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No, California is not leaving the U.S.

Old NFO has written an interesting blog post about California. Specifically, it deals with the California secession movement, as well as the movements pushing to divide California into multiple states (Jefferson is one example). His words, which I highly recommend reading, “got me to thinking” (always a bad thing!).

I should mention that I am a big fan of states being able to do pretty much anything they wish, as long as the Constitution of the United States does not specifically forbid it (this goes along with my belief our federal government should only do that which the Constitution specifically allows, but that is a different discussion). That said, none of us live in Retired Mustang’s Ideal World. We live in the real world and in the real world, the Supreme Court has declared that states may only secede if “the States” agree.

Not gonna happen. Here’s  why

Political Reality

The most recent numbers I have found suggest the current Republican/Democratic split in the House of Representatives currently gives Republicans a 55.4% majority with 241 seats out of the 435 total (assuming no vacancies, though there are currently 4). The Democratic minority currently occupies 194 seats. If California is allowed to exit, the Republican majority would increase to 59.4%, or 227 out of 382 seats. The Democratic minority would decrease to 40.6% or 155 of those 382 seats.

The effect on the Senate would not be as profound, at least in terms of percentages. Currently, the Republicans hold 51 seats and the Democrats hold 49 (there are 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats). In the event of a Calexit, that 51% vs 49% split would change to a 52% vs 48% split.

Democrats would fight tooth and nail to avoid such a disruption in their power. In all fairness, were the percentage reversed, I have no doubt Republicans would fight just as hard.

Many states have a portion of the population that supports the secession of that state. According to Mother Jones, about a third of Californians support secession and a quarter of Americans support the idea that states should have the right to secede. Jim Gaines noted that the Southeast, Southwest and Rockies are the areas with the highest percentages of those supporting the idea of their various states seceding peacefully. That is nothing new, though. Secession has long been popular in some areas, even, as Gaines notes, before the Civil War. Still, more people oppose secession than support it, and I really doubt the idea would fly, politically, even absent the party line opposition such a proposal would encounter. It is my belief these sorts of things can have a bit of a domino effect, a sort of “huh, California seceded, maybe we here in the great state of Texas/Oklahoma/Wyoming/Arizona/Tennessee should seriously consider it, too” kind of  thing. That is intolerable, I submit, to both most politicians and to government in general.

As they pertain to this topic, government has a vested interest in (at least) two things. Those two things are maintaining order and maintaining power, not necessarily in that order. A successful bid for peaceful secession that triggered a chain of such movements would be perceived, rightly, as a threat to power and (possibly rightly) as a threat to order. With just those two things in mind, is anyone going to seriously argue the federal government, or the other states, would allow California, or maybe Texas, to secede?

Again, not gonna happen.

“Well,” you ask, “what about California splitting into multiple states and isn’t Texas allowed to divide into five states?”

Let’s address Texas, first. Maybe. That was part of the treaty that included the annexation of Texas. The question is, did Texas’ secession during the Civil War make that null and void? Some say yes, it did. Others disagree. I tend to be among those who disagree. My disagreement, like the agreement of others, is meaningless until and unless it is tested. It has, obviously, never been tested. Besides, even if Texas divides itself into chunks, those chunks become states in accordance with the Constitution, not with the desire of the “chunks” or the larger “pre-chunk” for them to be states. 

The same is true of California and any portion thereof that might be proposed as separate states. The Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” not the desire of folks in Norcal and southern Oregon to do their own thing.

Aside from constitutional issues, we are still faced with partisan politics. Consider Puerto Rico. An American territory, there would be no division of an existing state necessary for it to become a state. Given its voting patterns, can anyone reasonably suggest every Republican in the Senate would not oppose its petition for statehood? Of course they would oppose it.

Let’s pretend that over time, the laws we have relating to the various American Indian tribes, the ones that are vestiges of 18th and 19th century paternalism, are repealed. There is a forensic accounting of the BIA, going back as far as possible, and that bureau is eliminated. All that is done, but the tribes retain possession of their various reservations. Now, the various tribes petition to have their reservations admitted as states. It is  unreasonable to suggest that would fly because of the way it would affect the current political balance of power.

If Texas were to draw boundaries representing five potential new states, is it reasonable to believe partisan politics would not come into play – that politicians would not look askance at the impact it would have on the balance of power between the two major parties?

