According to Vice magazine,

Can you imagine that? Arming women and preachers?

Unfortunately the NRA isn't offering to put guns in their hands. They'd have to provide their own guns. The NRA is just supporting their right not to have to be disarmed and helpless.

As I'm sure I've mentioned before now, I've trained some several women to shoot for such purposes. It often occurs during or shortly after a divorce, when emotions are high on both sides. So far none of them have had to make recourse to their arms for self-defense because, as xkcd reminds us, most people aren't murderers even in moments of high emotion. However, it does sometimes happen that a former spouse tries to kill his ex-wife. It's neither unreasonable nor unwise for a woman in that position to consider arming herself, and I am happy to support it.

Would You Believe -Four- Deputies?

Just how many Deputy Sheriffs would it have taken before they got comfortable enough to do their jobs and save the lives of the children dying in front of them? We'll never know, since they apparently waited for a different department to arrive and do the job the deputies would not do.

Asked about corruption in his department, by the way, the Sheriff said, "Lions don't care about the opinions of sheep." He did not explain how he knew anything about the opinions of lions, but we can clearly rule out any direct experience. The article suggests it was from watching Game of Thrones in his leisure hours, which seems much more plausible.

“You can’t just say no to everything.”

Or maybe you can.

A Philosophical Reading of Walls

I'm impressed with the thoughtfulness of this essay on wall-building as fortification technique. It contains at least two insights that are very much worth having:

1) Advances in weapons and advances in defense technology tend to mirror each other,

2) No matter what, defense in depth is necessary.

The relationship in (1) is a little more complex than the author suggests. It's not that advances in walls provoke advances in weapons, but rather that a two-way relationship exists between attack and defense. I drew up a slide to explain this for a conference once.

This was just a sketch of the issue for an academic audience; the more expert audience here will readily identify complexities I didn't bother to draw for them. The basic point is that swords got longer, and then they got shorter. Why? Well, armor got better and better for a while, meaning that it required more force to overcome. A sword is basically a lever, and the longer the lever, the greater the force at the end of the lever. Thus, longer swords.

After the advent of effective gunpowder weapons, however, armor was increasingly less effective and less present. Thus, swords got shorter again. Indeed, to a large degree they were abandoned in favor of the gunpowder weapons. They survive today as combat knives and bayonets, both normally considered last-ditch weapons whose use is preferably to be avoided in most circumstances. There is at least one example of an intentional bayonet charge from the Iraq War, as a way of attacking into an L-shaped ambush, but it isn't a go-to tactic anymore.

To return to the first article, I am impressed with the way the author treats the universals at play in defense. As he notes at the end, the question of the usefulness of walls remains up for debate. "Plato reckoned that walls encourage 'a soft habit of soul in the inhabitants, by inviting them to seek refuge within it instead of repelling the enemy.' Aristotle retorted, that not building walls was 'like desiring the country to be easy to invade.' It’s still an open argument."

If you don't use a gun, what's the bother about?

I'm gonna predict that the hoopla over the massacre now goes away, if this is true:
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The armed school resource officer assigned to protect students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took a defensive position outside the school and did not enter the building while the shooter was killing students and teachers inside with an AR-15 assault-style rifle, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday.
That, I initially supposed, might have been protocol, but if this quote from the sheriff is correct, I guess not.
He said Peterson was armed, and was in uniform, and should have gone into the building during the 6-minute event, which left 17 people, most of them teenagers, dead. When asked what the deputy should have done, Israel said: “Went in and addressed the killer. Killed the killer.”
So what we have here, is a cascading failure of institutions. FBI, Sheriff's department, and likely the Federal government, due to the initiative to reduce minority teenage incarceration, the so called "school to prison pipeline" 39 visits from the cops, not a single arrest? I'm not even going to discuss the FBI, since that organization probably just needs to be disbanded at this point.

And Just Like That, The Story Changed

An officer was on the scene of last week's shooting. He hid.

But by all means, let's all disarm and trust the government to protect us and our children.

A Critique of Liberalism

This book review is encouraging that the book is worth reading; the review itself goes further than the book, into a criticism of liberalism (both classical and reform) as contrasted with Christianity. If you find the Christian account too strong, the book is probably more to your tastes. If you find the account compelling, the review will have pleased you and the book may still be of interest.

Appreciating Philosophy Degrees

An argument from Mark Cuban that such degrees will soon be worth more than computer science degrees. Advise your children accordingly.

