“At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 14,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?” – Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class
Archive of articles classified as' "Thinkage"Back home
Left in the earth by an
Elegant and just cosmos
To see if we’re either
Too stupid to realize its danger
Too greedy to stop using it if we do
It’s meant to kill us
And if we’re smart enough (i.e., far-sighted enough, unselfish enough)
To cut ourselves free of it
We’ve got a chance
This may explain why
there is no intelligent life
found in the universe
There is no reason for any civilian to own a full automatic or semi-automatic firearm, a firearm with an external magazine (often referred to inaccurately as a clip), or military style rounds (a.k.a. bullets).
Full and semi-automatic weapons firing military style rounds from external magazines are typically referred to as assault rifles or assault weapons but we will not use that term here. Rather we are going to examine why each of those 3 components by themselves should make a weapon ban worthy.
There are only two legitimate civilian uses for a firearm:
Sport shooting (including hunting and target shooting) and self-defense (which includes the killing of vermin and of predators attacking livestock). Both uses put a premium on marksmanship; i.e., hitting what one is aiming at. (This includes shotguns, which are much more forgiving re absolute accuracy, for reasons described below.)
Military firearms have two and only two non-ceremonial uses:
For marksmen to shoot an individual enemy with accuracy, and to lay down a withering cover of supressing fire in order to pin an enemy unit down long enough for air or artillery strikes to be called in.
The former may involve standard issue sidearms, rifles, or specialized sniper weapons, but the latter typically involves the tools of an infantry unit: Rifles, machine guns, grenade or rocket launchers, and mortars.
The military marksman, like the civilian sports shooter, seeks to hit and kill the target with the first shot since a miss has several results of increasing undesireability, from the target vanishing to the target attacking and killing the shooter. Military marksmen, like civilian sports shooters, strive to be effective with a single shot.
Supressing fire, however, doesn’t rely on accuracy but rather on filling the air so full of lead that an enemy doesn’t dare move for fear of being hit by a stray shot. Enemy kills are a by-product of this sort of use, not the primary objective. As cited above, the main purpose of military firearms is to pin an enemy down until heavier weapons can be brought to bear.
This is where the semi-auto function comes in.
A semi-automatic weapon fires a round, then using expanding gas from the round (or, much more rarely, the physical recoil of the round being fired) ejects the spent round and loads another bullet into the chamber, readying the weapon to be fired again (a full automatic weapon keeps firing as long as the trigger is held; some semi-automatic weapons have selector options that allow a shooter to fire a three round burst with every pull of the trigger).
To maintain accuracy, every weapon needs to be re-aimed after every shot. Unless a weapon is firmly anchored to a far more massive object, its recoil alone will throw its aim off.
Many air / ship / vehicle mounted weapons use the vehicle’s mass plus gyroscopic mechanical and/or computer aiming systems to maintain steady accurate fire by re-aiming the weapon every split second between shots.
Handheld or shoulder firearms can not maintain steady accurate fire even on a semi-auto setting without being re-aimed. Not only is there recoil and muzzle climb to deal with (i.e., a tendency for the business end of the device to rise as it’s fired), but the very operation of the semi-automatic reloading will produce enough vibration to require a shooter to slow their rate of fire to re-aim.
For civilian sporting and defense use, there is no purpose served by a semi-automatic weapon since to fire it accurately the shooter must slow their rate of fire down to the level of a bolt/lever/pump operated weapon.
To compensate for the appaling lack of accuracy in full and semi-automatic rates of fire, modern military weapons use large external magazines to hold several rounds of ammunition thus enabling the shooter to throw out a lot of lethal lead very, very quickly. In modern combat it takes literally tens of thousands of rounds to produce a single gunshot casualty; the real killing is done with high explosives delivered by rocket, howitzer, aircraft, or vest.
The round in the middle is the type used by
the M-16 and its civilian counterpart, the AR-15, which
was the weapon used to killed 20 unarmed first graders in Sandy Hook.
They were all shot multiple times with this type of bullet.
Further, in combat situations military personnel concern themselves only with self-protection. If fired on they will fire back, tough titty if some civilian gets hit with a stray shot. In civilian sport and defense shooting, however, the shooter will be held criminally and financially responsible for any injury, damage, or loss of life caused by a stray round. As a result it is not in a civilian shooter’s best interests to fire wildly at a target, so there is no need for a large external magazine.
