carry their lawful firearms, but they don't have the magical radiance of having been a cop and laws like these are all about the magical radiance.

Creates community action treatment teams throughout the state
This is an add-on to the mental health statues that basically says extra effort and money will be spent to create teams that will pay special attention to high-risk kids ages 11-21 to make sure they don't go nuts and kill people.

The risk factors are
  1. Repeated failures at less intensive levels of care;
  2. Two or more behavioral health hospitalizations;
  3. Involvement with the Department of Juvenile Justice;
  4. A history of multiple episodes involving law enforcement; or
  5. A record of poor academic performance or suspensions.
I don't have a problem with this, although it is a tacit admission that the state has screwed up and neglected kids with behavioral issues.

Forbids firearms possession for the mentally defective 
I honestly don't know why this is here, because Florida statute s. 790.065 (2) says basically the same thing. 

Raises the minimum age of all firearm purchases from 18 to 21
... unless you're a police officer or an active-duty service member.

This is pure virtue signalling and nothing more, because it is unconstitutional. Federal law (which overrules state laws -- and we had a little war about 150 years ago to decide that fact) says that 18 is the age of legal adulthood, and adults can buy firearms for self-defense per the Second Amendment. Since the State of Florida is denying adults their Second Amendment rights (and if you legally restrict purchasing firearms, you are restricting the keeping and bearing thereof), this won't stand moderate scrutiny.

I had expected that a Florida citizen between 18 and 20 years old, ideally a military veteran,  would sue the state under the premise of "I was old enough to join the military and operate fully automatic weapons (and in the ideal case, be not only trained in their use but also used them in combat) and yet I'm not 'adult' enough to buy a semi-automatic version of my service rifle for personal use?" because that would be fantastic standing. However, it seems that the NRA was waiting for this because the same day that Florida Governor Scott signed the bill, the NRA sued the State of Florida because -- you guessed it -- the law is unconstitutional.

Done right, this lawsuit could then be used to challenge the federal law which states that adults must be 21 years old before they can purchase a handgun. I'm not holding my breath on that, but it's a possibility.

EDIT:  I JUST NOTICED THIS

Thanks to a question from Oleg Volk, I checked the statute and to my un-lawlerly eyes, it looks like the text of the law only forbids sales to 18-20 year-olds from licensed dealers; private sales are still fine.

This isn't anything I'd want to test, though, because a test case is expensive and I'm too pretty for prison.



Creates a three-day waiting period for all firearm purchases
Florida already mandated a 3 day "cooling off" period for handgun purchases, but long guns could be taken home immediately. This period is now mandated for all purchases unless you have a Concealed Weapons Permit [no wait for anything], have completed a hunting safety course [no wait for long guns], or are a law enforcement officer or active duty military [no wait for anything], which means that if you're a woman in fear for her life from a stalker or an ex, you're vulnerable for 3 days unless you can get a gun from a friend.

In other words, this does nothing to stop crime and only hurts the law-abiding, but it might drive more people to get their CWP.

Prohibits bump-fire stocks
There's been a lot of freaking out over this one, mainly due to how it's phrased.

On the one hand, the bill begins with
790.222 Bump-fire stocks prohibited.—A person may not import into this state or transfer, distribute, sell, keep for sale, offer for sale, possess, or give to another person a bump fire stock. A person who violates this section commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. 
Okay, so it calls out bump-fire stocks. Gun owners don't like this, because it's banning something and the camel gets more of its head into the proverbial tent, but it's just bump stocks, right?

Well, the very next part of the bill reads
As used in this section, the term “bump fire stock” means a conversion kit, a tool, an accessory, or a device used to alter the rate of fire of a firearm to mimic automatic weapon fire or which is used to increase the rate of fire to a faster rate than is possible for a person to fire such semiautomatic firearm unassisted by a kit, a tool, an accessory,  or a device.
Emphasis mine. Some people are worried this could mean competition triggers, trigger jobs, or even lubing the trigger could be considered a "bump fire stock." I doubt this, but I admit that it's possible.

Creates the Risk Protection Order Act
There's a lot to this section, and I can't go into it in detail. If you want all the crunchy details, I encourage you to read the whole thing yourself. For those of you who want the highlight reel, this act is
...intended to temporarily prevent individuals who are at high risk of harming themselves or others from accessing firearms or ammunition by allowing law enforcement officers to obtain a court order when there is demonstrated evidence that a person poses a significant danger to himself or herself or others,  including significant danger as a result of a mental health crisis or violent behavior.
So basically, if the cops think you're a danger to yourself or others, a court order can be issued where they seize (well, "you must surrender to them") all firearms and ammunition until such time as you can prove to them that you aren't a danger. This hearing must take place within 14 of the order being issued, and if you can prove to them that you aren't a danger, they must give your guns and ammo back within 30 days.

The 'good news' in this bill is that you're allowed to give your guns and ammo to someone else for safekeeping, so long as you don't have access to it (so you couldn't give your stuff to a family member who lives in the same house as you). This ought to increase the likelihood of getting your property back in full and undamaged.

This bill is one of those things which sounds good, and probably will be used to do some good, but is also rich with opportunity for abuse. I can easily envision feuding family members using this to make life hell for their relatives.

Creates a School Safety Awareness Program
This is "a mobile suspicious activity reporting tool that allows students and the community to relay information anonymously concerning unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent, or criminal activities, or the threat of these activities, to appropriate public safety agencies and school officials."

In other words, it's a smartphone app where you can voice your concerns and/or snitch on people. 

Creates the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission
A state-level committee that will "investigate system failures in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and prior mass violence incidents in this state and develop recommendations for system improvements." 

In other words, they're going to spend a lot of time and money pointing fingers and trying to come up with ways to prevent future shootings

Creates the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool
The FL Dept of Education will contract with a security consulting firm to create the Safe School Assessment Tool to identify threats and vulnerabilities and then implement safety changes. From what I can tell, legislators have finally realized that school shootings aren't stopped by gun-free zones and are treating them like fires, and will research ways to make schools less vulnerable to gunmen.

Authorizes spending lots of money to fund these programs
How much?  Around $400 million, with about $200 million in recurring funds. God knows where Florida is going to get the money for almost half a billion in school improvements. 

Too Long, Did Not Read version:
No one is happy except the bureaucrats.

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