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A World of Trumpkins

 

Are we living in a world of Trumpkins? (Before anyone panics about banned words, I’m referring here to Trumpkin the Red Dwarf in Prince Caspian, the second book in C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. This post has nothing to do with the President or his more exuberant fans.) In our world of believers and non-believers, who does Trumpkin represent, and what does this mean for the future? These are the questions I’ve found myself asking, and now will pass on to you.

There’s probably not any need to put a spoiler alert on a book published 60 years ago, but … yes, this will go into detail about both this story and the others in the series. 


At night I’ve started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my kids, one chapter at a time before bed. They’re not quite old enough yet to really get the stories, but they still enjoy it. I haven’t read some of these books since I was a child myself, so I’m enjoying revisiting the series. The first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a retelling of Christ’s death and Resurrection with Aslan (the Lion) as Christ, something that was even obvious to me when I first read the books at age seven. But at that age, the next few books in the series didn’t seem to have an obvious parallel to any biblical story. (The last two books are the Creation story and the Apocalypse.) Reading them now I can see more of what Lewis was trying to say about Faith than I could as a child.

In Prince Caspian, the second act of the story involves the four children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) traveling through Narnia with Trumpkin, trying to get to King Caspian. Lucy sees Aslan, who shows her the way to go, but the other children don’t believe her at first and take a different path. This leads to a near disaster, and the travelers end up back where they started. Aslan again appears to Lucy, and this time she gets the others to follow her even though they can’t see Aslan themselves at first. Reading this it occurred to me that each person represents a different way that people in our world follow Christ.

Lucy represents those with a strong faith. She has seen and spoken to Aslan, and has no doubts that he is real and has a plan for them to follow. It’s worth noting that even with her faith, she follows her brother when he leads them down the wrong path at first. It’s only after Aslan speaks with her that she realizes she has to follow His path whether the others follow or not. We don’t have Jesus appearing to us in the flesh these days, but there are plenty of people with deep faith who have heard Him telling them where the right path is.

Edmund’s path is for those who have fallen the farthest and found redemption. In the first book, he was the one who betrayed his brother and sisters, and it was for him that Aslan gave himself to be sacrificed. He knows he has been wrong in the past, and therefore is the most willing to follow Lucy where she says Aslan is leading them even though he can’t see Aslan himself. I suspect that many believers can see themselves in Edmund. We know how we have failed and can relate to following the right path even with our doubts.

Peter is the oldest, and the leader of the group. He wants to do the right thing, but when asked to make a choice he takes what seems to him to be the easier and smarter path instead of trusting Lucy and Aslan. Peter represents the church leaders. Even the best of them can be tempted to put their own counsel ahead of what their faith calls them to do, and where they lead their flock will follow.

Susan, the older sister, wants to believe but is afraid. She listens to her fears and refuses to let herself think that Lucy is right and that Aslan is showing them the way to go. She responds with petulance and anger when she has to follow along their path. Our world has lots of Susans. People who know the truth and deep inside desire to trust their belief, but are afraid of where that might lead. That fear leads them to question or even attack those with a stronger faith.

Trumpkin is not a believer, but still has a strong sense of right and wrong. Earlier in the story when it is suggested that King Caspian enlist the aid of darker forces, many of Caspian’s allies reject the suggestion saying that doing so would cost them the support of Aslan. Trumpkin scoffs at this, saying that the support of a mythical lion doesn’t matter, but still rejects the evil allies saying that what really matters is that he wouldn’t support Caspian if that sort was allowed. When traveling with the children, Trumpkin is dismissive of the possibility that Aslan is showing them the way. He declares that he’ll follow the High King (Peter) where ever that may lead, simply because Peter is the High King.

We have an abundance of young people who desire to be good and avoid evil but are rejecting religion and trusting in secular power. Surveys have shown that church membership among millennials is considerably lower than previous generations. They may follow along with people who have faith, but only because they think it’s the right path to take. They reject the need for faith themselves. There have always been people like this, but now we have more Trumpkins than ever before.

Of course, it all turned out all right for Trumpkin and the children in this story. They end up following Lucy, meet Aslan at the end of the journey, and Trumpkin lets go of his disbelief (or has it shaken out of him). It is a children’s story after all. (The final book in the series, The Last Battle, tells of a different ending for the dwarfs without faith and for Susan, but that’s a different post.) Will it turn out as well for the Trumpkins in our world? What will need to happen to shake them out of their disbelief?

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Recognizing Our Limits

 

I love the conversations here, but it brings up an issue that is often very frustrating. The members on here are well read and well informed, but that makes us outliers in the general population. And I mean outliers in the very specific statistical sense; so far out of the distribution that our presence doesn’t represent a useable data point.

I have always known that I follow politics and government more than most people. One incident revealed how far out of the mainstream I was.

Our fire department operates as a 501(c)3 charity. For tax purposes, we are always having to prove our tax exempt status to various entities. One of the documents we have is a letter from the IRS confirming our status. I had scanned it and attached it to various emails and letters.

One day (after years of using it) I had just printed a copy and noticed that it was signed by Lois Lerner. This was maybe two months after the news had broken about her nefarious behavior regarding tax-exempt groups. In the next business meeting, I mentioned it to the room full of firefighters. Three out of 20 people knew who she was. With a couple more, it seemed to click when I explained the story; they had heard her name but didn’t recognize it.

None of these guys is stupid or particularly ignorant; it’s just that this stuff doesn’t matter to them. Fully 75 percent hadn’t heard about an issue that burned up political forums and the news. And didn’t really care.

Every time I hear a proposal to encourage more voting I think it’s exactly the wrong thing to do.

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It’s a Fine Line

 

In my time as a police officer, I saw and dealt with the unedited person. I saw them before a defense attorney cleaned them up to present them to a jury. I saw them before a social worker visited them. I saw them before the therapist saw them. I saw them in real time.

When someone I confronted told me they were going to fight, if they were so intoxicated that they couldn’t get up off the floor, or sidewalk without my help, I considered that a low-level threat. The intent to fight was expressed, and until I could search them for weapons I was still on my guard. Someone who expressed the intent to fight, and who could stand up without my help, whether they were intoxicated or not, found themselves on the receiving end of a different response.

In the aftermath of the Florida school shooting the mental issue is being discarded concerning firearms ownership or possession. Generalizations don’t work for me. I’m interested in specific behavior, that includes specific threats, and specific actions that lead to a specific outcome.

The Florida shooter’s history from an article on BuzzFeed:

From 2010 until November 2016, Broward County sheriff’s deputies responded to at least 36 emergency 911 calls from a pleasant-looking, tree-lined suburban home on 80th Terrace, the street in Parkland where Cruz lived with his younger brother, Zachary, and mother, who died last November at the age of 68.

On Aug. 22, 2012, Lynda Cruz called 911 because her sons, 12 and 13 at the time, were “threatening her.” In November of that year, officers came because Nikolas had beat up his brother. A few weeks later they returned after he attacked his mother with the plastic hose from the vacuum cleaner, one report says.

One evening in January 2013, officers responded to a call from Lynda Cruz, detailing that Nikolas’s behavior was escalating after she took away his video games. The 14-year-old then threw a chair, dog bowl, and glass across the room, screaming that his mom was a “useless bitch,” the sheriff’s report said. After the teen barricaded himself in his room, deputies briefly handcuffed him and put him in the back of a squad car until a youth emergency services counselor arrived.

Nearly a year later, Nikolas Cruz punched a hole in the wall after his mother took away his Xbox.

Neighbors, classmates, and friends also described an estranged “loner” whose disturbing social media profiles were littered with guns, shooting targets, dead frogs, and a user always dressed in black with his face covered. He also reportedly left comments declaring his desire to shoot and kill people on YouTube, one of which was flagged to the FBI in September.