Once again, the same is true of California.

None of this means it could absolutely not happen. We are, after all, discussing politics, where far weirder things have happened. I just don’t see it as very likely.

Let me encourage you, once more, to seriously consider the words of Old NFO.




Rambling’s inspired by another

Lawdog has, once again, provided us an example of his thought and understanding. This time, his topic relates to how one should face death. Though I suspect my belief system may be somewhat different than his, I tend to agree. There is much to be said for how anyone faces death.

To face your own death, head on, is not to desire to die. Rather, it is to face one’s mortality with the resolve to not die sniveling in the corner of a room, begging the bringer of death, corporeal or otherwise, for mercy (begging the Almighty for mercy is, I submit, an entirely different thing).

It has been said more than once that there are times, for instance when facing an armed villain intent on harming the innocent, when one must accept that he is already dead if he is to have any hope of effectively opposing the villain. Otherwise, one’s natural desire to live might keep you from making the right decision or slow your reaction time.

While there are significant disagreements as to how Jim Bowie died at the Alamo, his mother’s response to the news of his death was mentioned by Walter Worthington Bowie in The Bowies and Their Kindred.

“…it is said when told her gallant son James had been killed by the Mexicans at the Alamo, she received the news calmly, remarking that she would ‘wager no wounds were found in his back’….”

I have noted before that during my military career, I was never some sort of “high speed low drag operator.” There are multitudes of people with far more tactical training and experience than I. That said, my experience teaches me that none of us who have with our without a badge taken the oath, put on the uniform, strapped on the pistol and/or picked up the rifle, did so because we wanted to die. We did not descend into Bad Places to face Bad Men because we sought death. It was simply our job, out duty to carry out, if you will. Those who faced that most dire of circumstance, with honor, did so I submit, because they had carefully considered and evaluated themselves before the event. They did not do it because they wanted to die.

I am reminded of “The Rifleman’s Prayer” which has been attributed to far too many people for me to even take a guess at its origins.

“A Rifleman’s Prayer

Oh Lord, I would live my life in freedom, peace and happiness, enjoying the simple pleasures of hearth and home. I would die an old, old man in my own bed, preferably of sexual overexertion.

But if that is not to be, Lord, if monsters such as this should find their way to my little corner of the world on my watch, then help me to sweep those bastards from the ramparts, because doing that is good, and right, and just.

And if in this I should fall, let me be found atop a pile of brass, behind the wall I made of their corpses.”

It says a lot with which I concur. There are those times and circumstances when we might, indeed, be called upon to do what most of us really (and rightly) do not wish to do, which is to bring death and destruction upon our fellow man. Circumstances, sadly, often ignore what we might desire and force us into what must be. We could do far worse than to face such circumstances, should they come, with resolve to do what we must regardless of the outcome – determined to do what is right, no matter what the cost.


All this deals with physical courage, really. Since it is such a popular word of late, one might make the distinction that the risk of death makes the things above more “existential” in nature. I disagree. All physical risk carries with it the potential to die. That we prefer not to think about it does not change the reality. So, all the above is physical courage rather than some sort of existential courage (if there is such a thing).

Not all we face will require that we decide we are already dead. In fact, most of us will never face such a thing until our lives reach their natural ends. For that, we should be truly grateful.

I submit moral courage is in many ways more difficult than physical courage. Moral courage, if it is to have meaning, must be maintained every waking hour of every day for years on end. It must be there when we are pressured to compromise what truly matters in the interest of that which is irrelevant, when we are encouraged to sacrifice the permanent for the sake of the ephemeral, and when we are told to abandon the real for the unreal. This pressure can be constant and unyielding. It can rob us of our energy and exhaust our resources to resist – which is far too often the goal of those applying the pressure. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, it is one thing to withstand a single time the pressure to compromise what we believe. It is another thing altogether, and much more difficult, to withstand that pressure day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.

And so, we must do what my dad called “taking a good, long, hard look in the mirror” and decide who we are and what we are all about. Then, we are better able to answer the question: Is this a thing on which I can compromise? Is now the time for giving in? Or is this a cause and a time when there can be no compromise. Must I treat my livelihood, reputation and whatever else I may have that is of value in this world as if they are already as good as gone so that I can make the decision to not abdicate my responsibility to what truly matters?

