Remember to Honor the Others

I mentioned below that I had just finished reading Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. This is a pretty sobering look at the actualities of lethal force, and I wanted to wait until Memorial Day for this post because Col. Grossman makes a point that I think the majority of our society doesn’t grasp. Doesn’t want to grasp, in fact. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

I was first introduced to the concepts explored by Col. Grossman in his book in an essay by Eric S. Raymond of Armed and Dangerous, The Myth of Man the Killer. Eric’s piece was about the reluctance of people to kill or even inflict injury until forced to by extraordinary circumstances, but also about the perpetuation of a belief in the “myth of man the killer” and what that belief has done to our society. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend you do.

But Col. Grossman, who has a bachelor’s degree in history, and a graduate degree in psychology, examines the aftermath of both inflicting and experiencing the exercise of lethal force – through the spectrum of the impersonal (bombing, shelling) to the up-close-and-personal of close-quarters combat.

While this book will be fodder for several future posts, this is the topic I want to explore on this Memorial Day.

Col. Grossman notes that during WWII studies have shown that only 15-20% of combat troops – the ones on the line facing the enemy with weapons in hand – “would take any part with their weapons” – that is, actually fire at the enemy. He notes, however, that the studies found

Those who would not fire did not run or hide (in many cases they were willing to risk great danger to rescue comrades, get ammunition, or run messages), but they simply would not fire their weapons at the enemy, even when faced with repeated waves of banzai charges.

I won’t get into the “why” of this in this essay, but accept it as fact, and understand that the military saw this as a major problem to be solved – not the “why,” but the “how to increase firing rates” question.

And they did. According to Grossman, changes in training regimens increased the firing rate during the Korean conflict to 55%. During the Vietnam war the firing rate was 95%. That number probably reflects conditions today in Afghanistan and Iraq. That rate explains why, after a 24-hour firefight in Mogadishu, Somalia without armor, without much air support, and without artillery support, US forces only 450 strong came out of that hostile city with only 18 dead, and 73 wounded. And inflicted around 1,000 Somali casualties. We have built an army of ferocious fighters, as Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace stated:

“The thing I remember most about the entire operation was the extraordinary endurance and bravery, heroism and sacrifice of the young Americans who were under my command.

“They were absolutely ferocious fighters when they needed to be,” Wallace recalled, “and in a moment they could turn into the most compassionate people you could ever imagine.”

That’s something we need to remember.

According to Col. Grossman, regardless of all the classic war movies you’ve seen, only about 2% of the people on the sharp end are capable of killing without suffering some psychological effect. The rest, even the ones who haven’t fired a shot in anger, are affected by the violence they’re exposed to. I, for example, cannot imagine the effect of being a direct witness to this:

or this on a daily basis:

An American soldier told me today that he has been telling kids to stay away from his unit so they won’t be killed. This is harder, on all parties, than it might seem to anyone who hasn’t seen first hand how much the kids here love the soldiers. The sound of heavily armored trucks rumbling through the streets has the same effect these kids as the tinkling bells of the “ice cream man” back home. Imagine having to tell kids to run the other way when they hear the icecream truck on a summer afternoon.

Recently, an insurgent hid behind a child in order to attack Americans. The tactic came as no surprise to the soldiers here. Terrorists routinely play wounded or feign their surrender in order to get close enough to launch an attack on Coalition or Iraqi Forces. In January I wrote about one bomber who grabbed the hand of a small child while she was playing on a sidewalk. Smiling, he walked with the child in hand, approaching some Iraqi police and exploded. Americans standing close by were unharmed.

The ability to switch from ferocious fighter to compassionate person is an extremely admirable trait of our modern military, but one that would strain the emotional capacity of any human being to or even past the breaking point. There’s an interesting chart in Col. Grossman’s book, of what combat did to soldiers in WWII:

The effects of this are lessened, Col. Grossman notes, if the soldiers can be pulled “off the line” and given rest and recreation, but that wasn’t really possible during the Vietnam war, because there was no “line,” and VC activity could occur anywhere, any time. I’m not one to draw parallels between that war and this one, but in this one case the similarities are striking.

And in the Vietnam war, the psychological casualties were enormous.

