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The Unluckiest Man in the World

 

It was 10:30 AM on a sunny winter morning. Looking for a break, I bundled up and walked up to the convenience store to buy my lottery ticket. Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’ve heard it before. “Lotteries are a tax on people who don’t understand math.” It’s true. And especially for those who don’t understand the branch of math known as probability. If you spend money on tickets while thinking, “I’m gonna win,” you’ve already lost.

But that’s not how I buy lottery tickets. For me, they’re a form of entertainment. My wife loves to go to concerts and plays and movies as her form of entertainment. She easily spends hundreds of dollars per year. She gets charged up in crowds. Me? I get drained by being in crowds. I’ll do it occasionally, mind you. I go to some of the concerts, plays, and movies with her. While I do it, I’m often thinking I could be home working. So, how does a workaholic with an aversion to crowds let off steam and recharge? Daydreams. I can spend a buck or two on a ticket and then take a 10-minute break every few hours to imagine how my life would change if I won. Usually, it comes down to, who would I give the money to? I like what I do. I wouldn’t stop doing it just because I won a lottery. Still, my church could use a bit more and there are a few non-profits I would support, and I might set up something for my nieces and nephews, although that is less likely. The older ones have never done anything to contact me. I send them presents, and what do I get? A thank you note? Nope. Forget about them.

For the little one-state lotto, it’s one buck, and is drawn twice per week. If I buy a ticket for every drawing, it’s no more than $104 per year. There are also the two big multi-state lotteries. These days, their tickets are up to $2. Again, even figure that I bought all three for every drawing, it comes out to $510, which is still a bit less than my wife pays for her types of entertainment tickets in a year. Of course, I don’t buy a ticket every time. I only bother with the big ones when they get above a quarter billion for the grand prize. That is worth paying a couple bucks to dream about. Of course, I’ll pay $1 for the state lotto to dream about what I’d do with a prize that’s usually between one and two million. Go figure. As I said earlier, it’s not about the math. It’s about the dreams.

I work from home and walk to the convenience store to get my tickets. It’s less than half a mile away. As I came into their lot, I saw two vehicles there. There was the store owner’s black Jag and a limo that appeared to be private with the chauffeur in the front. That was it. It was between the morning rush and the lunch rush, which was exactly how I timed it to be. As I walked in, the owner was talking with an old guy who seemed to be looking at the liquor behind the counter.

“Get me a bottle of cinnamon schnapps,” he said as he pointed.

“Certainly, certainly,” the owner reached back and grabbed the bottle and started ringing it up.

They were at the right-hand register. I bellied up to the counter at the left-hand register. They have lottery information posted there. The really big multi-state lottery was up over a quarter billion. It had also been so on the last drawing, and nobody had won the grand prize. I had bought a ticket for it the Wednesday before, and it had been a $4 winner. I knew all this, of course, but I had to look at the list to get the names right. I’ve been playing these games for years, and every once in awhile, they change the games and the names to something new. Unfortunately, the old names are still in my head. Every time I go in, I have to look at the list to get the names right. Otherwise, I might ask for “The Big Game” or “Lotto*America” or another game that has gone the way of the dodo.

The boss finished selling the other guy the booze and came over to me, “You have decided to come back to us!”

He seems to think if he doesn’t see me for a few months that I’m not coming in, as if he didn’t have employees who worked the evening shifts. I handed him the $4 winner, “It’s only been two days, Sridar.”

“Oh, you got this here? We gave you a winner? It must have been a mistake. I’ll do better this time.”

“Thanks. I appreciate your vote of confidence. Get me one of the state and one of the really big one.”

“Don’t bother with the really big one,” the other customer said as he cracked open his bottle and took a swig.

“Beg pardon?” I asked.

“Look, kid, if you win the little one, you’ve got some spare change in your pocket, you know? But you go on with life. But winning the grand prize on the big one? That will mess up your whole life.”

“Oh, really?”

“I could tell you stories, kid.”

“Are you a bankruptcy lawyer? I’ve heard a lot of folks who win lotteries wind up going bankrupt.”

“Nah,” he shook his head and took another swig, “I’m an artist, but I won the big one several years back when they first started the multi-state ones. It was the biggest pot ever up to that point.”

The owner handed me my two tickets and the dollar in change from my $4 winner.

“Well, too late. I have the ticket now. I guess I’ll have to deal with it if I win,” I gave the old guy a smile and stuffed the tickets and dollar bill into my inside coat pocket. I went back out into the cold sunshine with the old guy right behind me.