Regardless of what any of us face, may we each hold true to what matters. May we each make the right decision.

I encourage you to read Lawdog’s post. He expressed a lot in a few words.

They weren’t lying

I have heard a lot of actors say comedy is harder than drama. Probably, but I don’t know, for sure. My acting career was very short, a thing for which we should all be grateful. All I know is that I sucked at dramatic acting. I can’t imagine trying the comedic stuff.

Everybody has things they say are “the hardest” I guess.

A lot of writers have told me action/fight scenes are the hardest to write. I don’t know if they are the hardest. I do know that if they are not, I have no desire to learn what is the hardest. The one I’m working on may be the most exquisitely difficult thing I have ever written. The best part will be when my volunteer reviewers get hold of it and tell me I need to rewrite it.

Being a deck ape* was easier than this.

*Deck ape is a USCG and USN term for members of deck force, the most traditional of sailors in the modern USCG and USN. They are to be differentiated from all the wannabe sailors in the various engineering, admin and aviation ratings.

I was wrong

Forgive me if this rambles a bit.

In November, 1983, I enlisted in the United States Coast Guard as, of course, an E-1. On November 1, 2006, I became a civilian, retiring as from the United States Navy as an O-3E. While I like to think of myself as occupying a reasoned position regarding the 2nd Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms, I understand that to some people, my reasoned position seems to be somewhat extreme.

I do not care. One of the reasons I do not care is that I was wrong.

Allow me to explain.

I grew up in a household where firearms were always present. They were seen as tools for very specific tasks, just like the implements we kept in the barn or the garage, or both (depending on where we were living at the time). My dad was a printer for many years, as was my paternal grandfather. My mom was a proofreader and one uncle was a press operator. My first jobs were all in newspapers and print shops. It is fair to say there is a sense in which I grew up in and around newspapers and print shops. The result of all this? Both the First Amendment and the Second were very important to me.

As above, in 1983 I joined the USCG. Then, something happened. We started hearing about “cop killer bullets” and the like. Remember, the push was still on at that time to highly regulate or even ban handguns. I started to hear arguments about why civilians should not have handguns and the dangers they posed to everyone. It was noted that handguns were the primary firearms used in the commission of crimes involving guns (that was and remains the case). So, I was told, only certain people should have access to them. Specifically, “those people” were military and law enforcement personnel. This was of great significance to coasties because we were military people who did law enforcement. Because of our training and expertise we could have handguns when we did our jobs. Even better, depending on the nature of the handgun legislation we were assured would pass, we could own them as private citizens. Because of, you know, our training and expertise.

What complete and utter nonsense.

Since those days long ago, I have seen many, many people with neither law enforcement nor military experience out shoot with one or both. I have seen military and law enforcement personnel, including some whose regular job involved weapons, engage in such sloppy disregard for the “4 Rules” that surely Jeff Cooper will come out of the ground — if he ever stops spinning.

More than nonsense, though, it was dangerous. It was dangerous because it suggested that we, those of us in the military and/or law enforcement, were some sort of special class. It suggested we could be trusted with the exercise of a liberty enumerated in the Constitution in a way that should and could be denied the average or typical citizen. It had an allure, an appeal, too. It reaffirmed what we were tempted to think, anyway, to wit that we were somehow special because we wore a uniform and had taken an oath. Essentially, it suggested we were some sort of super citizens.

I came very close to buying it. The Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of our station certainly seemed to buy it. Fortunately, the petty officer in charge of our law enforcement training though otherwise. With the Cold War still in full swing, he frequently asked “why don’t we do things this way (“this way” could be any number of things that might have made the law enforcement portion of our jobs safer and easier)? His answer was always the same: “because this is not the Soviet Union” and “the Constitution guides what we do, not what might work better.” Then, he would talk about First Amendment freedoms. Those resonated with me, so I listened when he branched out into discussing the others. I actually listened.

Thank God.

Recently, a retired general (a three star as I recall) spoke on CNN about modern sporting rifles. You may recall he used the term “full semiautomatic.” The term was unfortunate (it suggests the good General’s knowledge does not live up to its billing) but that is not the issue. The issue, from my perspective, is that he seems to think military (and perhaps law enforcement) experience makes some people special and more entitled to exercise a liberty than other citizens. He bought into the lie. And that is far more than unfortunate. It is appalling. It would be no less appalling had it come from a civilian law enforcement officer.