This history does not cover his expulsion from school, the threats that he made at school, the fact that he threatened kids in his neighborhood, or his social media posts.

Would you sell this young a man a firearm if you were aware of his personal history? Would you want someone else selling him a firearm?

The mental health issue is complex when it comes to firearms ownership. There are other problems with the NCIC background check. Some local courts are not reporting their violent felony convictions, and their domestic violence convictions, to the FBI for inclusion in the NCIC database. Some schools are not reporting crimes committed by students on school grounds to their local law enforcement authorities.

Students in one Florida high school were not surprised that this young man was responsible for killing 17 of their fellow students, unfortunately, some other people that knew him were surprised.

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Billy Graham’s Death Tells Us One Important Thing About the Far Left

 

Billy Graham died yesterday.

I didn’t really know much about him, what with being Irish and a Catholic under the age of 28. Nevertheless, as a history teacher of the American 20th century (he got a short mention in Irish history textbooks) to high school pupils, I recognize the impact he imparted on America, particularly with his Crusades in the 1950’s and his friendships with many American Presidents, from Truman to Obama.

Donald Trump, the President of the United States (I love saying that line), praised Graham and made reference to his values and to Christ, in a nice way. Not to be overlooked, the 44th President, one Barack Obama, to his great credit (never thought I’d say that) also imparted his prayers and wishes to Graham and his family. It’s arguably braver for a liberal like Obama to praise a conservative Christian like Billy Graham than it is Trump, and he deserves praise for this.

Sadly I’ve noticed that many liberals and left-wingers could not even contain themselves. Instead of waiting for his body to grow cold, many liberals and lefties have unleashed on poor Graham in a vile manner. They have been joined in this by Internet atheists who couldn’t resist the chance to bash Christianity or any of its proponents. I shouldn’t say I’m surprised, as I am not. However a thought did occur to me: it is amazing that lefties and liberals are far more comfortable criticizing Graham (and Christianity) slinging all sorts of accusations that they would never be able to criticize Muslim mass murderers of, and who generally do embrace many of the bigotries they accuse Christians of.

I suppose it does tell you everything about modern left. Many of them do hate Christianity more than they hate any other ideology. I wonder if they were asked which did more damage to the world — Christianity, Nazism, Islamism or communism; I wonder how many would choose Christianity. It’s sad, but I think it’s time to be honest. Many on the left hate Christianity and their numbers are growing through ignorance, historical illiteracy and the collapse of conventional religion.

Anyway, that’s the rant, and it’s over. May God have mercy on Billy Graham. I hope St. John Paul II is there to greet him. Billy Graham deserves a great reward for bringing so many Christians back to the faith. I hope God is merciful. Ar dheis de go raibh an anam.

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The Modern Moses

 

Billy Graham passed from this world into the next at the amazing age of 99. I heard a quote by him today that is even inspiring amidst news of his passing. It was adapted from someone Rev. Graham admired, a 19th-century evangelist named Dwight L. Moody:

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive that I am now. I will have just changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

His legacy inspired and brought hope to presidents, and those of every race, creed and gender, even Dr. Martin Luther King, who told him, “You take the stadiums, I’ll take the streets.”

I read a story where the Bush family invited Billy Graham to Kennebunkport to meet with their son, George. George W. Bush described the walk they took through the rocky family compound, where he posed questions and doubts to Reverend Graham.

He said after that meeting, he made the decision to give up drinking and put his life and future in God’s hands.

Some in the media have made fun of people of faith, like that of Vice President Mike Pence, laughing when he says he talks to God and God talks back, likening it to a mental illness. Billy Graham would have answered that the Holy Spirit does speak, guides, comforts, admonishes, prompts, teaches, and moves mountains.

Ask the Pope, George W. Bush, or Mike Pence, and they’ll tell you what Billy Graham told millions. All you need to do is ask for help and watch the impossible unfold. Billy Graham was just the messenger. The message is still with us. God bless Reverend Graham and his family.

Update on Billy Graham’s funeral arrangements:

According to news reports about Mr. Graham’s funeral, plans are incomplete. What IS known is that he will be buried beside his wife at the Billy Graham Museum and Library (Charlotte, NC) in a simple plywood coffin made by prison inmates. Richard Liggett, who was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder, had found God in prison, and led a team of prisoners who built the coffins for the Graham family. Dr. Graham’s grave marker will read, “Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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16 Penny Summer

 

Summertime is the time for making money. Sophomore year of college was a good one, but there was void in my bank account that needed to be filled before I was properly funded for a good Junior year. Being an underclassman, and an English/Poly Sci major, there were no useful and certainly no profitable internships available to me. So I headed home and picked up the same job I had worked the previous summer; as an apprentice carpenter for a local remodeling contractor. There was plenty of work, and I had established myself as capable and available, so they paired me up with a lead carpenter by the name of Jimmy, and away we went.

I liked Jimmy from day one. He stood about 5’7”, had close-cropped blonde hair, and the permanent red-tan skin of a man who works outdoors. He walked with a certain swagger that is characteristic of all experienced framers, spoke with a loud clear voice, and used plenty of colorful language. He was a former military man and had racked up his carpentry experience working for engineering crews in the Army. When the boss introduced me to him as ‘Stu’, Jimmy immediately laughed and shouted, “like Disco Stu from the Simpsons!” I was “Disco” for the rest of the summer. He seemed to take a liking to me; I think Jimmy saw my curiosity and work ethic and knew I was someone he could work with.

We quickly became the framing team. We would walk on to a job with fresh concrete and a pile of lumber on Monday and walk away from a fully framed, neat and clean addition on Friday. I’m not sure how many we did that summer, but that pattern was the rule more than the exception; with a few filler projects mixed in to keep us busy when the Project Managers couldn’t get their schedules lined up quick enough for our ferocious pace. Framing is hard work; lifting heavy beams, hauling piles of lumber to locations with challenging access, throwing sheets of 5/8” plywood onto roofs; all under the relentless summer sun. There’s no shade when you are building a house; the project you’re working on is the very shelter that you wish you had. But I love a physical challenge, and when you added in the smell of the green lumber as it shredded into sawdust under the scream of the saws, the pop of the nail guns, the grind of the compressor, and of course, some mix of Alan Jackson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, Guns’N”Roses, and Garth Brooks (and plenty of off-key harmony) soaring over the top of our zealous industry, it created a captivating summer cocktail. I drank deeply.

There’s a sacred camaraderie that naturally forms when folks cooperatively engage in a physical undertaking. If you sweat together for long enough, you are family. Under that hot summer sun, Jimmy and I became a team; we hooted and hollered, laughed and sang, and above all, we worked. On one occasion, the Project Manager brought us to the building site that we would be framing in a week or two. At the moment, that site was occupied by several hundred square feet of concrete driveway that needed to come up. He gave us a digging bar and a 12-pound sledgehammer and told us to get started while he went to the yard to pick up a jackhammer. By the time he showed back up at the job site two hours later with the jackhammer, we had all the concrete busted up and half of it loaded into the rolloff dumpster. Jimmy and I took a moment to mock the Project Manager for thinking we needed a jackhammer in the first place; quipping that we’d of busted that concrete up with our fists if we needed to. We were invincible.

By mid-August, it was time to make some preparations to go back to school. After work hours, I began digging up my books and notes and wading through the summer sawdust that had filled my brain, trying to revive something of a mental foundation for the new school year. It was difficult. The transcendental themes of the romantic poets seemed a bit silly in light of the earthy progress of framing a home; the modern political theories of good governance seemed grandiose and more than a little pompous in light of the humble dirt and sweat of hard physical work in my hometown. A seed was planted that summer; I saw a clear disconnect between the soaring rhetoric and grand theory of the University, and the humble grind of the everyday man. It became something of a mission for me to figure out how to reconcile the world of the thinking man with the world of the working man.

