Going after the green-tip

9:31 pm May 2nd, 2015

(A version of this column appears in the May 10 issue of “Shotgun News.”)

Back in mid-February, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives announced it was considering a ban on the popular M855 variety of .223 rifle ammunition — the popular “green-tip” fodder for the AR-15 rifle — by re-categorizing the round as “armor piercing.”

If they did that, sales of the M855 rounds could be restricted or banned under language in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), which limits possession of ammunition to stuff “primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes.”

The ammunition guidelines in the GCA were intended for handguns, but are now being applied to ammunition used in AR-15 rifles — the semi-auto clone of the military M-16 — because AR-15 pistols use the same fodder.

(“Pistols” firing .223 and Russian short aren’t particularly useful as holster- or concealed-carry guns, and manufacturers were warned this was going to happen when they brought them out. Though of course no such concerns would arise if the G-men just obeyed the Second Amendment.)

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Does it matter if we’re oppressed for what we ‘do,’ rather than what we ‘are’?

5:17 pm April 29th, 2015

Vin’s latest post at https://www.academia.edu/s/965353a49d , where Nese Devenot invites members of the psychedelic community to “come out of the closet”:

I believe a false dichotomy is being embraced by some correspondents here, a dichotomy which is beneficial to the oppressors, but not to the oppressed — who would be better advised to form common cause, rather than arguing “I’m more oppressed than you are; you insult me by comparing the threat of jail under which YOU now labor, to the disabilities which the law sought or still seeks to impose on MY group.”

Otherwise, we risk falling into the trap so memorably summarized by Pastor Niemoller, who summarized the cowardice of the German intellectuals in his famous speech (there were many versions) ending: “When they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

It’s asserted that threatening to jail people for possessing or ingesting mind-altering plant extracts or derivatives is not “as bad” or “as objectionable” as threatening to jail people for being gay, transgendered, lesbian, whatever. Oppression is somehow worse, according to this theory, when the oppressor threatens to punish, jail or otherwise restrict the freedoms of people because of who or what they ARE, but somehow less bad, less objectionable, when they (we) are only threatened with having thugs burst into our homes late at night, drag us out in our bedclothes, show video of us shackled half-naked on TV, and jail us for an act we DO, which of course we are free to decide to refrain from doing at each occurrence.

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‘He killed that guy and he didn’t have to’

8:54 pm April 4th, 2015

John Geer was killed a year and a half ago, but it wasn’t until a judge ordered officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, to release 11,000 pages of documents earlier this year, detailing their 17-month cover-up of the case, that details of his homicide by police became known.

Owner of a local kitchen design business in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, John B. Geer, 46, stood with his hands on top of the storm door of his Springfield, Va., townhouse in broad daylight and calmly told four Fairfax County police officers who had their handguns pointed at him: “I don’t want anybody to get shot. . . . And I don’t wanna get shot, ’cause I don’t want to die today,” reported Tom Jackman of the Washington Post on Jan. 31.

How and why Geer died that afternoon in August, 2013, after police responded to a reported domestic dispute at his home, remained a mystery for 17 months. But the documents released Jan. 30 “paint a vivid picture of a tense 44-minute showdown,” Jackman of the Post reports, after officers were called by Geer’s live-in partner of 24 years, Maura Harrington, another woman who has now learned what can happen if you seek police help with a non-violent domestic dispute.

The files also reveal for the first time why the Fairfax prosecutor shifted the case to the U.S. attorney’s office: an internal affairs investigation into a loud, angry “meltdown” suffered earlier by the shooter, officer Adam Torres, in the Fairfax County Courthouse. In that incident, five months before the Geer shooting, Torres repeatedly cursed an assistant county prosecutor who said there were problems with Torres’ investigation of a drunk-driving case, and stormed out of the courthouse.

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A few recent listings — ‘The High End’

10:17 am March 22nd, 2015

So, there you are at the yard sale, confronted by boxes of old books, records, and miscellany. What do you look for?

“Buy what you like,” has long been good advice. Until you learn to grade for condition — and to tell a first edition from a later reissue or even (God forbid) a book club — please don’t go paying more than pocket change on the assumption you can “get rich on e-Bay.”

And of course, even when you learn to do more targeted research (online and even in those dreaded “reference books” — because there are a lot of “learners” online), always remember that an asking price isn’t a realized price. At Cat’s Curiosities we mark our books down every six months or so, and lots of books that start at $100 (even though we think that’s a fair market price) may not sell till they creep down into the $60 range. Everybody wants a bargain.

All that said, here are a few of our recent finds & postings that may indicate there are still some treasures out there:

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‘Entheogenic-Religious Fiction’

3:22 pm March 14th, 2015

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Thomas B. Roberts, professor emeritus at Northern Illinois University, edited the books “The Psychedelic Future of the Mind” and “Psychoactive Sacramentals: Essays on Entheogens and Religion,” the latter of which was acknowledged as a valuable source in my latest novel, “The Testament of James.”

Dr. Roberts (no known relation to the Beatles’ Doctor Robert) was kind enough to post a four-star review of “Testament” to Amazon this week, titled “Entheogenic-Religious Fiction,” also posting it to a number of addresses on his “psychedelics” list, which is also much appreciated.