Col. Grossman notes, however, that recovery from such psychological trauma is dependent on a number of factors. Grossman notes:

Something unique seems to have occurred in the rationalization process available to the Vietnam veteran. Compared with earlier American wars the Vietnam conflict appears to have reversed most of the processes traditionally used to facilitate the rationalization and acceptance of killing experiences. These traditional processes involve:

* Constant praise and assurance to the soldier from peers and superiors that he “did the right thing” (One of the most important physical manifestations of this affirmation is the awarding of medals and decorations.)
* The constant presence of mature, older comrades (that is, in their late twenties and thirties) who serve as role models and stabilizing personality factors in the combat environment
* A careful adherence to such codes and conventions of warfare by both sides (such as the Geneva conventions, first established in 1864), thereby limiting civilian casualties and atrocities
* Rear lines or clearly defined safe areas where the soldier can go to relax and depressurize during a combat tour
* The presence of close, trusted friends and confidants who have been present during training and are present throughout the combat experience
* A cooldown period as the soldier and his comrades sail or march back from the wars
* Knowledge of the ultimate victory of their side and of the gain and accomplishments made possible by their sacrifices
* Parades and monuments
* Reunions and contiued communication (via visits, mail, and so on) with the individuals whom the soldier bonded with in combat
* An unconditionally warm and admiring welcome by friends, family, communities, and society, constantly reassuring the soldier that the war and his personal acts were for a necessary, just, and righteous cause
* The proud display of medals.

We, the general public, can’t do much about the majority of these processes. We cannot make “safe zones” in Baghdad, we are not in control of troop rotation, we don’t award medals, but we are the ones in charge of that “unconditionally warm and admiring welcome.” It’s up to us to reassure the returning soldiers that we’re proud of them and what they’ve done.

What they’re witnessing and what they have to do as soldiers is destructive to the psyche of any human being. They are all in a crucible, under stresses most of us cannot imagine. So, by all means, respect the dead for their sacrifice this Memorial Day. But remember too the others who come back, both the wounded and the whole, who have answered our Nation’s call and put themselves on the sharp end. Honor them whenever you see them, and let them know that their sacrifices are appreciated. We’re doing a pretty good job, but not, I think, as a conscious process.

And we need to be.

Enjoy your Memorial Day. And thank a vet.

UPDATE: Just to give you a feel, read this post by Red2Alpha at This is Your War. A taste:

I pulled the trigger and a glittering brass cartridge spun out of the chamber and away. Half a heart beat later the shot roared back at me from the buildings lining Market St, coming back to me in waves as the detonation echoed up and down the street, off the flat surface of windows and walls, cars and people. It sounded deeper than a 5.56mm on a range, yet softer. My ears didn’t pop and ring.
The truck jerked slightly and lurched to a halt. I saw the figures in it start. The white paint on the plastic bumper was flaking off like a scab, revealing the yellow primer under neath. Dead bugs spattering the bumper with their black bodies. I smelled cordite.

Since the IED things have been different for my team. We are more aggressive, quicker to anger. I’m angry all the time now. Everything and everyone is a threat to me. I’d much rather lash out with violence and rage than anything else.

Remember the role of the civilian at home. We do have one.

Book Meme.

David Codrea of the blog War on Guns just tagged me for another blogmeme, this one on books. Who am I to refuse?

Total number of books I’ve owned: No way to tell. At least a few thousand. My current collection, mostly paperbacks, mostly science fiction, runs about 1,000. I try not to sell or give away anything I like, but it’s difficult to provide enough room for them all.

Last book I bought: R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton. Not her best work.

Last book I read: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, about which I hope to have a post up later today. Lots of food for thought.

Five books that mean a lot to me: I can’t pick five specific books, but I think I can pick four specific authors, and one book.

Robert A. Heinlein (everything he wrote)

John D. MacDonald (his Travis McGee novels)

Robert B. Parker (his Spenser novels – even the poor ones)

– These three men molded my personal philosophy

Issac Asimov

– Asimov is in large part responsible for my fascination with science and technology. I still have his three-volume work on elementary physics, and his Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, among many others. I liked his work in SF, but it was his non-fiction writing that I found most interesting.

And the book; The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. I.

This is a collection of short stories from the “golden age” of SF that I stumbled across in a school library at about age 13. It contains such classics as “The Cold Equations,” “Flowers for Algernon,” “First Contact,” “Microcosmic God,” “The Weapon Shop,” “Arena,” and many, many others. This is stuff to make you think. Very subversive! Highly recommended.

Now I’m supposed to tag five others to do this. Don’t feel obligated, but I am curious:

Kim du Toit

Connie du Toit (she now, occasionally, blogs on Kim’s site, so she still counts!)