Eventually, September came, and on the day of my final paycheck, the boss took Jimmy and me out to a big lunch. The paycheck was quite a bit larger than it usually was on that particular day, and I think it is safe to say that he had done as well by us as we had done by him that summer. Carpenters are not known for sentimentality or an ability to express complex emotion in words, so my farewell from Jimmy was brief; a colorful joke and an awkward handshake.

Three weeks later in my campus apartment, my phone rang while I was ploughing my way through Kant’s relentless sentences, and Jimmy’s jovial shout blasted through the earpiece at me. “Disco! What’s your address? I got something for you!!!” A few days later there was five-foot-tall tube waiting for me at the mail center. I opened it up to find a massive poster of Johnny Cash, middle finger raised to the camera. The note inside was a torn off corner of a yellow legal pad, the weapon of choice in the construction industry, and simply said, “Have a great year Disco.”

Another couple of weeks went by and out of the blue I got a call from my former boss. “Hey Stu, you haven’t seen Jimmy at all have you?” I certainly hadn’t, why would I? “Well… he didn’t show up for work last week, and a couple days later, the sheriff came by. It turns out he and his brother had half an acre’s worth of pot plants growing in their backyard, and were selling weed to folks all over the county. We also learned that he got kicked out of the military years ago for brewing heroin in storage closets, along with several other drug-related charges. For whatever reason, they think he’s headed to Mexico. Just thought I’d tell you, with you guys being buddies and all, and you being in San Diego. You might want to keep your distance.”

It’s no great surprise that I never saw or heard from Jimmy again, but I do think about him from time to time. It’s simultaneously fearful and wonderful that someone can all at once be a great hand, a great buddy, and an agent for better in the maturation process of a young man; yet at the same time be a crook and a drug peddler.

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We Could Have Won WWII But We Decided Winston Was a Bridge Too Far

 

10 May 1947, London Zeitung

by Stanley Baldwin

There was a time in May of 1940 that we came close to giving the country over to Winston [Churchill] but we turned away from that path and awarded the Prime Minister slot to Lord Halifax. Yes, it is possible that we could have won this last war if we had chosen him but it was considered indecorous and was thought of as perhaps telegraphing our desperation to the enemy. We knew Winston had a martial background and that he wanted to make a real fight of it but the cost to our reputations would have been too high. The war was rightly called the Phoney War because we had all but lost everything by that late date. As it turned out, of course, the war only lasted less than a year anyway.

Water under the bridge. Winning isn’t everything, after all. Think of the devastation that would have followed if Winston had had his way with the military. What would have happened, I wonder: bombing cities? fire bombing? desperate refugees fleeing across the country? starvation? homelessness?

What scared me the most was the prospect of the Russians in Berlin and us still defeated anyway. All Stalin needed was a couple more years to turn the tide — and with Winston as PM that might have given him that edge. Then Stalin would have had all the countries east of the Baltic and the Adriatic and probably more.

Later that year, with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, we saw the Americans entry into the Pacific war and at least — so far — they have knocked that barbaric regime back on it heels. So, all was not lost. Much good has come from the decisions we made at that time. It’s not perfect but it’s a result that allows us to hold our heads up high these days, knowing we had performed our duties well and to the best of our abilities.

[Translated from the original German]

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A Modest Proposal to Combat School Shootings

 

Since the school shooting in Broward County (right up the road from me), a whole lot of proposed remedies have been proffered, none that I’ve seen would work. Democrats immediately dusted off their bass drum with “ban guns” stenciled across the sides and began banging it all over the commons, trying to get people whipped up and in a gun-bannin’ fever. Republicans, and that ever-shrinking intersection of conservatives and Republicans, seem willing to cede the high ground and accept the premise that “something must be done” to solve the problem, and that the entity to do that “something” is the federal government.

Let’s see, that’s the federal government that got a tipper on Cruz well before he committed his obscene crime. No. Thanks.

Unfortunately, it has become a trope that the only person that can stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun. @henryracette gets to the heart of it, as does @therightnurse advocating gun education for educators.

What right looks like:

Feds stay out of the way, other than to provide top cover and strings-free assistance to states and municipalities.

Teachers, administrators, and staff are allowed concealed carry permissions on school grounds during the workday and school events on a voluntary basis. The number and names of teachers volunteering to take true responsibility for the safety of the kids in their charge will not be in the public domain. States and municipalities waive all licensing and certification fees for educators obtaining their concealed carry permit and pay for initial training. Subsidize the educators’ purchase of a fundamentally sound and reliable firearm. There are 1,001 subsidies that I’d be happy to criticize, this is one that I’d let slide for the nonce. Limit liability for educators involved in a righteous shoot; unless gross negligence or maliciousness is proven, indemnify them.

For parents and the community, allow licensed, responsible citizens with concealed carry licenses to donate their time to help provide a secure environment. Parents work miracles with the volunteer hours they spend at their child’s school. Let them contribute to this most important dimension of a quality education — getting through the school day alive. Armed parents, flooding the zone (as organized by the administration) can help secure the school during the school day, at athletic events, during assemblies, and during morning and afternoon ingress and egress activities. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had an armed law enforcement officer on the grounds — but one armed LEO cannot cover down on the whole school. Plenty of parents and concerned citizens would be willing to give of their time to prevent a massacre.

I don’t think that parents’ certifications and weapons should be subsidized. If you weren’t willing to pay full freight to protect your kin and kith before there were financial incentives, you’re probably not the right guy. If you realize you can share in the protection of your child and his classmates and assess the full freight as a small price to pay, you probably are the right person for the job. A parent (or member of the community) should be able to deduct range fees and ammunition purchases if he or she has volunteered for X hours providing security for the school.

In general, mass shooters abandon their nefarious activities when confronted, and either kill themselves or surrender. There are no mass shooters that I can find that decided to shoot it out with the police once the police were on site and able to effectively engage him. While evil, the lord-of-death fantasy mass shooters’ share is fragile, and once it’s popped the shooting stops.

At Columbine, the death toll was much higher than it needed to be because LE waited for back up/SWAT. Now, most LE advocate sending in officers on a “go when you show” basis, on the premise that a lone officer can abrupt the shooter’s fantasy and stop the killing. The mere possibility that an armed citizenry has “flooded the zone” will provide a heavy deterrent to mass shooters.

This modest proposal would do more to provide for the safety, security, and protection of our children in their schools than any ban, expanded background check, and possibly any investigative initiatives. Anyone who goes ballistic at the thought of “militarizing our schools” needs to be told to sit down and shut up, as this is “for the children.”

I call on Republican leadership to stand up, summon that glistening tear to the eye and the frog in the throat, and declare passionately with voices quavering with emotion, “If this will save just one life, how can you vote against it?”

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The Big Pile of Gun Facts to Share with People

 

America is once again going to spend the next fortnight in the grips of a debate which is, unfortunately, all too common: the role of guns in our society in light of the horrific events in Parkland, FL.

Depressingly, many people — particularly, many on the Left — are ignorant regarding guns, how they work, what they are and what the facts regarding gun violence in this country are. Ignorance is not stupidity and is remediable, so this article will be mostly aimed at people on the left because this is where remediation is most in demand.

In the interest of cutting through some of the chaff that exists out there regarding guns, I’ve put together some facts so that people can discuss the topic from a point of common knowledge.