If it takes more than two shots to bring down a deer or a duck, you are clearly not a good enough shot to be a hunter. (Go practice.)
If you think defending your home will involve a prolonged gunfight against several intruders, you should really analyze your life to see why people would want to engage in a gun battle with you. (Lifestyle changes may be in order.)
Military rounds are typically hard tipped steel or copper jacketed slugs designed to penetrate metal, heavy wood, cinderblock, etc. with enough force to kill a human being on the other side. The steel or copper jacket holds the slug together when it hits hard objects, thus facilitating lethal ricochets.
Military rounds were so powerful there are well documented cases of them passing through a human body so swiftly the victim was not even aware they had been shot and continued fighting. As a result modern military rounds are designed to start wobbling when they strike a target, translating the bullet’s velocity into a devastating kinetic shock wave that rips through a human body.
There are numerous documented cases of people having limbs and heads blown off by a single military round; there are documented cases of human bodies literally being blasted to bits by a burst from a full automatic weapon.
While “varmint” shooting may not worry about the damage done to the target, hunting generally does not want the meat or trophy damaged by reckless shooting.
Many civilian hunting rounds have soft or hollow tips if jacketed, or no jacket at all. The reason for this is to deform the bullet when it hits a target, flattening it out to spread the kinetic damage around.
The objective is not to send a bullet through the target, but to get it to impose maximum tissue damage on vital organs such as hearts and lungs. Conversely, military rounds need to keep causing damage by ripping through one human and hitting another, possibly going through a brick wall and ricocheting off an embedded steel beam before hitting another human (and if that human is an enemy, so much the better).
Using a civilian weapon such as a shotgun as a last line of home defense makes sense. Fire a shotgun at an intruder and the chances of hitting them with some pellets are greater than hitting them at all with a bullet, and pellets that miss are unlikely to penetrate the walls of one’s home to harm others.
Conversely, shoot an intruder in your bedroom with a military style rifle round, and the bullet is fully capable of going right through them, going through an external load bearing wall, traveling half a mile to smash through the grill of an automobile, ricochet off the engine block of said auto, punch through the fender of the car, penetrate the external load bearing wall of another house, go through two more internal walls, and then blow the head off a sleeping infant.
By definition, military weapons are designed for use that renders them impractical at best and totally worthless at worse for sporting and personal defense. Military small arms are designed for and deployed by governments seeking to use them to kill large numbers of people very quickly, either directly or indirectly by pinning an enemy unit down until it can be destroyed by air or artillery.
The reason governments want to do this is because they are seeking to impose their will by force on others. As a result they do not care how much “collateral damage” occurs to civilians so long as the enemy capitulates.
Military grade weapons (full or semi-automatic firearms with external magazines firing military grade ammunition) are tools of the trade along with saturation bombing, nerve gas, biological warfare, and nuclear weapons, all of which are weapons with no practical civilian use that governments employ against civilians.
Now, it has been argued that citizens need these military quality weapons and ammunition in order to oppose a tyrannical government. Let the record show that the last time there was a large scale uprising against the government of the United States, it was by tyrants seeking to maintain their ownership of slaves. Let the record further show that said uprising, despite being led by some of the most brilliant military minds in history, ultimately failed and at a terrible price to those who supported the tyrants.
And let the record show even further still that it is historically proven armed resistance succeeds only one in four times it’s tried, and when it fails it leaves the victorious establishment with even more power than before, and that never leads to democratization, but when nonviolent passive resistance is employed, there’s a fifty-fifty chance of success and even if the resistance fails, there’s a one in three chance the government will loosen up and democratize within five years.
Nonviolent passive resistance is clearly the best
method of resisting a tyrannical government.
If you want to defend your home from criminal intruders, first get a dog, then get a cell phone, then get a burglar alarm, and only then get a shotgun. If you want to defend your community from an oppressive government, lay down your weapons and resist nonviolently and passively.
 For one thing, irresponsible weapon ownership apologists enjoy indulging in meaningless semantics over the term, sometimes correctly pointing out that two weapons with identical operating mechanisms may be identified as either a sports weapon or an assault rifle based on purely cosmetic appearances, but then using that to attempt to negate reasonable attempts to regulate such weapons.