“Is that your Jag?” he asked.

“No, it’s his,” I nodded back at the building to indicate the owner.

He looked around the parking lot, “Well, where are your wheels?”

“I walked here.”

“How about if I give you a lift?” he gestured at the limo.

“You got three blondes and a redhead in there?” I made as if trying to see through the dark windows in the back.

“No, nothing like that. Truth to tell, I’d just like to talk to someone, someone who isn’t an employee,” he gestured at the chauffeur, “and someone who doesn’t owe me anything. I don’t have anyone like that in my life.”

I may be foolish, but I think I have a pretty good read on people. The old guy didn’t seem like a serial killer. He seemed like a lonely old man who wanted to talk.

I shrugged, “Sure. Don’t know how much talking we’ll get done driving two blocks, though.”

“I’ll throw in lunch at the Trumpeter, if you’d like.” The Trumpeter is an upscale restaurant nearby, although pretty casual in atmosphere. Personally, I’m too cheap to spend that much on food. I’m a simple man with simple tastes. My car is a quarter of a century old, mainly because I can’t see investing in a newer car when this one is still running and treating me well. Go out to an expensive restaurant? Not something I’d pay for, but if offered in exchange for listening to an old man talk, I’m no fool.

I laughed, “You’re on.”

We got into the back of the limo and he pressed a button to announce the destination, “The Trumpeter, if you please, Floyd.”

“Yes, sir,” came from the speaker. And the limo started maneuvering in the small parking lot to get pack out onto the main street.

The old guy sighed, “I’m an artist. I always wanted to be an artist. I planned it from youth, but I never wanted to be a struggling artist. Being half-starved never held any attraction for me. So, I had my first two degrees in business. After I got my MBA, I went back and got an MFA. College, even graduate degrees, were relatively cheaper when I was young. And I was working hard to pay my way through. I didn’t take out any loans. MFA is Master of Fine Arts, by the way. It’s a terminal degree that allows one to get a job teaching college in various studio arts programs around the country. Do I look like a college professor?”

“I seem to remember some pretty strange-looking ducks at the head of my college classrooms, especially for the economics courses.”

He laughed, “They were a fairly buttoned-down lot when I got my MBA, but you’re a bit younger. Things had become more casual by the time you probably went to college. They all wore suits and ties in my day. But getting back, I had a business consulting career with art on the side as I built up my practice and reputation. The consulting provided a good income and surprisingly many contacts for the art. When I was probably a bit younger than you are, I got a job teaching art at the college level and left the consulting behind.”

He took another swig from his bottle of schnapps and handed it across to me. At my hesitation, he said, “The alcohol content will kill any germs.”

Hell, I always liked anything with cinnamon, I went ahead and took a small swig and handed the bottle back. That was about when we arrived at the Trumpeter. We went in, got a table, and placed our orders before he started again.

“Teaching is good, but it can be wearing. I loved it, but after seven years, I was ready for my sabbatical. I planned to make art and enjoy the year off from students. The only problem was that there had been a downturn in the market. I wasn’t as financially secure as I had intended to be, and I had some plans for some big, expensive artworks. I started buying an occasional lottery ticket.’” He laughed, “The only problem is that I am the unluckiest man in the world.”

“If you’ll forgive my saying so, you don’t seem that unlucky to me.”

He ran a hand through his white hair, “It’s true though. Every team I root for loses, doesn’t matter the sport. Every four years, I forget and start rooting for some Presidential candidate in the primaries. It’s the kiss of death for every one of them as I move my hopes from one to the next. The last election, I got smart and declared for the candidate of the other party for the general, so my party won. My curse killed their chances the two times before that. I should have stuck with the crazy third-party I used to be with. Anyway, the universe has a great deal of spite towards my declared intentions. I occasionally remember this and use it for my benefit, but I don’t remember very often.”

“And this applies to the lottery?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” he shook his head as if remembering a thousand regrets. “I was buying the occasional state lottery ticket. Didn’t really think I would win, but it was better than doing nothing, and it didn’t cost me much. I was never one of these guys who would blow the budget on gambling. My expectations were met pretty well. I got an occasional dollar or two back. Then they came up with this big multi-state thing. And the one that was available where I was at the time got way, way up.