Part one: Guns and terminology

(Again, I apologize if this is remedial learning for Conservatives who own or are familiar with guns; the genuine ignorance regarding them demands that we have a brief talk about this.)

When an incident like the Parkland massacre happens, one of the very first terms that the media throw into the mix in order to describe the weapon used by the killer is “assault rifle” or “AR-15.” The first term is politically charged, bringing to mind the rifles carried by soldiers in combat. Any weapon used to commit violence could be accurately described as “an assault _____.” Assault Brick. Assault Bat. Assault Battery Acid. The second term “AR-15” is actually a reference to the product line of a specific manufacturer – the ArmaLite Model 15 rifle. This term doesn’t stand for “Assault Rifle,” contrary to popular opinion.

The main difference between these AR-15 rifles and their more traditional-looking counterparts is their use of plastics and other alloys on the stock, handle and barrel, in addition to frequently having a pistol grip rather than a traditional trigger guard and stock assembly.

See below for a depiction of the differences between a more traditional-style hunting rifle and an AR-15:

On the left is a Ruger Mini-14, .223 caliber rifle, and on the right, an “AR-15” version, the Ruger SR-556 with pistol grip and other features associated with that style of weapon.

Each of these guns fires the same ammunition (the same caliber, in this case, the .223 Remington shell) and each of these weapons is “semi-automatic,” which means that when a round is loaded in the chamber and the shooter fires the gun. The gases from the burning of smokeless powder in the cartridge both propel the bullet down the barrel, and actuate the ejection mechanism. This removes the spent shell and loads the next round into the firing chamber, recocking the firing pin, allowing the user to fire the weapon again by pulling the trigger.

These are not machine guns. Machine guns fire at very high rates of speed in an “automatic” fashion, meaning that when the user pulls the trigger, the weapon will continuously reload itself and continue to fire until the user releases the trigger.

The differences between the two weapons above are essentially cosmetic; operationally, they are practically identical. Yet the one on the right is considered an “Assault Rifle” in the parlance offered by the media and the one on the left, a more benign-looking “hunting rifle.” Obviously, the rifle on the right is shown with a larger capacity magazine (essentially a spring-loaded box which allows the feeding of each subsequent round into the firing chamber.)

Other examples of semi-automatic firearms include most commonly known handguns such as the Glock 9mm or any double-action revolver. There is a practically infinite variety of such long and handguns, including semi-automatic shotguns.

Estimates vary, but by some reckonings, there are between 250-300 million guns of all types in the hands of private owners across the United States today.

Part 2: Guns and Crime in America

When thinking about crime in the United States, it’s impossible to not consider guns and the effect that they have. We are the third largest nation in the world by population and have by far the world’s largest GDP. The US is an outlier in a variety of measures.

Beginning with the general, however, it should be noted that in that after peaking in or around 1993, the rate of Reported Violent Crime in the United States has declined by almost half:

(Annual Rates reported in incidents per hundred thousand people; Source: The FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Data system)

This result is most frequently a surprise to partisans on the right; Conservatives of a law and order bent, having been raised on tales of the vast epidemic of crime which bedevils inner cities have trouble adjusting themselves to the fact that the nation hasn’t seen rates of criminality this low since the halcyon days of the 50’s. How did this seemingly paradoxical result occur?

Criminologists have debated the root cause of the secular decline in crime and arrived at a variety of conclusions. Some of them point to improved economic conditions in depressed areas; others point to improved policing techniques and longer prison sentences for violent criminals. Still others like Stephen Levitt hypothesized that the legalization of abortion in 1973 resulted in an overall reduction of the population which was most likely to engage in criminal careers; indeed, in 1993, a man born in 1975 would have turned 18, which is the prime age for the initiation of serious criminal activity… and coincidentally that just happens to be the year in which American crime began its remarkable fall.

What ought to discomfit liberals about this data just as much as it confounds conservatives is whom these improved policing techniques, longer prison sentences, and abortions are being practiced on: typically, residents of inner cities and ethnic minorities. Disentangling correlation from causation in this regard is complicated by the fact that these policies are routinely decried as “racist” today, yet their adoption coincided with that fall in crime.

Whatever the cause of this decline in criminality, another factor remains unaccounted for, yet is germane to the discussion: the number of guns in private hands.

As was already discussed, the number of guns in America is fairly phenomenal; Pew research has studied the question of gun ownership for decades, and come to the conclusion that between the years of 1973 and 2013, there was only a negligible decline in the number of households where there was a gun. Consequently, there doesn’t seem to be a causal link between the rate of criminality and the percentage of households that report owning a gun.

Digging further into the data, one should next want to know just how many people are being killed and in what manner. Again, the FBI’s data is incredibly illuminating:

This tabulation of 2014’s homicides are not atypical – I invite you to review the data from past years on the FBI website. The first, surprising bit of data which ought to jump out at you first is that only about 2/3 of murder victims in the country died due to gun violence. Even if we assumed that there weren’t readily available replacements for guns and we could wave a magic wand causing all guns to evaporate, there were still quite a few murders by other means.

Surprise number two: Just in case you thought that rifles were a scourge upon the land and responsible for vast quantities of death and destruction, keep in mind how much more frequently other modes of death than rifles were chosen in 2014:

You were 6 times as likely to be stabbed to death

3 times as likely to be punched or kicked to death

Twice as likely to be bludgeoned to death

I point this out not to minimize even a single death — but merely to make the point that the problem of murder in America is much larger than the single issue of rifles, which account for around 2% of the total reported wrongful homicides – far less than the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Handguns are by far the single, largest category of weapon used in murders. This makes a certain sense: they’re small, easily concealed and hugely multiply the force of their owner, which explains their prevalence in wrongful deaths. Of course, an honest accounting of that shockingly large number would lead a person to notice that huge numbers of these deaths were the result of gang-land activity; turf-wars, initiations and the like.

If you were to strip such killings out of the overall numbers, the US murder rate begins to draw much closer to that of its OECD partners. The thesis of many social scientists in this regard is that ready access to guns in the US has the effect of escalating situations and making the consequences of the sorts of encounters mentioned above far more serious. I think that for a certain subset of people that is true – a very tiny bump of them highly likely to use violence to settle disputes. Fortunately, we know they’re an outlier. How?

Have a peek at this graphic:

If you believe what such social scientists have to say about “guns causing violence,” the American murder rate must be an incredible outlier… incredibly low given the number of guns we have as a whole.

Part 3: Potential Remedies to Mass Shootings

Following in the wake of any one of the modern scourge of mass-killings that have occurred since the 24-hour news cycle began — essentially, Columbine in 1999 — the calls have been fairly consistent from one side of the aisle: for restrictions on gun rights, including and up to gun confiscation.

Well before Columbine, (late in 1994) the Clinton Administration championed and managed to pass the apple of many gun control advocates’ eyes: the Assault Weapons Ban. By the time any measurable effect from that ban could be seen, crime was already well into its post-1993 collapse phase. Add to this the fact that “assault weapons” comprise such a tiny percentage of overall murders, it would hardly make sense for such legislation to have an effect on the overall murder rate.

As an observation purely of the political tactics involved, this legislation was folly; Calling it “Wishful thinking” on the Democrats’ part cannot describe what a meaningless appeal to the emotions of people lacking in knowledge of firearms it truly was. What’s worse for Democrats was that it’s hard to argue that it was effective in any real way, given that when the Act expired in 2004, it was not accompanied by anything like a surge of murders.

It’s also arguable that the Assault Weapons Ban did serious damage to the Democrat party’s electoral prospects, as a scant two months after its passage, Republicans swept into control of both Houses of Congress in an historic wave election. Obviously, there were other issues at hand but ’94 marks the first time that the Democrats’ naked hostility to gun owners spurred voters to go to the polling place — and to the gun store, as in the case of President Obama.