Perhaps the greatest risk to law enforcement and military personnel is this: that we should not only begin to look upon ourselves as special in ways we are not, but that we should look upon those who are not part of our communities with disdain.

Once, long ago, I had started to think that way. I came so very close to stepping over that line. I came so terribly close to violating my oath — to placing my safety above the Constitution I had sworn to support and defend. Over the intervening years I have spent more hours than I can count examining the Constitution and thinking about liberty and what it means to be free. I have come to a conclusion.

Regardless of what one thinks about the First Amendment, the Second, the Fourth or any of the others, this much is true — there are no special classes of citizens who get to legitimately exercise their liberties in ways denied the common/average/typical citizen. The very idea is repugnant to liberty.

I was so very, very wrong.


I hate lies

It should come as no surprise to anyone who bothers to read this tiny little corner of the blogosphere to learn that I am rather fond of firearms. Nah. That’s not it. I like guns (that is a hard word for a guy who split 22 years between the USCG and the USN to toss around, but I am getting better). I use them to hunt, for defense of self and others, for punching little round holes in targets and as a way of ensuring my children will inherit no liquid assets. So, feel free to think I am somewhat biased. I am.

I said all that and need to add this: I really do not care how you view firearms. If you like them, great! Maybe we can go to the range, sometime, and waste money disguised as ammo. If you dislike them intensely, that’s fine too. Really. I might find your dislike odd and disagree with your reasoning, but ultimately, that is your decision to make. I would not dream of trying to force you to believe otherwise. The other thing I would not and will not do is attempt to change your mind with dishonest arguments.

Several times over the past three or four years I have encountered something interesting. When I have attempted to correct, as gently and politely as I know how I promise, people who use the specifically defined term “assault rifle” and the vague, nebulous and lacking-in-a-coherent-definition term “assault weapon” as synonyms, I have gotten an interesting response. I have been told that I am “using semantics to avoid facing the truth”. When I have referred my college sociology professor who said “fuzzy definitions produce fuzzy thoughts” and suggested that perhaps many gun control advocates are seeking to regulate something they do not understand, I have had no end of people tell me I was wrong and that “I/we understand guns and how they work, completely.” And, of course, I have been told everything from “no one wants to take your guns” to “no one is contemplating a wide-ranging ban on guns.”

Uh huh.

For today, I will limit myself to the current bill’s attempt to ban most handguns.

“No.” you say. “That’s not what is going on at all.”

Uh huh.

“D) A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:

“(i) A threaded barrel.

“(ii) A second pistol grip.

“(iii) A barrel shroud.

“(iv) The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.

“(v) A semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm.”

If you do not recognize this, it is a section from the proposed “Assault Weapons Ban of 2018“, which serves to let us know what firearms and sorts of firearms are included in said ban.

Please note the first 21 words, which I have placed in bold. Now that you have done that, I have a question. How many semiautomatic pistols have the “capacity” to accept a threaded barrel?

Virtually all of them. In fact, there is no difficulty in finding one that will accept a threaded barrel. It is quite difficult to find one that will not.

Next question. What is the best-selling and most popular type of handgun?

A semiautomatic pistol with a detachable magazine.

Note that the language says “capacity” is the important characteristic, not the presence or absence of a threaded barrel. I am forced to conclude, then, that if gun control advocates do, indeed, understand guns and how they work, that their insistence of not wanting a wide-ranging ban on guns is a lie. They are seeking to ban the most common and most popular type of handgun.

No one is perfect. I get that. Truly, I do. People make mistakes with words. It’s just that you cannot have it both ways. Either the people who write and knowledgeably support such bills are attempting to regulate that of which they are incredibly ignorant, or they are liars.

One can be corrected with education, if dealing with people who are amenable to education. Liars are a different matter, so, you call it. Do they not know what they’re talking about, or have they been lying?