Bill Whittle (right, like he’ll actually read this)

Rob Smith

Keith Thompson

Remember “Police Aware”?

That post from earlier last Saturday? It was an editorial on the inefficacy of Britain’s police. Well, thanks to Cryptic Subterranian, I’ve found another sterling example:


A SHOPKEEPER has been given a DNA kit by police – so he can take samples every time his teenage tormentors spit in his face.

The man likened the girls to Vicky Pollard, of TV’s Little Britain.

Six months of harassment began after he refused to sell the girls cigarettes or give them cigarette papers.

He was beaten by a man linked to the group and his cheekbone and jaw were broken.

The 53-year-old, of Crouch End, North London, said: “We do not feel safe. The guy who hit me in the face has since threatened me.

“You hear about Vicky Pollard, but these girls are worse.”

A police spokesman said: “This behaviour will not be tolerated.”

“This behavior will not be tolerated.”

By whom? “Police Aware” – it’s been taken care of!

How do you hand a man a DNA sample kit and explain to him, “The next time they spit in your face, old chap, just carefully collect some of the spittle into this sample bottle and ring us up! We’ll be by in a week or two to collect the evidence! In the mean time, do try to avoid getting your neck broken or your throat slashed when they come back.”

I. Am. DUMBFOUNDED. And I thought the proposed knife ban took the cake. And if you think this is a hoax, the barely more reliable Guardian corroborates, but here’s a slightly more detailed version from a local online source. A quote from the victim:

“We are hanging on for the time being. Our customers have been very supportive.

“I know other shops in Crouch End are suffering because of these people.

“I’ve been to the police station a number of times to find out what’s happening, but all I’m told is investigations are on-going.”

What will be the outcome of the “on-going investigation?

If enough evidence is gathered against the group, police and Haringey Council could work together to bring an Anti-Social Behaviour Order into effect which could ban the yobs from the area altogether.

“Police Aware!” And ah, yes, the dreaded ASBO!

And if they disobey the ASBO? I’m sure a strongly worded warning will follow!

Bear in mind, too, that it isn’t only the proles being treated this way. These same kits are being given to London’s “traffic control officers” (meter maids). According to This is London, however,

Three (parking attendants) are assaulted in the capital each day, some being attacked with baseball bats and knives.

so they’ll have to be very careful to make sure they don’t get any of their own blood in the samples. It would be awkward if they got ASBO’d for assaulting themselves. But there’s more justification for that knife ban! I suppose a Louisville Slugger ban will follow posthaste.

What the HELL happened to the Brits?

Presser v. Cockrum

Reader Robert Lewis, commenting on I Imagine This Post Might Be an Unpopular One, below, takes exception to my citation of the 1886 Supreme Court Presser v. Illinois decision:

“Under Presser, the right to keep and bear arms is not a limitation on the power of States.”

Hah …the supreme court of Texas claims otherwise …

“The right of a citizen to bear arms, in lawful defense of himself or the State, is absolute. He does not derive it from the State government. It is one of the ‘High Powers’ delegated directly to the citizen by the United States Constitution, Amendment II, and “is excepted out of the general powers of government”. A law cannot be passed to infringe upon it or impair it, because it is above the law, and independent of the law-making power.”
-Supreme Court of Texas, Cockrum v. State of Texas (1859).

Delving into my library, I pulled my copy of Clayton Cramer‘s For Defense of Themselves and the State: The Origins and Judicial Interpretation of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Here’s what Clayton has to say about it over pages 90-92:

Article 610 of the penal code specified that manslaughter committed with a Bowie knife or dagger would be considered to be murder, and punishable accordingly. The defendant, John Cockrum, was indicted in 1857 for murdering William N. Self, of Freestone County. In 1858, Cockrum was convicted of murder, apparently based on article 610, and sentenced to life in prison in solitary confinement.

Cockrum appealed. The relevant part of his argument, as presented by his lawyer:

It is contended, that Article 610 of the Penal Code, is in violation of both of the State and Federal Constitution, which contain substantially the same provision, securing the citizen from any infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. 1st. it is asserted, that any law prohibiting a citizen from keeping or bearing any knife, which is intended to be worn upon the person, which is capable of inflicting death, and not commonly known as a pocket-knife, would be unconstitutional. To prohibit absolutely the keeping and having of an ordinary weapon, is certainly to infringe on the right of keeping and bearing arms. A bowie-knife, or dagger, as defined in the Code, is an ordinary weapon, one of the cheapest character, accessible even to the poorest citizen. A common butcher-knife, which costs not more than half a dollar, comes within the description given of a bowie-knife or dagger, being very frequently worn on the person. To prohibit such a weapon, is substantially to take away the right of bearing arms, from him who has not money enough to buy a gun or pistol.