As an interesting counterfactual exercise: is there anybody who thinks that a vociferously pro-gun Hillary Clinton campaign could have lost the 2016 election?

Suffice to say, there is very little taste in this nation for restrictions on gun rights. In fact, it’s gone the other direction. The following graphic displays how states have successively voted for ever greater gun rights for their citizens over time, switching inexorably from “No Issue” for concealed carry, to “Shall Issue” to “unregulated” in many cases which means that people are free to carry concealed firearms in that state without a license.

So, it seems discussion of outright gun bans, gun confiscation or gun buyback programs as a means of curbing violence — particularly the sort of violence that we saw in Parkland — are going to fail utterly, because not only do gun owners have no interest in participating, but the sort of violence we’re seeking to curb doesn’t lend itself to being solved via high-handed action at the Federal Government level. The guns which these perpetrators purchased have routinely been obtained legally. So how can we begin to move the needle in the opposite direction?

As a conservative, I believe people respond to incentives. Even people who are crazy; at least, “crazy” in the sense that they want to carry out a mass-casualty attack. To that end, we have to examine the incentives that we have created for such persons.

The current crop of potential mass-killers seems to be driven by two things: severe mental illness or the desire to obtain fame and rack up a body-count in excess of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine. To that end, the policy of media outlets ought to be to not use the name of mass-killing perpetrators in order to deny them the thing they so desire.

The second is that we need to shift the incentive structure around the targets themselves. As it stands, we have created what amount to vast, target rich and resistance-free environments for sufficiently motivated would-be murderers. That needs to end.

When my family and I recently visited Washington, DC what I noticed immediately at our national monuments, museums and capital was the universal presence of armed security. The same was true for our visit to the theme parks in Florida. Attempted mass-killers don’t attack places like “police stations” or other locations where highly-armed and trained resistance is readily apparent.

If a potential mass-killer knew that walking into a school with a gun meant that within a few seconds they would be facing down well-armed and trained resistance in the form of a gun-wielding security guard or police officer, this ought to shift the calculus in their minds. The window which they would potentially have to kill would be shortened sufficiently that it seems unlikely many would attempt it, given that their primary goal (mass killing) would be denied them.

The paradox of security is that attacks which are deterred by it are a dog that doesn’t bark. The argument that armed security would turn schools into “shooting galleries” or “fortresses” ignores utterly the lack of such killings or attempted killings going on at other locations where you have large numbers of unarmed people, yet where security is efficient and obvious.

When you deny people the right to defend themselves, the expectation is that you will provide security for them in lieu of their own prerogative. We’ve seen enough of these killings to know that doing the same thing repeatedly is going to generate similar results. Let’s hope that sooner rather than later, policy-makers will notice this insanity and change it.

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A Simple Observation

 

If half the stuff the anti-2nd Amendment advocates claim were true, all of the left-leaning media outlets would being doing hidden camera exposés on it. We would be inundated with stories of underage kids, felons, and other prohibited individuals purchasing guns. Everyone talks about the “gun show loophole” but nobody produces evidence of it. That’s because they know better. The system works 99.98 percent of the time.

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90 Percent of All Stats Are Made Up on the Spot

 

This was originally meant to be a comment on @belt‘s recent post but got way too long.

As a gun owner, it’s difficult to respond after a mass shooting. The loss is real and sickening and the emotion is deep; to try and make an argument that is not an emotion-filled plea to prevent this from happening in the futures seems callous and untimely. Maybe the best course of action for gun owners is to sit quietly like the friends of Job and mourn with the mourning. But it’s hard to stay quiet when the political left is out in force, making as much hay as they can. In a large sense, a gun owner is faced with the option to remain respectfully silent, or indecorously present heartless facts to a mourning nation.

I found this Washington Post presentation from late last week to be a pretty interesting interactive article. While it’s not the most biased article I’ve read on the subject, it’s pretty clear that this compilation of statistics is meant to prop up the folks in favor of limiting our Second Amendment Rights. Yet at the same time, using the statistics from this article that I would call “left-leaning, but trying hard to be fair” and putting them in a larger context gave me an interesting perspective. Here are the key points from the article:

There is no universally accepted definition of a public mass shooting, and this piece defines it narrowly. It looks at the 150 shootings in which four or more people were killed by a lone shooter (two shooters in a few cases). It does not include shootings tied to gang disputes or robberies that went awry, and it does not include shootings that took place exclusively in private homes. A broader definition would yield much higher numbers…

1,077 Killed. The people who were killed came from nearly every imaginable race, religion and socioeconomic background. Their ages range from the unborn to the elderly; 176 were children and teenagers. In addition, thousands of survivors were left with devastating injuries, shattered families and psychological scars…

292 Guns. Shooters often carried more than one weapon; one was found with 24. At least 167 of mass shooters’ weapons were obtained legally and 49 were obtained illegally. It’s unclear how 76 weapons were acquired.

153 Shooters. Some of these mass shooters were known to have violent tendencies or criminal pasts. Others seemed largely fine until they attacked. All but 3 were male. The vast majority were between the ages of 20 and 49. More than half — 88 of them — died at or near the scene of the shooting, often by killing themselves…

150 Shootings. In the 50 years before the Texas tower shooting, there were just 25 public mass shootings in which four or more people were killed, according to author and criminologist Grant Duwe. Since then, the number has risen dramatically, and many of the deadliest shootings have occurred within the past few years…

The contextual evidence I would provide is from this CNN.com article (I deliberately tried to find left-biased articles whose authors are attempting to be objective in order to try and fight my own personal confirmation bias on the subject). The biggest piece that I would take from this article is their argument that 21 percent of Americans are gun owners. Personally, I thought there was some nuance that this article glossed over in coming to that conclusion about gun ownership, but for the sake of context, I’ll grant their point.

These are the statistics I came up with using the foundation of these two articles, using their numbers and their conclusions:

  • 150 events over 40.5 years. 150 really bad days out of 18,454 days, or 0.8 percent of days.
  • 1,077 killed. If our current population is 323 million, then .00034 percent of our population has been killed by these events. (This is a flawed number because it takes the current population and compares it to an aggregate total of those killed over the last 40 years in these events. However, if I did the work to try and get this number more accurate by gathering population numbers over the last 40 years, it would only make the percentage number even smaller. Since that only strengthens my point, and I don’t have time to do that much work on this project, I’ll leave the numbers as they stand.)
  • 157 perpetrators. If we take the CNN article’s numbers of gun owners, that gives us 67,980,000 gun owners in the US. This means that .00023 percent of gun owners commit these type of crimes. (This statistic has the same aggregation problems as the last one.)
  • 292 guns. If there’s a gun for every American as the CNN article’s title holds, then .00009 percent of weapons in America are used for these crimes (same aggregation problems).

So it seems to me that those who would impose gun control based on mass-shooting statistics are attempting to restrict or revoke the rights of a minimum of 68 million people, or 21 percent of Americans, because of the actions of .00023 percent of their specific population (.000049 percent of the entire US population), who are using .00009 percent of the total firearms in the US to perform atrocities that statistically happen very infrequently. Now, I’m no statistician or much of student of these things in any way; all my calculations were done on my iPhone to see if I could verify a certain hunch.

These events break my heart and make me sick to my stomach. It disgusts me that we have to consider armed security for our schools. It angers me that members within my personal demographic of gun owners would do something like this and threaten the rights of those of us who own and use our weapons responsibly. There is an incredibly heavy emotional toll that these shootings take on our populace that can only be measured over time. Yet to this point, I think it has borne out that gun control legislation is hard to pass, even in blue states, and I think that the statistics presented above probably have something to do with it. I also believe that the left probably cares far less about “meaningful gun control” than they do about gaining an opportunity to appear morally superior to scary gun owners.