“With the little state lottery, I wanted to win. A million or so? Take the cash option and pay the taxes, you might end up with a few hundred grand, you know what I mean? That’s a nice bonus. Might buy a house or pay off an existing mortgage, which changes the cashflow situation. In my case, it would have allowed a few really big and great artistic projects that sabbatical year.

“The big multi-state, though? Especially when it was up where one winner would take home eight figures after cash option and taxes? It was too much. It would give a man instant celebrity, which is the worst kind. The other thing is that you have to agree to be part of their advertising to collect your prize. With the single state lottery, you can keep your name private and out of the news. But you win the multi-state, your name gets plastered everywhere, and every financial wizard investment adviser,” he made air quotes here, “and false family member comes out of the woodwork to share in your good fortune.”

“But you bought a ticket anyway,” I said.

He nodded with a rueful smile, “With its being so high of a prize, I nearly felt obligated. I didn’t want to buy one but felt I had to. I even calculated the odds in the game. Sure, someone has to win eventually, it’s the way the game goes. It was so high that there was a huge run at all the stores. People were buying hundreds of tickets. In my calculations, I figured that there should have been at least 12 winners of that pot, if the tickets were evenly distributed across the numbers. There was no way that one person would win the whole pot, and I sure as hell didn’t want it.”

“But you won it all?” It was pretty easy to see where the story was going.

“I did. My mistake was declaring there was no way it could happen and that I didn’t even want to be one of the twelve on average. It was the same as my declaring for a Presidential candidate. Surefire disaster. Have I mentioned I am the unluckiest man in the world?”

“I can probably think of worse things that could happen to a guy.”

He shook his head, “It was bad. I had to change my phone number. I had to move. I was too busy dodging the dodgy people who suddenly showed up in my life to make any art. I finally had to legally change my name and move to another state. My career as an art professor was also done.”

“Well, in the new state under the new name, did you manage to at least pursue your art?”

“No, I tried, but the money weighed on me. The more you have, the more space it takes in your mind.”

I smiled, “I figure if I won too much, I could always give it to charity.”

“No charity believes in a one-time gift,” he said. “You give, and they come back to ask for more and more. If you give a lot, they come back with naming opportunities. ‘If you give us another million, we’ll name the new building after you.’ I did give away some, but eight figures is a lot of money. It’s a lot of work giving it away. I finally set up a foundation that had very strict rules about not contacting or soliciting. Any non-profit that does will never be considered for a grant again.

“Still, I only put about half the money into that, because it was too much work giving the whole thing away. I hatched a plan to get rid of the other half.”

I raised an eyebrow, “Was this some sort of Brewster’s Millions scheme where you’d give it away to anyone who could spend it in services?”

“No, no, nothing like that. I decided to lose it in the stock market. I have an MBA in finance, and I decided to put it to work. I started searching the various trading boards for stocks that were highly overvalued and due for a fall. I would buy a few thousand shares here and a few thousand shares there waiting for the fall. My plan was to buy high and sell low until most of the money was gone. I would leave myself enough to live comfortably and go back to creating art, knowing that I would have to re-establish a reputation under my new name. I couldn’t go back to the old name and have people track me down.”

The food came at that point, and there was a break in any conversation that didn’t involve praising the meal.

As I finally pushed my plate away, I asked, “So how did that work, with the stock market?”

He looked at me and shook his head, “Have I mentioned that I’m the unluckiest man in the world? I bought stocks that should have fallen soon, and they moved up. After a few months of gains, I would give up and sell the shares, and then they would finally drop. No matter what stupid moves I made, what stupid things I bought, they would go up until I finally would sell them. I could not lose money. I got involved in derivatives trading that should have lost me money. They never did.

“Finally, I just gave up. I bet against the whole damned thing. I created what might be called an anti-hedge fund. Instead of managing risk, it exacerbated it. With the market going as it was, it should have lost me a ton of money.”

“You’re going to tell me this was right before the big financial collapse, aren’t you?”

“It was,” he shrugged.

“Have you tried to make money on the stock market? Losing money doesn’t seem to be working for you.”

“I should have thought of that earlier,” he admitted. “It’s not natural to think of oneself as unlucky when one has a roof over one’s head and money in the bank. But at this point, it’s too late. I’m an old man, and I’m dying, and I never managed to get back to art, because I was so busy trying to lose money. I have more money than ever. I have been moving more and more into my foundation. But even the foundation’s investments are making money.”

“I guess you can’t lose for winning,” I quipped.