Thoughts on the mission

I started my military career as an E-1 in the United States Coast Guard. A good part of my USCG time was spent in law enforcement, primarily chasing those who sought to bring various and sundry forms of recreational pharmacology into our Fair Land. Occasionally, we even caught some. Understand that in spite of 22 years of military service split between the USCG (semper paratus!) and the USN (anchors aweigh!), I was never some sort of high-speed low-drag operator. On the other hand, I have been places I had no desire to be, doing things I did not wish to be doing in response to people who were doing Truly Bad Things. What I learned from that, is this: when at all possible, do not try to second guess the decisions of those who are in situations remote from where you are sitting in relative safety. Though I did, in a fit of pique, answer a question on Quora regarding my thoughts, that “learning” has been sufficient reason for me to not comment here on the recent school shooting in Broward County, Florida.


I also learned some other things. For instance,

  • Whether in law enforcement, search and rescue, combat or healthcare, you have a job to do, a mission to complete
  • Though you do everything you reasonably can to protect yourself, to make sure you can “go home at the end of the day/deployment/sortie/whatever, this is always secondary to the mission
  • People who forget the primacy of the mission can be counted on, at some point, to sacrifice the mission for some cause far more convenient
  • This can be expressed this way: The Mission Comes First*

People have suggested multiple reasons the deputy in Florida did not enter the building to engage the shooter. Among those are

  • He did not want to get shot
  • He was scared
  • He is not paid enough to risk his life

My responses to those are

  • I doubt the coach who shielded students with his own body wanted to get shot, either
  • I suspect the young man in JROTC who held the door so other students could escape was scared, too
  • My understanding is the deputy made just over $100,000.00 last year. By way of contrast, the median pay for a Navy Hospital Corpsman who is an E-4 (HM3/petty officer third class) is $27,260.00 For that paltry sum, these folks deploy with the Marines and crawl out to retrieve and tend the wounded while under fire.

So, you will pardon me if I find the bull**** excuses questionable justifications for the deputy not entering the building somewhat less than compelling.

Years ago, when I was much younger and believed life would be simple and easy, my dad told me something that made all the difference when I was scared or facing the possibility of something profoundly unpleasant, or when thinking I was not being properly appreciated for what was being asked or required of me. He had been an Army combat medic in the Korean war. To paraphrase, he said that a person needs to think about every eventuality he can and decide what he will do if he faces it. You can’t think of everything, but you can think of general situations. That way, you don’t have to spend time making the decision then. Instead, you can just do what needs to be done.

Law Dog, who undoubtedly has far more tactical experience than I ever will, puts it this way

“In 2006 — 12 years ago.  Bloody hell — I banged off a thought about bright lines in which I opined that every adult should sit down and decide where the line was at which point they would use Deadly Force against another mother’s son.

My opinion on this matter goes double — a hundred-fold — for those who put on a badge.  Before you get out of the Academy you should have decided where that bright line was.

And I’m here to tell you:  if that bright line isn’t on the proper side of “shooting up a school full of kids” then don’t you dare pin on that badge.”

I would apply that standard to anyone who purports to serve others or to put the safety of others above his own. If you cannot do it, do not put on the uniform, pin on the badge or take the damn oath.**

*NOTE: the only thing that arguably comes before the mission is honor. Leaving schoolkids to die when you had the opportunity to do something about it is a lot of things. Honorable is not one of them. My question: when did honor become such an oddity?

**NOTE: it is reported that at some point there were other officers on scene who stood behind their cars while the shooting was still going on. The same observations apply to them.


Your muse, my muse

I have read various writer’s descriptions of their muse (muses?). Some of them are interesting, to say the least.

“Elegant, like a woman of impeccable breeding and decorum.”

Uh huh. Impeccable breeding and decorum don’t produce the drivel that shows up on my screen when I write.

How about this one. “My muse is like the ocean washing in, forcing me to write, and then washing out, but like the tide, inevitably returning soon.”

Oceans and tides? Really? Mine would wash up the contents of someone’s chum bucket.

“My muse is the silence of night, pulling my thoughts from my mind and onto paper.”

Okay, but I sleep at night, and I would pay to have someone pull coherent thoughts onto paper.

I wish I had one of these muses. I don’t, though. Mine is…different. Mine is a fickle and capricious toddler, running from one shiny thing to another with the attention span of a gnat with ADHD and a $500.00 a day crack habit.*

What’s yours like?

*about 1500 words written today and each one of them has been exquisitely painful.