Thanks and please feel free to debate my numbers and points. I would be the last to call myself an expert and would love to test my theories against a real pro.

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Random Observations from MIA

 

I love people watching, and probably the best place to do that is the airport. Miami International Airport is my point of departure, 90 percent of the time. No better place to just sit and watch people than MIA.

On Men:

We conservatives often bemoan the sad state of manhood. I submit that bemoaning is justified.

  • Men, don’t go out in public wearing a sleeveless muscle tee if you have pipe-cleaner arms.
  • In the same vein (heh), don’t get tatted up full-sleeve if you have pipe-cleaner arms.
  • When did facial hair make such a come-back? Pre-9/11, 99 percent of men were shorn of facial hair. Then a bunch of guys with beards bushwack us, and now, lo these 17 years later, everyone has beards — or facial hair of some type. ‘Course, the guys we sent to kill the guys that came to kill us all grew beards, too. Maybe it’s a wash. I’m not saying this to be snarky; I got a beard. I’ll probably be able to keep it ’til March, then it’ll get too darn hot. I just wonder, “what the heck triggered the beards?”
  • Saw one guy covered with tats. Up and around his ears; had a spider web starting in the webbing ‘twixt thumb and forefinger and traveled across the back of his hand. Dude, are you a badass or a poser? Because if you’re going where I’m going, poser tats will get you killed. I watched this guy off and on for two hours, lovingly pulling stuff out of his kid’s travel backpack to keep him happy and occupied. No artifice or affectation. I settled on badass.
  • If you’re my age (50+) and wearing a KISS T-shirt, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Just a couple years ago, I only ever heard the term “skinny-fat” from my girls talking about other girls who may well be slender but have no tonus in their muscles. It appears that the “skinny-fat” phenomenon has pole-vaulted the gender gap.
  • Most of the guys that aren’t bloachmoads look like they had pharmaceutical assistance. Not a lot of old time, hard-muscle guys around.
  • Ooh. Even worse than pipe-cleaner arms and a muscle tee? Pipe-cleaner arms and a pink polo shirt. You’re supposed to wear pink to demonstrate you’re secure in your masculinity, not to demonstrate you’ve capitulated it.
  • I like yoga. I do yoga. (Kinda/sorta. If you didn’t already know what I was doing, you’d say, “that’s yoga.”) But, dude, don’t strap your rolled-up yoga mat onto the side of your carry-on backpack. Add some toxicity to your masculinity, son. -3 on the man card. -5 if you’re skinny-fat.

Women:

  • Young ladies, if you’re going to dress as scantily or sexily or whatever as you can, at least have the courage to adapt the persona and carriage that go with your outfit. Nothing more pathetic than a young lady that wore her sexies to the airport and then walks around with downcast eyes like a scared puppy dog, looking like she wishes she were invisible.
  • Mature-to-middle-aged ladies seem to be the most grounded, self-assured people in the airport.

People in general:

  • People from flyover country — particularly the midwest — seem to be able to identify each other immediately from a football field away, introduce themselves to their fellow travelers, and become fast friends on the spot.
  • Captain Obvious just called in, wanted me to note that if your personal technique is to shut off your phone as soon as you get to the airport and don’t turn it on again until you arrive on the other side, watching how obsessively people stare at their phones is jarring.
  • Kids are awesome. Most of the fun of people-watching at the airport comes from their antics.
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For a Friend Dead Five Years

 

I can hardly believe it’s been that long since that awful period of shuddering grief. But the date is on my calendar, the same one I use to keep,track of birthdays. And it was on the little plastic pill jar in which some of my friend’s ashes were delivered to me: February 21, 2013.

The death of a contemporary, someone you have chosen and who chose you, I think, is different from the deaths of parents or older family members. (May we all long be spared the death of a spouse or sibling!) Perhaps because we’re more likely to be involved with the prolonged and undeniable dying of a relative. The unexpected death of someone you spoke to yesterday and were planning to call tomorrow, is more like stepping on a land mine. Parts of you are blown away, you’re scared to even look to see which parts.

Living you made it goodlier to live
Dead you will make it easier to die.

…wrote George Santayana, in To W.P. There is that. Dead is what, or where, so many good and great people are. But that’s not all there is to grief.

I read somewhere that in acute bereavement the survivor is possessed by the spirit of the departed. Grief is a haunting; this grief was. Past years of our friendship unreeled unbidden in my mind, as might be expected. But the film didn’t stop there. Dickens was right:

“Ghost of the future!” Scrooge exclaims, ” I fear you more than any spectre I have yet seen.”

The spirit says nothing, merely points a rigid finger inexorably toward what Scrooge fears, yet cannot choose but see. To my horror, I could not help picturing, even though I had never thought of it before, what would have happened had we both had lived on. Would we have been separated eventually by the intractable physical immobility of extreme old age? Would one of us have had to observe the pathetic extinguishment by dementia of the other’s personality? Would we have, perhaps, even before those dreaded days, simply drifted apart, willingly or absent-mindedly relinquishing the conversation which had been so important to us for so long? Would the time have come when I, who in grief missed my friend so painfully, would just not care any longer that this person whose company I had once craved was still alive?

None of these scenarios generated any kind of comfort, like, “well, at least that can’t happen!” No, as each such phantom future unreeled before me, I felt in turn the grief and loss each would have entailed, a heavy overlay on the immediate sorrow.

Reader: have you ever experienced this? I might think I was the only one, except for Santayana:

In my deep heart these chimes would still have rung
To toll your parting, had you not been dead,
For time a sadder mask than death may spread
Over the face that ever should be young.

In one of her poems, Edna St. Vincent Millay says to a departed friend: I may not have done much for you while you were alive, but I did outlive you, and that is much! Yes. I remember thinking that my friend could never have gotten through my death without me.

Grief flattens and subsides like rocks beneath a stream. The living get on with it. The time comes when you’re lucky if there’s anyone to share memories of the lost with, no one who wouldn’t think it kinda weird after, say, five years. But they are there, a stone to trouble the living stream, as Yeats put it.

Santayana, finally:

…And though the after world will never hear
The happy name of one so gently true,
Nor chronicles write large that fatal year,
Yet we who loved you, though we be but few,
Keep you in whatsoe’er is good, and rear
In our weak virtues monuments to you.

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Is Addiction a Sin or a Disease?

 

I had another conversation that went like this. A man from church tells me of his daughter who got clean in AA. He admires the twelve steps but says that he has a disagreement. AA thinks that alcoholism (or the many other 12-step ailments) is a disease that needs to be managed through meetings and program for the rest of her life. The church thinks it is a sin that needs to be repented of towards a deeper cure in Christ.

I’ve also heard the conversation the other way. Someone in the rooms talks about his addictive disease. He rejects the moralistic teaching of the church and the idea of sin. He has come to believe that the god of his understanding doesn’t judge and pretty much accepts him the way he is.

When the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous spoke of addiction as a disease they were attempting to describe what was not understood in the 1930’s. The popular assumptions of the day were that if someone was a drunk, they were weak and were morally deficient. But this flew in the face of people who were strong and moral in every aspect of their life except in this one area. In their addiction, they were fighting on an unfair playing field.

Most people when drinking alcohol enjoy it until their body tells them to stop. But if someone who is constitutionally an alcoholic drinks, they don’t have the same reaction at all. They have a different physiological reaction much like people allergic to strawberries have a different reaction than the rest of us. The alcoholic develops an intense phenomenon of craving. There is something in their very being that longs and pines for more. Adding to this strange reaction of the body, their mind begins to obsess over it. As a result, they get another drink triggering once more this phenomenon of craving putting them on an endless cycle. This combination of craving of body and obsession of mind is what AA calls disease.