Dr. Roberts writes: “A new member of the psychedelic literary genre, The Testament of James appeals to readers who share an interest in the roles that entheogens may have played in the founding of Judaism and Christianity. A manuscript apparently written by James, brother of Jesus, is smuggled out of Egypt and offered to the book’s hero, Matthew, who is a bookseller near a college in New England. Matthew, a highly respected dealer, specializes in collectors’, scarce, and rare editions.

“Along the way, someone dies. But Testament isn’t primarily a murder mystery. It’s about the struggles Matthew and his staff have with the Egyptian brothers who delivered the book; they want to be paid. Representatives of the Egyptian government want the book repatriated as a stolen national treasure. Roman Catholic monks want to obtain it to ‘bury’ in Vatican vaults. And a rich reverend from California wants to make its contents widely available.

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‘Well, there’s nothing artificial about it’

11:25 am March 5th, 2015

The book “The Archaic Revival” (HarperCollins 1991), which is a compilation of writings by and interviews with the late entheogen pioneer Terence McKenna, concludes with an interview conducted by Nevill Drury as it appeared in the Autumn, 1990 (Vol. 11, No. 1) issue of the Australian magazine “Nature and Health.”

An excerpt of the most relevant portion (for our purposes) can be found at http://www.salvia-divinorum-scotland.co.uk/quotes/mckenna/prejudice.htm :

ND: What then is your answer to people who continue to dismiss psychedelic experience as artificial? Surely your view is the exact reverse of that?

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Gun owners no longer willing to take it lying down

9:48 am March 4th, 2015

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has long prohibited towns and cities from enforcing local firearm ordinances that impact the ownership, possession, transfer or transport of guns or ammo.

But gun-rights groups have long complained that scores of municipalities ignored the 40-year-old prohibition by passing their own, piecemeal gun control enactments, which rarely got tested in court, The Associated Press reports.

So a new state law went into effect in Pennsylvania at the start of the year, making it easier for gun-rights groups to challenge such illegal local ordinances.

And it seems to be working. Nearly two dozen Pennsylvania municipalities have agreed to get rid of their illegal ordinances rather than face litigation, reports Joshua Prince, an attorney for four pro-gun-rights groups, who cited the new law in putting nearly 100 Pennsylvania municipalities on notice that they would face legal action unless they rescinded their gun edicts.

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‘A natural and, perhaps, even necessary component of spirituality’

12:38 pm February 19th, 2015

Out of Wyoming, firm proponent of self-ownership Mama Liberty has weighed in with a thoughtful commentary on “The Testament of James” (here), focusing on what the tale tells us about the nature of organized religion, and its relation to social control.

“Some people got together and figured out how to use the belief or disbelief of people to their own advantage, to gain control over the people themselves,” as she puts it. “It’s been going on for most of recorded history, and probably before that. . . . It is obviously in the best interest of those controllers not to encourage or allow any competing beliefs among those they control, and new or different stories might just become a threat to their power. . . . People are easy to manipulate if they can be convinced that anyone or anything ‘different’ is threatening, that those who do not believe as they do must be less than human.”

Many an American or European reader will doubtless respond to this summary by preening “Not us; we’re enlightened; we tolerate and even welcome religious diversity.”

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For cat people only :-) Or, when kittens take selfies …

9:19 pm February 15th, 2015

(Brunette, again.)

We’re blessed with a bunch of cool and creative cats. They’re a primary source of laughter around here, especially the kittens (well, they’re six months old now, but they’re still pretty entertaining.)

Strider, our gray male kitten (see above) loves to lounge around and help Vin at his computer. So does Sandy (see Vin’s author photo … give it a minute to load) a big cream and orange tomcat that adopted us — he previously belonged to a neighbor, though I suspect he’d furiously deny belonging to anyone. He’s ours to the extent that we let him in when he wants in, and out when he wants out (usually around 4:30 a.m.) and he obviously enjoys our premium food (plus occasional table scraps) so he always arrives with a good appetite. Sandy’s a great hunter and sometimes leaves choice tidbits on our doormat. Well, that’s preferable to the gifts of live mice he’s been known to bring into the house once or twice. ;-)

The female cats/kittens seem to prefer to hang out with me in the “hers” office. More on that some other time, perhaps.

But I digress, back to Strider …

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‘An alternative interpretation of the life and work of Jesus . . .’

11:06 pm February 10th, 2015

The genial John Walker, formerly of Autodesk et al., has posted a new review of “The Testament of James” here:

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“Hunter and his friend Chantal Stevens, ex-military who has agreed to help out in the shop, find themselves in the middle of the quest for one of the most legendary, and considered mythical, rare books of all time. . . .

“A good part of the book is a charming and often humorous look inside the world of rare books, one with which the author is clearly well-acquainted. There is intrigue, a bit of mysticism, and the occasional libertarian zinger aimed at a deserving target. As the story unfolds, an alternative interpretation of the life and work of Jesus and the history of the early Church emerges, which explains why so many players are so desperately seeking the lost book.

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