Here Cockrum’s attorney, Robert S. Gould, crisply articulated the position that would be taken a century later, in opposition to laws banning so-called “Saturday Night Specials” – that such laws work principally to disarm the poor.

And I cannot help but point out the extreme divergence between this argument and the argument being put forth today in England seeking justification to ban all long, sharp kitchen knives.

Clayton continues:

But what is the relevance of a law enhancing the penalty for manslaughter, to the right to carry a “bowie-knife or dagger”?

Gould pointed to the court decisions on the right to keep and bear arms, in particular. Nunn v. State (1846), since it had overturned a law banning small pistols. He then argued that if it was unconstitutional to ban the carrying of an arm for a lawful purpose, such as self-defense; and discriminating against a particular arm by enhancing the penalty for criminal use would be an attempt to discourage law-abiding people from carrying such arms, for fear that a manslaughter might thus be punished as severely as murder.

From what I’ve seen, England has been treating arms violations more severely than some murders. Anyway, continuing:

Most of the Texas Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Roberts, addressed the issues of how the varying punishments available for a murder conviction could be determined by the jury, and are of no relevance to our interests. Of relevance to the Second Amendment and Texas’ similar constitutional provision, especially in light of the post-war decisions by the Texas Court: “it is contended, that this article of the Code, is in violation of the Constitution of the United States, and of this State.” After citing the Second Amendment and the 13th section of the Texas Bill of Rights: “Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms, in the lawful defense of himself or the State,” the Court explicated the purposes of the state and Federal Constitutional protections, with no apparent disagreement that both applied to a state law:

The object of the first clause cited, has reference to the perpetuation of free government, and is based on the idea, that the people cannot be effectually oppressed and enslaved, who are not first disarmed. The clause cited in our Bill of Rights, has the same broad objec in relation to the government, and in addition thereto, secures a personal right to the citizen. The right of a citizen to bear arms, in the lawful defence of himself or the State, is absolute. He does not derive it from the State government, but directly from the soveriegn convention of the people that framed the State government. it is one of hte “high powers” delegated directly to the citizen, and “is excepted out of the general powers of government.” A law cannot be passed to infringe upon or impact it, because it is above the law, and independent of the law-making power.

The Court then held that discrimination in sentencing based on the probable lethality of a weapon was legally justified, but:

The right to carry a bowie-knife for lawful defence is secured, and must be admitted. It is an exceedingly destructive weapon. It is difficult to defend against it, by any degree of bravery, or any amount of skill. The gun or pistol may miss its aim, and when discharged, its dangerous character is lost, or diminished at least. The sword may be parried. With these weapons men fight for the sake of the combat, to satisfy the laws of honor, not necessarily with the intention to kill, or with a certainty of killing, when the intention exists. The bowie-knife differs from these in its device and design; it is the instrument of almost certain death. He who carries such a weapon, for lawful defence, as he may, makes himself more dangerous to the rights of others, considering the frailties of human nature, than if he carried a less dangerous weapon.

Today’s controversy over semiautomatic military style rifles (so-called “assault weapons”) has strong parallels to the concern expressed here about the Bowie. In both cases, the weapon was perceived as an “instrument of almost certain death,” and a a weapon against which there was no defense. Also like today’s controversy, the distinction between a Bowie knife and a butcher knife is partly in the perception of the purposes of the weapon, not their actual capabilities.

Interesting parallels to today, aren’t they? The more things change….

The critical thing about this, though is that the Cockrum decision came in 1859. The U.S. v. Cruikshank decision came in 1875, followed by Presser v. Illinois in 1886. Cockrum should still be precedent for Texas STATE law, given the wording of 13th Section of the Texas Bill of Rights, but it does not apply to the FEDERAL government, because inferior courts cannot tell the Federal Supreme Court that it’s out to lunch, even when it is. And laws have been passed to infringe on or impair the right to keep and bear arms, but not too damned many in Texas.

You’ll notice that the Texas legislature didn’t stand up to the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban as being violative of the right to keep and bear arms, nor did it protest the 1934 National Firearms Act, nor any part of the 1968 GCA.

Nice try, Robert, but no kewpie doll for you! 😉

Oh Sh#^!! I’m a “Free Liberal!”.