 And that’s just a single round; imagine how popular you’ll be with the neighbors after spraying a 30 round clip at an intruder.
For more reasons than one, it’s appropriate that we’re using The Bledsoe Scene from Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid to make our point today. BC & The SDK is one of the best movies to come out of Hollywood, beloved by audiences but somewhat despised by old time Western fans.
Y’see, BC & The SDK took a whole lotta conventions of the genre & turned ‘em on their ear. Up to that point — and indeed, for several years afterwards — the standard trope of the genre’ was that when the hero/s faced impossible odds, they stood their ground and fought, sometimes to their death, but more often than not to victory.
Butch and Sundance, when faced with overwhelming odds,
said “Shuck this fit” and fled the country to South America.
But between the point where they rob their final train in the good ol’ US of A to the point where they decide to go to Bolivia then jump off a cliff, they are pursued by the relentless Super Posse. At one point in the chase they get the cockamamie idea that leads to The Bledsoe Scene.
Bledsoe is a former outlaw turned sheriff; Butch & Sundance know this but the town folk don’t. Butch & Sundance sneak up to his house in the middle of the night & present their plan to him: Acting as their intermediary, Bledsoe will go to the territorial governor and get a pardon for them in exchange for their agreeing to join the Army and fight in the Spanish-American War.
To their surprise, Bledsoe does not cotton to this idea. He explodes in rage, in fact:
“It’s over, don’t you get that? Your times is over and you’re gonna die bloody, and all you can do is choose where.”
The conservative white Protestant male POV had a good long run as the dominant / default POV for this country, but it’s over. From May 14, 1607 (the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in the Americas) to the present, the values espoused by Anglo-American culture / society / civilization were those of conservative white Protestant males.
It’s not that they always excluded others — here and there token minority representation was allowed to participate — or that they were entirely adverse to outside ideas, but the bottom line was the white boys decided what the cultural values were, and if you wanted a chance to participate, even on the fringes, you had to toe their line.
And “everybody” “knew” that.
Injuns were either bloodthirsty redskins or noble savages, depending on what game the white boys wanted to play. Blacks were simple minded creatures just one step up from animals whom whites were duty bound to enslave in order to bring them the benefits of civilization. Homosexuals were godless perverted sodomites to be pitied at best, scorned and brutalized always. Furners were smelly, creepy, weird folks with foreign gods and strange customs and un-American ideas. The ladies, God love ‘em, were gentle creatures who need to be protected and shielded from their own thoughts and desires for their own good.
And anybody who doubted rapacious dog-eat-dog / winner-take-all capitalism wasn’t God’s specific plan for the human race — and that America wasn’t His new Jerusalem, a shining beacon unto the world — was some atheist commie pinko.
We were a Christian nation, gawdammit — but none of that namby-pamby love-your-enemy / turn-the-other-cheek stuff, nosiree! Good conservative white Protestant male values faced all problems head on, never compromising, never backing down, beating the opposition back with fists or guns.
Conservative white Protestant male values were always right, never wrong. If we said drugs were bad, m’kay? then drugs were bad, period. And if we said certain drugs used by non-conservative non-white non-Protestant non-male groups were far, far worse than the drugs the conservative white Protestant males liked, well, that was a self-evident truth, wasn’t it? We need to punish those people more than we punish our own because they don’t see the inherent virtue of conservative white Protestant male values.
This is not to say conservative white Protestant male values did not make a tremendous contribution not only to the formation of this country but the shaping of worldwide values for over three centuries, but they weren’t the only values nor the only POV out there.
And they certainly weren’t virtuous just because they
happened to originate with conservative white Protestant males.
In the original draft of Toy Story, Woody was an outright villain, a nasty bully who dominated the other toys. But as Pixar was working on the story, somebody had a flash of genius: Woody could afford to be nice and sweet and affable and helpful to all the other toys –
– so long as they recognized he was the top toy.
The moment something happens to threaten his standing as top toy…well, that’s where things got interesting.
We have just entered into a period that history will certainly decree is “interesting.” Conservative white Protestant male values are no longer the default well-of-course-our-ideas-are-the-best values any longer. There’s a lot of good to be found in conservative white Protestant male values…
…you jes’ gotta prove they’re better than any other values.