“I suppose so,” the old man dug out a money clip and peeled off two C-notes, one for the meal and one for the tip, “There’s no reason not to be overly generous for a man like me.”

We got back in the limousine, and he dropped me off at a corner near my home. Neither of us wanted to spoil the anonymity of our interaction. As I stepped out of the limo, he gestured to my coat where the inside pocket was that I had stuffed my tickets into and said, “Son, don’t take this the wrong way, but I certainly hope you don’t win that big lottery. I wouldn’t want it to destroy your life as it destroyed mine.”

“Thanks,” I said, “and thanks for lunch.”

I closed the door and the limo drove away.

Now, I’m sitting here looking at a ticket that the unluckiest man in the world hopes loses in the drawing tomorrow night.

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Ever Get the Feeling You’ve Been Cheated, Jake?

 

Jake, for some time now, you’ve been one of the few mainstream media reporters I could tolerate, because you seemed like you played it straight. I may not always agree with how you presented the news, but it seemed like you took the time to try to understand both sides and let that understanding guide your stories.

So my question for you is this: When did you find out that a Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy stood by at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and did nothing as 17 children were slaughtered? Was it before the town hall, or after it? Would have moderated this Two Minutes Hate had you known that it was cowardice that led to this slaughter, not one particular style of gun? Would you have let Sheriff Lobo Israel run roughshod over Dana Loesch knowing that the incompetency of his department had a direct impact on the scope of the slaughter?

When did you know these things, Jake, and would it have mattered?

You went full Candy Crowley, Jake. Never go full Candy Crowley.

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Quote of the Day: Outrage Politics

 

“We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Isn’t it strange how C.S. Lewis’s description of hell so closely matches the outrage politics of today? Or maybe it isn’t.

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Now for Some Complications

 

Some of you have been generously helping out in my quixotic, querulous quest to understand abortion in America. One of the things that prevents me from becoming an enthusiastic Pro-Lifer is the emphasis not just on overturning Roe, but on enacting laws to outlaw abortion either completely, or after a certain gestational age.

I am — as friends already know — a serious baby-person. I feel very protective towards little ones, born and unborn. I agree that it is dreadful — unconscionable — that we have created a culture in which it is considered normal and even desirable that abortion terminates hundreds of thousands of healthy, normal pregnancies.

What ought to be done about it? If it is made illegal, what happens when a truly terrible situation arises — a genuinely devastating birth defect or a true threat to a woman’s health?

Yes, I know: these situations really are “vanishingly rare.” But rare doesn’t mean unimaginable.

I’m not talking about Down syndrome, here, the diagnosis that so often dooms a fetus all over the civilized world. And I just read of a woman in Australia whose tale of woe lamented the difficulty of securing a late-term abortion (28 weeks) for her unborn baby diagnosed with cleft hand syndrome. Yes, having this deformity is doubtless difficult, but it can be corrected or ameliorated with surgery, is not fatal or particularly painful and so it was immoral to abort that little baby girl because, as her mother wept, “she would have a hard life because she looked different.”

Still, if you Google birth defects, you can find plenty of genuinely appalling possibilities to keep a pregnant woman up at night (or even a wanna-be grandmother). Some — cleft lip, for example — are often accompanied by comforting examples of the miracles wrought by surgeons. And there are pictures of babies whose facial deformities look like Hallowe’en masks, but in a few, at least, the babies are smiling their goofy, baby-grins at the camera.

But what about those genuinely rare occasions where the fetal abnormalities really are catastrophic? Google Trisomy 13 (Patau Syndrome) or Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome) for examples of birth defects that are painful for the baby, almost always inevitably fatal, and, for now at least, irreparable? ( Incidentally, I was going to include photos in this post, but decided not to — you can go look if you feel up to it, but I didn’t want to ambush y’all.)

And what about those rare occasions in which an abortion could indeed save the mother from a fairly serious illness if not actually death: a premature rupture of the membranes, for example, or an infection in the fetal membranes. What about a woman diagnosed early in pregnancy with an aggressive form of breast cancer, or with cervical cancer, and delay in treatment — surgery, radiation or chemotherapy — could mean the woman will die?

Yes, I know. Even in these circumstances, no doubt, choices for the life of the fetus are possible. But they aren’t slam-dunk obvious, or at least they don’t seem so to me.

Wouldn’t any law that makes an exception for catastrophic fetal anomaly and life and health of the mother end up being interpreted so elastically that things like cleft hand, or a cleft lip or Down syndrome count as catastrophes and “maternal health” can be code for “Mom doesn’t want a baby?” Or, conversely, could the law be so enthusiastically enforced that women who miscarry are suspected of having committed a crime?