At least I fit this definition:

A Free Liberal is a person who values individual freedom, is alive to the dangers inherent in all forms of power and authority, and believes in the possibility of the rule of law, equal justice, fundamental rights, and a free and prosperous society.

This reminds me a lot of Steven Den Beste’s piece, Liberal Conservatism. A lot.


Thanks to Mike at Feces Flinging Monkey, I’ve wasted a lot of time playing De-Animator, a pretty simple, but engrossing Flash game. Through judicious use of the shotgun and inhuman (heh) skill with the Webley revolver, my best score:

One hundred twenty-four zombies before they pulled my arm off and beat me to death with it. Think you can do better?

UPDATE: Best yet (for me.) UPDATED AGAIN!

One MORE Update: Mike from Feces Flinging Monkey sent me his suggestion for higher scores of de-animated zombies; happiness is a warm belt-fed!

I just haven’t figured out how to move to the foxhole with the pintle-mount in it.

More Moronics from Nerf™land – I Mean England.
(Or: “At What Price, Safety?”)

Have you seen the latest? Two Three Four readers emailed me, and one commenter posted on this story:

Doctors seek kitchen knife ban


Key points
• Doctors claim long kitchen knives serve no purpose except as weapons
• 55 out of 108 homicide victims in Scotland were stabbed last year
• Police superintendents say a ban would be difficult to enforce

Key quote
“Many assaults are impulsive, often triggered by alcohol or misuse of other drugs, and the long pointed kitchen knife is an easily available, potentially lethal weapon, particularly in the domestic setting” – Dr Emma Hern, writing in British Medical Journal

LONG, pointed kitchen knives should be banned as part of a concerted effort to reduce the terrible injuries and deaths caused by stabbing attacks, doctors warned today.

Accident and emergency medics claim the knives serve no useful purpose in the kitchen but are proving deadly on the streets of Britain, with the doctors claiming the knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.

Wait a minute. “(P)roving deadly on the streets of Britain”?? It’s already illegal to carry almost any kind of knife “on the streets” of Britain unless you can prove “need” of it. (No presumption of innocence there.) Just ask Charlie Booker, arrested and sentenced for carrying a butter knife in public. Last I checked, a butter knife wasn’t pointy or sharp.

Moreover, they’re setting up metal detectors in public places, and searching anyone who tries to avoid them. It’s “for the children,” you know. If it saves just one life!

But now they need to ban kitchen knives?

The doctors claimed they had consulted leading chefs who said the knives were not needed for cooking – a claim disputed by chefs contacted by The Scotsman.

Latest figures from the Scottish Executive show that in 2003, 55 of 108 homicide victims were stabbed by a sharp instrument – often a kitchen knife.

Fifty-five homicides justifies banning kitchen knives. Jeebus. And of those 55 the weapon was often, not always a kitchen knife. Anyone see a realty disconnect here?

Writing in the British Medical Journal, specialist registrar Dr Emma Hern and emergency medicine consultant Dr Mike Beckett said a short pointed knife may cause a substantial superficial wound if used in an assault, but is unlikely to penetrate to inner organs. However, a pointed long blade pierces the body like “cutting into a ripe melon”.

Define “short.” One inch? Two? I’ve got this Ka-bar meat cleaver that I could really go medieval on your ass with. I don’t think it qualifies as “pointy.”

Internal organs can be heavily damaged, causing serious injury or death. The doctors said long knives with blunt ends – such as bread knives – would do far less damage.

Unless they’re used to slash one’s throat. Or femoral artery. Don’t underestimate the lethality of a serrated bread knife!

Dr Hern said: “Many assaults are impulsive, often triggered by alcohol or misuse of other drugs, and the long pointed kitchen knife is an easily available, potentially lethal weapon, particularly in the domestic setting. Government action to ban the sale of such knives would drastically reduce their availability over the course of a few years.”

Wait, wait. I thought the problem with these knives is that they’re “on the street”. Doesn’t that suggest some premeditation? I mean, after all, you’ve got to be willing to break the law in the first place to simply carry such a knife out of your home, right? So if you’re willing to do that, why wouldn’t you be willing to substitute some other weapon? And banning the sale would “drastically reduce their availability over the course of a few years“??? IT’S A PIECE OF STEEL, YOU MORON!! THEY TAKE DECADES TO WEAR OUT! That Ka-bar meat cleaver I mentioned? WWII-era, if not older. I’ve got a couple of Old Hickory carbon-steel knives about the same age. And I don’t think my 10” bladed, razor-sharp, needle-pointed Henckels chef’s knife will be retiring any time soon, either.