Bee Stings

U.S.—Despite offering thousands of thoughts and prayers to the victims of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s latest flurry of moronic tweets, the nation’s religious people admitted at long last that their petitions were totally ineffective at preventing the pop astrophysicist from saying stupid things online. ... 
How Woke Are You? Take the Quiz!

For this last, the headline says about 90% of it, but I just couldn't leave it out:

Federal Government Launches GoFundMe Campaign To Pay Off $20 Trillion National Debt

Also Applies to Guns

A cartoon from xkcd implies a point that the author may or may not have intended to make.

Cross Picking

Jim Heath of the Reverend Horton Heat shows another way in which bluegrass techniques influenced rock and roll.

Graphs and Statistics

The opening graph is interesting, but it's quickly criticized in the comments for selection bias. So defenders produce other graphs -- quite a few of them -- with supporting stories.

What to believe? Well, this is one way of addressing the question.

This Law is Unjust

The law that the Special Counsel has been using to obtain guilty pleas needs to be changed. It is inhumane in the most literal sense: it is not a law that a human can be expected to obey no matter how hard that human being tries.
He lied when he said his last communication with Rick Gates was in August 2016, according to the government, when in fact in September 2016 'he spoke with both [Manafort deputy Rick] Gates and Person A' about a report and 'surreptitiously recorded the calls.'
Maybe this guy "lied" in the strict sense, intending to deceive the investigation. However, there is no possibility that I could accurately remember whether any conversation I had last fall was in August or September, let alone a conversation from a year before that. I could not expect to tell you accurately whether or not a particular conversation was the last time I had discussed it with the person I was talking to a year or more ago. The law treats any statement that turns out to be inaccurate as if it were a deliberate effort to deceive. But the human mind doesn't work that way. Every time you remember something, your brain alters the memory a bit. It is not a recording device like a video camera or a tape recorder; it is simply not reasonable to expect someone to remember details with perfect accuracy.

This law gives prosecutors incredible power, because simply by compelling testimony they can compel crimes. The only way to avoid being made into a criminal is to refuse to testify. Congress should alter this law at once to include an intent standard, so that the prosecution must prove that the intent of the accused was to deceive. If so, fine, prosecute him. An inhumane law is unjust, however, and unjust laws should be repealed or altered.

The fuel of rage

Empty private lives can make for inappropriately violent public ones.  I was struck by this comment from David Foster in a comment at his site, Chicago Boyz:
"I believe we have today in America a considerable number of people who expect to have . . . maybe not the *entire* content of their lives, but a significant and emotionally-intense portion . . . delivered by the public sphere. And it is these people who are most likely to commit political violence."
I won't quote the whole comment, which includes fascinating excerpts from Sebastian Haffner’s memoir of life in Germany between the wars.  In that period, when things began to improve, some parts of society seemed even more determined to find something wrong to be volcanically and violently opposed to--and they got their way before long.

Early voting starts tomorrow in my local county race. In trying to find out what my potential constituents want from their county government, I've been confused more than one by people who seem furious that no one is helping them, but even angrier if they are directed to volunteer aid groups, because "they don't want a handout." Others, or maybe the same people (it's slippery, what they're so angry about), are aggrieved because they're able to recover from the storm but the county won't crack down on those other guys, who leave their debris everywhere and didn't obey building codes in the first place.  Everyone wants the government to be more "accountable," but for some that seems to mean "make them cough up the recovery money we're sure they're hiding" while for others it means "punish them for being lax in law enforcement and wasting our tax money on handouts."

It makes me wonder if the key to the contradictions is the meaninglessness of private lives and the consequent need to gin up intense emotion in the public sphere. The people who got together with their neighbors to help the hardest hit and make the best of things seem to be recovering just fine, even though our local economy is still barely functioning and it remains hard to get insurance money or, if you can get the money, any contractors worth their salt who aren't too busy to start work.  The people who are still fuming with anger appear paralyzed and rootless.

The worst-struck neighborhoods have no obvious home-grown structure:  no churches, clubs, or community clean-up parties.  Part of it may be that these neighborhoods have too high a percentage of second homes and, even after six months, absentee owners.  Another part may be that over half of the homes in these areas were badly damaged, and that's too high a percentage for the rest to come together as a healing network.  When these people ask me what I'd do for them as a commissioner, I have no answer.  Can a government ever make up for a lack of local community?  I think governments do well simply to avoid the temptation to disrupt what local communities can do for themselves.

Geese and ganders

What would happen if we seriously tried to apply Robert Mueller's legal analysis to everyone who was active in the 2016 election?