The days of the easy lowest-level-setting for conservative white Protestant male values is over; now they have to compete in the marketplace of ideas.
Compete as equals…
And this is making a lot of people — whom it must be said genuinely & truly believe that conservative white Protestant male values are the best — grow Very, Very Nervous.
A whole lotta people…
Because they have been living in the horror of what our old pal Socrates described as “the unexamined life.”
They have never really questioned or tried or tested their values, they just accepted them as templates laid on them from above, pre-ordained by God and / or the founding fathers however they envisioned Him and / or them.
As a result, over the next 20 to 30 years as these people see their conservative white Protestant male values be treated as irrelevant but before they die off as a generation, there’s gonna be a whole lotta really, really stupid acting out and really, really, really stupid things said.
But they have to be conscious decisions, conclusions arrived at through careful, deliberate thought and actual human experience.
Not embraced because they are the path of least cultural / intellectual resistance.
Especially not embraced because they comfort and reassure by appealing to a lust for power and control.
Bad enough such a lust is a conscious expression;
too often it is the result of unthinking denial.
This is not the time to be Butch and Sundance.
This is the time to be Woody.
 The Wild Bunch
 Well, Butch…
 So dubbed by William Goldman, and why not? He wrote the screenplay.
 What I love about Pixar movies is that every time a character has a chance to make the right decision — they make the right decision! Woody’s growth in maturity and selflessness turned him from an affable antagonist into a genuine hero and set the stage for two great sequels. Those who espouse conservative white Protestant male values should keep that in mind.
 “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Calvin says that he is certain, and [other sects] say that they are; Calvin says that they are wrong and wishes to judge them, and so do they. Who shall be judge? What made Calvin the arbiter of all the sects, that he alone should kill? He has the Word of God and so have they. If the matter is certain, to who is it so? To Calvin? But then why does he write so many books about manifest truth?…In view of the uncertainty we must define the heretic simply as one with whom we disagree. And if then we are going to kill heretics, the logical outcome will be a war of extermination, since each is sure of himself.
“Poetry is different from fiction. Poetry is not a lie that tells the truth. A poem must burn with a truth-seeking flame and be a little symphony of language, too. Often my poems contain real events and real details from life, but I don’t want them to be like diary entries. I want to create an imaginative world that seems to be entirely my own—neither confessional nor abstract.” — Henri Cole
[why am I posting this classic
(i.e., public domain) short story?
To use it to make a point later on...]
found via Shorpy, a great resource
for vintage / historical photographs
Shake earth, and at the presence be aghast
Of him that ever was, and aye shall last,
That glassy floods from rugged rocks can crush,
And make soft rills from the fiery flint-stones gush.
– Milton, Paradise Lost
Sandy isn’t an irruption of abnormality into a sane and sensible world; it is a reminder of what the world really is like. Human beings want to build lives that exclude what we can’t control — but we can’t.
Hurricane Sandy is many things; one of those things is a symbol. The day is coming for all of us when a storm enters our happy, busy lives and throws them into utter disarray. The job on which everything depends can disappear. That relationship that holds everything together can fall apart. The doctor can call and say the test results are not good. All of these things can happen to anybody; something like this will happen to us all.
Somewhere in the future, each of us has an inescapable appointment with irresistible force. For each one of us, the waters will someday rise, the winds spin out of control, the roof will come off the house and the power will go out for good. – Walter Russell Mead, Nature And Nature’s God
Our prayers are out to all those who live on the Atlantic Seaboard, all those within range of impact from Sandy’s weather, and especially to the people of New Jersey, New York City, and Long Island.
This is going to be one of the worst natural disasters in US history, and while mercifully the loss of life is small, the devastation to homes and businesses, to trade and travel will be felt for years to come.
The people of those areas will rebuild; that’s what people do in the wake of a disaster. But it should stay in our minds — along with New Orleans, San Francisco, and the Dust Bowl and literally hundreds of other natural disasters that occur on a yearly basis and take thousands of lives but never achieve mythic status — that we are not in control, that we are at best stewards of this Earth and not its master.
“Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.
“However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science.
“But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.”