Scotland’s most respected pathologist, Professor Anthony Busuttil, said: “All the statistics show that for the last 15 years, victims of stabbings, whether fatal or seriously injured, are caused by kitchen knives such as steak knives rather than knives bought specially for the purpose.”

Which, of course, could change overnight if such knives were all banned and confiscated, right? There’ll be a big amnesty for people to turn in all their sharp, pointy knives and be reimbursed by the government who will issue them sporks in return? And then house-to-house searches and imprisonment for those who fail to comply?

Restaurateurs and chefs reacted angrily to suggestions of banning kitchen knives. Malcolm Duck, chairman of the Edinburgh Restaurateurs Association, said: “Kitchen knives are designed for a purpose. It would be like asking a surgeon to perform an operation with a bread knife instead of a scalpel. Anything in the house like a cricket bat could be used as weapon in the hands of an idiot.”

Chief Superintendent Tom Buchan, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said although a ban on sharp, pointed kitchen knives would be welcome, it could be difficult to enforce.

Gee, ya THINK?? You’ve got to have licensing and registration FIRST! Didn’t you learn anything from the handgun ban?

Oh, right. Of course you didn’t. Silly me.

The BBC has a story on this too. More of the same, except for this quote:

The use of knives is particularly worrying amongst adolescents, say the researchers, reporting that 24% of 16-year-olds have been shown to carry weapons, primarily knives.

The study found links between easy access to domestic knives and violent assault are long established.

French laws in the 17th century decreed that the tips of table and street knives be ground smooth.

A century later, forks and blunt-ended table knives were introduced in the UK in an effort to reduce injuries during arguments in public eating houses.

Ten minutes on a grinder: sharp pointy knife again. Or, of course, everyone could just switch to chisels.

Now, lest you think this is merely an aberration (even after the banning of full-auto weapons, semi-auto rifles, all handguns, pepper & other defensive sprays, tasers, pretty much anything suitable for self-defense, et cetera,) let me remind you that in 2003 they were discussing forcing pubs to use plastic glasses and plastic beer bottles to, what? REDUCE VIOLENCE, of course, because Pub fights cost £4m a year and bottles and drinking glasses were used to inflict 15,000 injuries a year! I don’t know what the outcome of that effort was. If anyone does, please let me know.

But I’ll tell you what: Let’s just raze the British Isles, tote off all of the wood and brick and glass and metal and rebuild with terrycloth, foam rubber, Saran-wrap and soft plastics and then you’ll all be safe! Right?

As soon as everyone is in a straightjacket, that is. You seem to need the spinal support.

Quote of the Week.

By now I’m sure that most of you have read Keith Thompsons’s San Francisco Chronicle piece, Leaving the Left. If you haven’t, you need to. Too much crunchy goodness to excerpt even a teaser. But that’s not where the Quote of the Week comes from this time. Mr. Thompson has his own web site, and on that site is another of his essays, Busting the Moral Equivalence Racket. In it he quotes author Sam Harris from his book The End of Faith:

(S)o many Muslims are eager to turn themselves into bombs these days because the Koran makes this activity seem like a career opportunity

But we’re not in a religious war, you understand. Words like “Crusade” must not be uttered.

Mr. Thompson has a blog, too: Sane Nation. I think I’m going to have to spend some time there. He says things like this:

Spot quiz. Who made the following statement:

“The free use of private property is just as important as … speech, the press, or the free exercise of religion.”

A. James Madison
B. Thomas Jefferson
C. Adam Smith
D. Bobcat Goldwaithe

Answer: none of the above. Janice Rogers Brown made that statement. But it sounds a lot like Madison or Jefferson. So what is it that has “progressive” opponents of Brown’s nomination to the D.C. Court of Appeals screaming like Bobcat?

Here’s what: Brown had the audacity to declare that courts have the responsibility not run roughshod over groups that are unpopular or lack political power.

Yup. I definitely need to read more of what this ex-Leftist has to say.

The Pendulum is Still Swinging, Apparently.

A Google News search for the term “assault weapon” today brings up a plethora of news stories on the Illinois House rejecting the current attempt to ban them. Whatever they are. It was a close one, however, failing by a single vote.

But the thing that grabbed my attention was the number of op-eds and letters-to-the-editor that were pro-gun. Like this one from Maine’s Morning Sentinel:

I am tired of gun-control laws, their supporters and their tired lies. The assault-weapons ban is dead. You cannot breathe new life into it with the same lies and emotional diatribe that gave it life initially. My opinion is unchanged by the most recent reiteration.