(You’ll notice I left out rape and incest, as I think those represent a different issue.)

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Whoa, Nellie!

 

Nellie Ohr, the conduit for the Steele dossier from Fusion GPS (where she worked) to the DOJ (where her husband worked) turns out to be a Russian scholar with a dissertation and other publication record full of Marxist and revisionist dog whistles.

A representative quote:

To convey the terror and excitement of the [Stalinist] period, one can assign a memoir of a prison camp victim or an observer such as John Scott or Maurice Hindus.

Diana West notes, “[n]ot incidentally, Maurice Hindus was an epic Soviet apologist. As for John Scott, Whittaker Chambers i.d.’d him in Witness as belonging to the cabal inside Time magazine that tried to get the ex-Communist witness fired; much later (to be fair, probably after Ohr wrote her review) Scott was revealed to have infiltrated the OSS for the NKVD (codename ”Ivanov”).”

West goes into more detail on her blog on Ohr and the Russia connection. Excerpts:

Part 1

I am not offering a full explanation for Fusion’s pro-Putin and anti-Putin lobbying; I don’t have one yet. I am suggesting, however, that there are games going on in Washington and elsewhere that we do not understand. I feel this particularly acutely when contemplating the globally expanding Magnitsky Act sanctions on mainly individual wealthy Russians, which, contrary to all the self-congratulating bombast, are actually functioning as the most effective means yet devised to compel these oligarchs and their wealth to return from the West to Russia, in the process bonding them more closely to the regime of Comrade Putin. (NB: I didn’t think of that brilliant idea, Jeff Nyquist did.)

Part 2

“This system [the fact that the Soviet regime controlled what archives a Western scholar had access to] had the potential to limit inquiry to be acceptable topics and interpretations sanctioned by the Soviet establishment.”

No, this system had the power to place American scholars under Kremlin discipline. That has to go for Nellie Hauke Ohr, circa 1989, if we think about it, but who thinks about it? Ponder the facts too long and it becomes hard to see these advanced degrees American researchers would earn –having shaped their topics and methodologies to satisfy the Kremlin establishment — as anything but Soviet degrees.

I should mention that there is a joker in this deck. Even post-1991, even after the Soviet Union “disappeared,” little if anything changed when it came to the preservation of the most vital Soviet secrets — the intelligence archives, the Central Committee archives and other repositories of communist crimes against world, including humanity. From earliest days, the “new” Russian government served to protect the “old” Soviet government. Which suggests there is more than a thread of continuity between the two.

Part 3

What draws my attention today, however, is another Fusion subcontractor, someone with whom Simpson says “we have a long-standing relationship”; someone [Fusion GPS founder Glenn] Simpson named in both his Senate and House interviews: Edward Baumgartner.

Here is part of what Simpson said about Baumgartner in the House interview:

He works for us on Russian things … oh, heavens — not a degree in Russian history from Vassar!

Could it be that Fusion’s Edward Baumgartner was a student of Fusion’s Nellie Ohr’s?

Yes, Baumgartner attended Vassar between 1991 and 1995 — which certainly does overlap Nellie H. Ohr’s years of teaching there.

Part 4

According to the Daily Mail account, “confirmed socialist” [Christopher] Steele went straight from Cambridge into MI6, where he remained until his retirement in 2009. And why not? MI6 has had such fabulous luck with “confirmed socialists” in the past (Philby, Blunt, McLean …) — at least, depending on your point of view.

The CIA, by the way, is similarly inclined, as, for example, we see in its hiring of a young CPUSA-voting John Brennan. Such doings may shock a healthy (i.e., middle) American mind, but that’s because the extent to which our national security organizations have been subverted from within remains largely unknown. “Avowedly Left-wing” and even “CND [Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; per MI5, “Communist and subversive” and known to be heavily infiltrated by Soviet agents] credentials” are just the thing with these international elites. It’s who they are.

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That Settles It!

 

I saw the above on Facebook. The comments were:

According to Trump and the NRA, you make everyone buy an AR-15.

D. Sell them a stick, available now, at 1-800-national stick association. Operators are standing by. As are ER personnel.

Buy stock in the stick manufacturers.

I did not truly believe that there could be people who saw our government as a parent. I’m going to go worry about the future of the American people now.

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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.