Behavioral addictions are similar though there are some differences. Unlike alcohol which can usually be avoided, sexual ideas can drop into one’s head at any moment. When the addict says “yes” to the idea on some level, it too triggers a strong internal euphoria much like the alcoholic craving. Add to this an obsessive mind (justified by Hugh Hefner’s concept of fantasy and our societies celebration of most things sexual), the only thing that awaits is opportunity and unaccountability.

Most people don’t encounter this craving of body and obsession of mind. Someone with an addiction does. In 12-step programs, the first three steps address this. Step one is the addict’s acknowledgment of this disease made up of craving and obsession and the unmanageability and havoc it has brought. Step two gives hope of sanity coming from a God who is not them. Step three is a commitment of action to stop trusting one’s own instinct and take direction from a higher power and authority.

But what of sin? The twelve step program of AA is not Christian but it does have Christian roots. Christian ideas and principles were not abandoned when the approved material was written. While disease is seen in step one through three, the reality of sin is seen in many of the other steps.

I once asked an Evangelical pastor when do we practice the admonition in James, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Other than a minority of Catholics who go to confession, the church has largely abandoned this.

Nevertheless, in AA and other twelve step groups, this is the high point of step work. Step four instructs the addict to make a through, written inventory of their life – misdeeds, resentments, fears, financial indiscretions, sexual unfaithfulness. In step five, the addict reads this inventory to another person, usually their sponsor. This coming clean process is much more thorough in dealing with one’s personal sins than most churches are where coming clean is often mumbling a brief mental confession to God a few minutes before the bread and wine arrives.

In step six and seven, the inventory is used to identify and pray for the removal of character defects. If there was no moral or sin component, why would one think that one’s actions sprung forth out of character defects? The action of sin springs forth from what I am as a fallen human being and bringing that fallenness to God in prayer is something both 12 step and the church have in common.

Finally, step eight and nine reviews the inventory and character defects to work on a plan to make amends to all that the addict has hurt. Again, the question can be asked if addiction includes no sin or moral component, why this insistence on making amends? After all, if I have a disease, the time and money I stole from the job couldn’t be helped. But twelve step teaches nothing of the sort.

I remember an epiphany when talking to a pastor about the moral wrongness of pornography as it was beginning to emerge on the scene as a new, major addiction. The pastor turned to me and says, “Dave, the people I work with know what they are doing is wrong.” The church can be stuck in this trap of thinking that if we only tell all addicts of substance and behavior that what they are doing is wrong (and even back it up with Bible verses), they will somehow have the strength and stamina to walk away. The lesson of groups such as AA is that it is not that simple. In many, there is a whirlwind of insanity, triggering, and obsession that puts the addict in a trap that she is not able to simply walk out of. Starting with the moral component doesn’t put out this strange fire. It stokes the fire further with the addition of shame.

On the other hand, there are many in 12-sstep that fall into the opposite trap of believing in a god they made up in their head and really approves and likes everything they do. Sin does not exist because this god always agrees with them. Nevertheless, conservative churches and synagogues remind us of a transcendent God who has spoken into the world laws and rules and social orders. A Creator-God implies there is a way things really are that are unalterable in spite of the impulses, longing, and personal narratives of the subjective heart. When we depart from these laws and rules and social orders, we hurt ourselves and others, human flourishing is diminished, and our relationship with God is damaged. This is the very reason we come clean with our sins, address character defects, and make amends to others.

So is addiction a disease or a sin? It is both but AA has shown that addressing the disease first brings the better hope for recovery. The church reminds us not to get lost in our own head and understanding when looking to the Divine.

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We Need a Little Winter

 

Since February is pretty much the middle of winter, this month’s Group Writing theme is “We Need a Little Summer.” Much of the country is in the midst of cold, wintry weather and would probably like a little bit of summer.

I’m afraid I must take a contrary view. Here in Southern California, We Need a Little Winter!

Let’s take the high-desert community of Anza/Aguanga, tucked in between Temecula and Palm Desert. Roughly 3,500 feet above sea level, from mid-January through mid-February, the average high temperature was 65°F with almost two weeks with highs in the 70s. At 3,500 feet! This is 10 degrees warmer than last winter (we are talking weather here, not climate).

Then there’s the lack of rain. In this same area from mid-January to mid-February, there was 0.18 inches of rain. Last year there was five inches in the same period. I’ll admit last year was a wet year (weather again, not climate) but the statistics from downtown Los Angeles tell a story of very little rain, with us being 79 percent off of a normal year’s rain.

So, while we are having what many people would consider enviable weather, I’d like a little bit more winter. There are some storms in the forecast, so I hope they come through and give us something like this, taken several years ago in the high desert.


This is a part of the February Group Writing Series. Spots are available for the March Group Writing Topic, Feats of Strength!

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Ignore #NeverAgain

 

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” — Ronald Reagan

As RR’s quote above reminds us, it has been ever thus. The usual suspects (Bloomberg, Soros, Moore, etc.) are now dragging some teenagers out to be their front-men in their renewed assault on the West. All free-thinking people should simply ignore them. There is no more basis to strip us of the right of self-defense now than there was before this mass killing. It is only the Left that reaches precisely the opposite of the reasonable conclusion. Just when we need to be prepared more than ever to self-defend, the Left wants to strip us of the ability. Just like they want to gut the right to free speech and to free exercise at the moment that it is needed most.

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“And Those Who Munch on Tide Pods Shall Lead…”

 

Just like in the movie Heathers, the kids from Parkland High School figured out pretty quickly that parroting the media’s Gun Control Narrative will get them on TV. Just to demonstrate how silly it’s gotten, deranged law professor Lawrence Tribe wants to lower the voting age to 16 so Generation Tide Pod can share its wisdom with us.

Teens between 14 and 18 have far better BS detectors, on average, than “adults” 18 and older. Wouldn’t it be great if the voting age were lowered to 16? Just a pipe dream, I know, but . . . #Children’sCrusade?

No, professor, teenagers do not possess finely tuned BS detectors. Their lack of life experience and desire for validation make them much easier to manipulate than adults. Have you seen the 21st Century hipster mullet high school kids are wearing? Nobody with common sense and a rational worldview gets a haircut like that.

And this is an interesting aside that the media won’t cover because it goes against The Narrative. The Parkland Head Case (whose name I won’t mention) was not referred by school officials to law enforcement — even for offenses like assault and possession of bullets on school property — because of the school’s race-progressive policy of not reporting black and Hispanic offenders. (This sort “educational equity” policy was encouraged under the Obama administration to “combat racial disparities in discipline.”)

By the way, at least one Florida teacher says that the problem isn’t gun, but general societal dysfunction and moral breakdown. No, she will not be offered a speaking slot at the next CNN “town hall.” Also, a grown-up survivor of the Columbine mass-murder has introduced a bill in Colorado to permit concealed carry in schools. This goes against the media’s preferred narrative, and so she will not be getting a speaking gig on CNN.

ABC News took the time to further the Gun Control Narrative by highlighting a video from a guy who virtue-signalishly destroyed the AR-15 he has owned for 30 years so that “it can never be used to kill anyone.” Hey, wait a minute. You mean this guy kept an AR-15 for 30 years and it never once went on a murder rampage? It must be broken or something.

Somebody else who is benefiting from the Democrat Media Complex’s prerogative to reward its ideological fellows is Olympic skater Adam Rippon, who was offered a gig with NBC. Not because of his tenth-place-worthy skating or brilliant insights into sport, but because he attacked a Republican Vice President. The Left takes care of its own.