So-called assault weapons do not function differently from any other semi-automatic firearm. They shoot one bullet with each squeeze of the trigger, like a revolver. They shoot bullets that are either the same as, or less powerful than, common hunting calibers. They do not “spray” bullets, because they are not machine guns. They look like machine guns. They have bayonet lugs, pistol grips, flash suppressors and detachable magazines, and they’re usually black.

They’re scary looking, but they won’t kill anything any deader than any other firearm. Anyone with any familiarity knows this. If you have done your research, you know it. I can only assume your supporting this misguided effort means you will someday support banning all semi-automatic firearms. That failing, eventually, you will support banning all firearms.

The NRA, gun makers, dealers and sportsmen’s groups don’t vote; gun owners vote. We always have, and always will. We buy newspapers, too. Lawmakers would do well to not ignore those who elect them, and those who make their livelihoods selling newspapers should pay heed as well. Deal in truth and facts. You’ll be respected and prosper.

Leon A. Richard

That was published as an op-ed.

Or this one from the St. Paul MN Pioneer Press:

The Minnesota Personal Protection Act has been in the news recently for two very important reasons — the “carry law” will become law and a permit holder has been charged with murder. It seems reasonable to try to determine if this is the exception, or the rule, in other states that have had much more than two years of experience and many more permit holders than the 25,000 in Minnesota.

By law, Texas is required to gather statistics on the arrests and convictions of permit holders. These statistics show that 3,370 permit holders have been arrested in the nine years since Texas enacted its carry law. That may sound frightening unless you know that there are 350,000 permit holders in Texas, and that only 24 percent of those arrests resulted in a conviction.

The resulting conviction rate makes permit holders almost eight times less likely to be convicted of any crime compared with nonpermit holders. The events in Minneapolis were an exception, not the rule. This is a good law that deserved to be resurrected.


Which rebutted this one that appeared two letters above it:

I found it interesting that your brief mention of the shooting death of Billy Walsh, a doorman at Nye’s Polonaise Room in Minneapolis, never mentioned that the shooter was a permit holder, issued a permit under the 2003 conceal and carry law. Given that the day after the shooting the Senate passed a bill to re-enact the 2003 law, wasn’t the fact that the shooter was a permit holder worthy of reporting? No wonder there isn’t more outrage about having so many loaded handguns in public — if the media doesn’t include such details, how are we to know?


Can you say “balance”?? Color me shocked.

Now, how about this piece in the North Greenville College newspaper, The Skyliner?

Library staff retires overused words

During several lunchtime discussions in the fall of 2003, the faculty of Hester Memorial Library began to comment to each other about the tendency of pop culture to overuse various words and phrases.

From these discussions, came a list of words which the group felt should be retired, or at least given a rest. The following spring, the group honed this list down to the top five words for that year.

In the spring of this year, the group gathered to compile a second list of overused words.

Certain words that are abused or overused by media, news casters, and television culture as a whole will be put on a list to be banned from the English language. This list is composed by Jonathan Bradsher, Director of the Library here at NGC for five years and NGC librarian of six years Carla McMahan.

The idea behind this list was to critique the usage of the English language in popular culture and to note its overuse, or misuse, of words and phrases. Because television tends to be such an influence in American culture, this critique is focused on the medium of television.

The top five words to the retired for 2005 are as follows:

1. Literally- A word that means “free from exaggeration or embellishment.” It has been a favorite of news programs and especially the local ones. It is unfortunate that many of these users do not seem to understand its meaning. A recent newscaster reporting on a flood stated that “the water is just a few feet away… literally.” One’s first thought after such a statement is, what about the water that’s “figuratively” just a few feet away?

2. Assault Weapon (and/or High powered Assault Weapon)- a phase that is loaded with politics and factual ambiguity. The reason that this word is on the list is because there is no one definition for this phrase and yet it is so widely used. What is an assault weapon? Whatever the speaker wants it to be. Since there is no definition, this phrase does not have to be qualified. Therefore, one could state that a slingshot was an assault weapon and a slingshot with an extra strong rubber band was a high powered assault weapon.

The remaining three worst words and phrases were “Ripped from the headlines!”, “To the next level”, and “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” (To that I’d like to add “going forward” or “moving forward.” “Conceptualize” is pretty bad, too, but not used as widely.) But still, the wording of the “assault weapon” paragraph makes me smile.

