Author Archives: mike

Granny’s Got a Gun

NEW ORLEANS – Sixty-four-year-old Vivian Westerman rode out Hurricane Katrina in her 19th-century house. So terrible was the experience that she wanted two things before the 2006 season arrived: a backup power source and a gun. “I got a 6,000-watt generator and the cutest little Smith & Wesson, snub-nose .38 you ever saw,” she boasted. “I’ve never been more confident.” People across New Orleans are arming themselves — not only against the possibility of another storm bringing anarchy, but against the violence that has engulfed the metropolitan area in the 19 months since Katrina, making New Orleans the nation’s murder capital.

The number of permits issued to carry concealed weapons is running twice as high as it was before Katrina — this, in a city with only about half its pre-storm population of around 450,000. Attendance at firearms classes and hours logged at shooting ranges also are up, according to the gun industry.

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Some people are losing faith in the system to protect them.

Earnest Johnson, a 37-year-old chef who lives in Kenner, bought his first gun recently and visits a shooting range regularly. “Things are way worse than they used to be,” he said. “You have to do something to protect yourself.”

Kevin Cato, a 41-year-old contractor, bought a .45-caliber handgun for protection when he is working in some of the city’s still-deserted areas. “But it’s not much safer at home,” Cato said. “The police chased a guy through my yard one time with their guns out.”


It’s too bad that people are having to relearn this lesson again, but at least they are learning it and arming themselves. The government isn’t able to protect you. The only way to have the government guarantee your safety from criminals is to have a police officer in every home. Somehow I don’t think that’s a wise solution.

In any case, I think I’ll stop here because a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’d like to save myself the work:

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Westerman, an artist who lives in the city’s Algiers neighborhood, is prepared to use deadly force.

“I’m a marksman now. I know what I’m doing,” she said. “There are a lot of us. The girl next door is a crack shot.”

A pack, not a herd.

Iraq War Four Years Later (Part Deux)

No commentary because I’m headed out the door, but I thought this poll would make for an interesting counter-point to Doug’s recent post on Iraq.

DESPITE sectarian slaughter, ethnic cleansing and suicide bombs, an opinion poll conducted on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq has found a striking resilience and optimism among the inhabitants.

The poll, the biggest since coalition troops entered Iraq on March 20, 2003, shows that by a majority of two to one, Iraqis prefer the current leadership to Saddam Hussein’s regime, regardless of the security crisis and a lack of public services.

The survey, published today, also reveals that contrary to the views of many western analysts, most Iraqis do not believe they are embroiled in a civil war.

Officials in Washington and London are likely to be buoyed by the poll conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB), a respected British market research company that funded its own survey of 5,019 Iraqis over the age of 18.

Of course, there’s the not so nice data as well:

The poll highlights the impact the sectarian violence has had. Some 26% of Iraqis – 15% of Sunnis and 34% of Shi’ites – have suffered the murder of a family member. Kidnapping has also played a terrifying role: 14% have had a relative, friend or colleague abducted, rising to 33% in Baghdad.

There’s more at the link, including the actual numbers from the poll. It’s well worth checking out, if for nothing else than to note the difference between American and Iraqi perceptions of the war. I’m planning on writing more about Iraq, as I’ve had a bit more time open up as of late. In any case, I’m hoping this might help us escape our label as a “lefty libertarian” blog. :-p

Tyranny and the Right to Leave

Brad has written previously on Mugabe cracking skulls and governments restricting their populace’s right to escape. The two have now combined in Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe has continued its violent crackdown on dissents after an opposition activist was badly beaten and prevented from leaving the country at Harare International Airport, his colleagues reported Sunday.

The attack on Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) comes amid mounting criticism on the continent and abroad of the government action against opposition activists.

“He was badly beaten this morning whilst he was on his way to the airport by security agents,” said William Bango, a spokesman for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Chamisa had been due to fly out to Belgium for a meeting.

He became the third opposition politician to be blocked from leaving the country this weekend.

On Saturday, state security agents arrested Arthur Mutambara, leader of an MDC breakaway faction, when he tried to leave to South Africa.

Also barred from leaving the country were activists Grace Kwinje and Sekai Holland, who wanted to leave for South Africa for medical attention, after being beaten by security forces last Sunday.

And Arthur Mutambara, leader of the breakaway faction of the MDC, was rearrested on Saturday at Harare International Airport and charged with inciting public violence, his lawyer Harrison Nkomo told AFP Sunday.

Just because it’s happening in a third world nation doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in Britain, or here. Keep that in mind when discussing things like RealID.

A Good Coup

Last week there was talk of military coups in relation to Venezuela. I came across this story the other day and thought it was rather interesting in regard to that whole discussion.

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania – Blue-robed nomads, village elders, lawyers and civil servants stream into Mauritania’s presidential palace, urging the bespectacled man who seized control of this desert nation in a coup to stay in power. But Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall calls the cream-colored palace generations of dictators have refused to leave his “prison” — and pledges to turn it over as promised to a democratically elected president after an election Sunday.

Coups are typically seen as the enemies of democracy, but it was just such a military takeover that brought the seeds of freedom to this nation on the edge of the Sahara. Vall is packing his bags after two years in power, but many here fear whoever replaces him could plunge the country back into autocratic rule.

“As long as Mauritanians keep on thinking of the president as someone who is indispensable, they will continue to make a monumental error of judgment,” said the bookish, soft-spoken man who has the manner of a shy college professor rather than a shrewd military commander. “It’s that kind of thinking that leads to dictatorship.”

(Emphasis mine.) I should state from the outset that this is in no way intended to be a defense of military coups. 9.9 times out of 10, they turn out badly, for the reasons discussed in the comments section of the post I referenced above. However, it is nice to see that even in backwater parts of the world, there are still those who are willing to defend liberty at the expense of their own personal power.

One thing no one doubts is that Vall will step down.

Not far from the presidential palace, workers in the dying light apply plaster to the walls of the home where Vall lived before the coup, and where he plans to return next week.

Under plastic sheets in a back room are Vall’s belongings — furniture, books, his children’s toys, none of which he brought to the palace his predecessor occupied for 21 years.

“I always knew I wouldn’t stay long,” Vall said, sitting on the cream-colored couch where the dictator once held court. “And because I knew I wouldn’t stay long, I didn’t bring much. There will be no need for packing boxes.”

Hmm…that sounds familiar.

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