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School Shootings: Do We Really Care?

 

Because, if we really care, there’s really only one response that has a chance of significantly limiting the violence in the short term. Everything else requires asking people to surrender rights — First, Second, and Fourth Amendment rights — that they will refuse to surrender.

There’s only one practical answer, and it doesn’t require that anyone surrender rights, nor that a large number of people be convinced to do something they don’t want to do, nor that some kind of miracle of mental health care occur. It requires that a relatively small number of people take responsibility for the safety of our school children.

It’s pretty simple: Encourage willing and competent school staff to be trained to carry weapons.

That will offend a lot of people. That’s okay. There are worse things than being offended.

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120 lb. Women Cannot Throw 240 lb. Men Around – in General*

 

It is a wrong to feed this false notion to young girls. This is basic science. This is politically motivated crap that pours into our daily lives through movies and other fantasies of the leftist variety. However, there are three recent examples of women in movies who have the true grit to physically and psychologically go up against many men and many manly men, too. Below are shown my three favorite women of these real types in the movies recently (but my heart belongs to Brienne of Tarth, middle … click to see why – UPDATED to higher res video).

Click to see my excerpt of Brienne as a woman in full. From Left to Right: Mary Agnes of “Godless,” Brienne of Tarth from “Game of Thrones” and Jane Cannary from “Deadwood.”

Interestingly, the movies above are all TV series and not single movies – also, they are my top three favorite series with the number 1 slot going to “Game of Thrones,” the number 2 to “Deadwood,” and “Godless” is third. I hadn’t considered this until just now, but it makes sense because the writers, actors and the directors all show some common sense and that helps these movies immensely and it’s almost not fair because common sense is in such short supply in Hollywood.

So, with that background to prove that I’m not a misogynist nor a reactionary, let me show you something to cogitate on. Here, I show the weight classes for boxers. You’ll notice in the lower weight classes that the differences considered significant are in the realm of three to five pounds! Now, these movies over the last couple decades foist the notion that with good training in jujitsu or karate that women can “use the other person’s weight and energy against him.” This is true, but there are practical limits and these limits are different for men than women — in general.*

For one thing, there is the weight distribution difference for men versus women. For the same weight, a man will have more weight in his upper body and the woman will have relatively more weight lower than the man – in general.* Second, muscle tone is better in men than women. If you don’t like this explanation, then at least you can agree that if you watch the women in these fantasy movies they are women who don’t sport great muscle tone (but they do look fabulous) – in general.* But, we are asked to believe that they are just well trained in the arts of taking people down and flipping people.

Next, and probably the most ridiculous, is the ability to take a punch. After that is the ability to give a punch. We are constantly expected to believe that a woman can take a punch from a man who outweighs her by 50 pounds or much more. (This is still true in spite of the fact that I know that this is also true for men fighting men in the movies – there should be many more broken noses and more teeth loosened or knocked out.) Just look at those weight class numbers and realize that they come from a lot of experience over the years and they reflect a very important issue – that of weight in fights. It’s considered unfair to have people outclassed in terms of weight and they know what they are talking about. Don’t forget that boxing classes are based on men who are in shape, very fit, and well-built and even then weight is the all-important parameter, more important than height or arm reach or leg length or weight distribution. Men dominate in all of these classes as compared to women.

Our society, our women teachers (teachers are 76 percent women nowadays!) are teaching about girl power all the time now – it’s everywhere you look. Implicitly, this is done at the expense of boys – else why is it being drummed in so much. If they really were as powerful as boys then they wouldn’t spend so much time on propaganda of this sort. Don’t forget that girls are smart, too. Implicit is the idea that they are smarter – than whom, you ask – well how many other categories are there in children in schools these days?

* In general means to convey the request: please don’t come up with anecdotal evidence to dispute a general proposition – instead, argue with the point being made. I have to add this footnote nowadays with all issues of this type.

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The Marvel-ous Culture

 
Jon Bernthal as “The Punisher” (Marvel Studios)

I am not an aficionado of comic books. I can not argue the merits of Marvel vs. DC. The only comics-based movie I can attest to seeing in the theater was Superman with Christopher Reeve and that was in a whole different universe called “1978.” Fast forward 40 years and my wife suggests we sit down and watch a Netflix series called The Punisher. She hooked me with the words “former Marine.”

OK, I’m in. But first, we have to watch another Marvel/Netflix offering called Daredevil where the protagonist, Frank Castle, is introduced. To put it bluntly, these two series are blood porn. They are violent beyond brutality and after a period of time, like sexual pornography, they are incredibly desensitizing — both in the portrayal of the violence and in the casual manner in which human life is snuffed out.

In a nutshell, these programs are also glorifications of vigilantism and the concept of justifiable revenge. If someone were to suggest that these shows had the slightest impact on the emotionally immature and mentally unstable who then seek to act out their own fantasy revenge scenarios through mass murder you can bet that there would be cries of censorship and laments about artistic freedom. A $300 million rights fee and $40 million production budget per series lament. While the leftists in Hollywood have no problem casually dismissing codified constitutional rights for you and me, they see no problem hiding behind the Bill of Rights provided there are millions (or billions) of dollars on the table for them.

Of course, everything about Hollywood seems to be contradictory. The product they push has one huge unifying theme: America and her institutions are corrupt to the core. Almost unfailingly they depict the government at all levels (including the CIA, the FBI, Homeland and local law enforcement) as being corrupt, business is corrupt, the military is corrupt … and then their political message is almost also unfailingly that we need more government, bigger government, more government entanglement in business and, oh yes, only the police and military should have guns. They push these ideas of entrenched government corruption and wonder where all these whack-job Second Amendment Types get their silly paranoid ideas.

They want you to dismiss their product as fantasy unless their fantasies advance their politics. It’s all harmless fun, right? And here, let me say something “profound” while I quote a Harry Potter line like it’s Holy Scripture. It’s maddening. Perhaps before Hollywood demands anything from us, they should demand something more from themselves.

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Another Disturbed Teen Does Not Open Fire on Maryland High School, No Deaths Reported

 

Lost in the daily torrent of data as mere local news, not worthy of national ballyhooing, was a story of a father’s tough love for his 18-year-old daughter. He found a journal and materials in her room and called the cops, who promptly and properly responded. The incident happened last March and the now 19-year-old woman was sentenced late last month to 20 years in prison.

Nicole Cevario, 19, was sentenced after pleading guilty to possessing explosive material with the intent to create a destructive device.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said Cevario’s father turned his daughter in after finding a detailed journal at home full of attack plans in March 2017.

As with the Washington case last week, this young adult had the sophistication to stay off social media, working out her plans in a pen-and-paper journal impervious to NSA or Silicon Valley detection.

When police searched Cevario’s home, they say they found the journal, a shotgun, ammunition, pipes and caps, shrapnel, fireworks, magnesium tape and fuse material.

According to the evidence, Cevario had planned to die if her attack was executed the way it was drawn up.

A father turned in his legally adult high-school daughter to save her life and the lives of her schoolmates. This was somehow unworthy of national comment then or now. Ten months later she was sentenced to spend longer in prison than her lifetime up to now. This must be heartbreaking for the father, and yet might there be some relief that the worst did not come to pass, nor will it in that family for at least decades?

So far, we know of two parents, with young adult children under their roofs plotting mass murder at schools, who exercised tough love and reported their loved ones to the police. How many more are out there, good deeds buried in local news? We should celebrate this Maryland father and this Washington grandmother as quiet heroes and role models — President Trump and the First Lady should honor them at a small White House reception this month.