And finally, there’s this op-ed from Florida’s Tallahassee Democrat:

Florida isn’t about to become Deadwood East

By Bill Cotterell

Shortly after Gov. Bob Martinez signed the 1987 concealed-weapons bill, I was seated next to a Sports Illustrated reporter at a Miami-FSU game. Before kickoff, he was prattling on and on about this wacky new Florida law.

Of course, he hadn’t read it. He’d only heard about it from late-night comedians and national news accounts.

The magazine writer had already chosen his headline – “Shootout in the Gunshine State” – so it’s fortunate that the football game turned out to be one of the best ever. Shaking his head, he told me he was going to write in SI how one of the first folks he’d met upon landing in Miami was a filling station attendant with a gun on his hip.

Perhaps feeling obliged to defend my home state, I pointed out that (a) a holstered pistol is not a concealed weapon, (b) although the law had been signed, the state was not yet issuing “conceal to carry” permits and (c) there were probably guns under the counters of some gas stations and convenience stores he had stopped at on his way up here. But southerners can’t talk guns to New Yorkers because they’ve made their city so safe.

An odd thing is, Georgia had permitted concealed weapons a few years earlier and nobody noticed. Maybe it was the popularity of TV shows like “Miami Vice” or movies like “Scarface” back then, but Florida still has a reputation for weird things that only happen here.

Remember all those wild gun battles on Monroe Street since 1987? Remember how the concealed weapon law created an O.K. Corral in every crossroads of Florida? Me neither.

Actually, nothing much changed.

Law-abiding gun owners continued to abide by the law and criminals kept on being criminals. And people who don’t want anything to do with guns weren’t required to run out and get one.

Then there was the assault-weapon ban a few years later. Congress adopted a federal ban on certain types of rifles amid much discussion of folding stocks, banana-shaped clips and whether there could be handles on top of the thing.

I don’t know much about guns, but, when I got out of the Marine Corps 40 years ago, the guidebook said a projectile leaves the muzzle at 2,500 feet per second. It doesn’t matter whether a weapon is shaped like a pistol, a rifle or a piano. As long as it fires one shot per trigger-squeeze, an ounce of lead at that speed will do the same damage.

The Bush administration let the assault weapons ban expire last year. Have you seen a lot of people running around with AK-47s and Uzis? Me neither.

Actually, nothing much changed.

Now we’re hearing the same indulgent chuckles from more enlightened quarters because the Legislature approved the “castle doctrine.” The law Gov. Jeb Bush signed last week says you don’t have to retreat if someone tries to invade your home or car, or assaults you on the street.

The law says you can meet force with force but it doesn’t say you should. A sensible person (and our laws do presume that you’re sensible) will still try to avoid a deadly confrontation.

There’s a certain macho appeal to the law, but any sheriff or police officer would probably tell you that if you can get your family to safety and call 911 from next door, that’s still the best thing to do.

It’s doubtful many of the critics have read the bill. In fairness, neither have most of its supporters, but this time, the hooting and finger-pointing can be hazardous. A lot of the dire warnings about this new law may leave the impression that you can shoot the Avon lady.

There still must be a reasonable belief that you, or people near you, are in imminent danger. Police and prosecutors aren’t stupid. Maybe some guy who shoots his wife will try to get off by saying he thought she was a burglar, but that could happen under the previous law – and juries can still see through alibis under the new one.

As with the conceal-to-carry law and the lifting of the assault-weapons ban, we’re told that Florida will become Deadwood East. We hear how street-corner confrontations that used to end in shouted threats or maybe a bloody nose will now wind up with a chalk outline on the sidewalk.

When I worked in Atlanta, the little town of Kennesaw got into Johnny Carson’s monologue with an ordinance that said every “head of household” – in Georgia at the time, this meant “husband” – had to own a gun. (In a bit of sublime satire, the elders of Ely, Minn., mandated that every home had to have a fishing pole, on the theory that feeding your family is as important as defending it.)

Sent to Kennesaw to write a story, I asked a merchant to give me the big picture.

“Well,” he said, pausing, “I guess I’m gonna sell a gun – if there’s anybody around here that don’t already have one.”

Actually, nothing much changed.

And maybe, if people will quit saying you can shoot first with impunity, nothing much will change with Florida’s new castle doctrine.

Yes, I know they’re all insignificant next to the New York Times, but taken together, they indicate to me that the pendulum is still swinging our way.