Sunday, July 21, 2013

    1. What an amateur can pull off
    2. One cavil with Obama’s Friday comments
    3. The Baffler on This American Life
    4. Vive la France!
    5. Decriminalizing gun violence?
    6. George Zimmerman’s phone log
    7. A true inspiration to idiots everywhere
    8. You’ve never seen everything


Saint Mary’s Church at Wreay, Cumbria is amazing. Intriguing on the outside, stunning inside.

St. Mary's Apse
St. Mary’s Apse (some Creative Commons rights reserved)

Having seen it, I had to pass it on.

Oh: it was designed, and construction was supervised by, a woman with no formal training, in the 19th Century.

You’re welcome. (H/T Alan Jacobs)


Having praised the President yesterday for his comments on the Zimmerman/Martin matter, I now want to add a few things.

The President said “Black men — no matter their status or dress — have to deal with a default perception of criminality ….”

I doubt it. I think dress matters a lot. I think standard English matters a lot – if the person inclined toward suspicion sticks around long enough to hear standard English. I even think that an black man whose features are distinctively African, as opposed to African-American, is not likely to be perceived as criminal unless he adopts gang-like garb.

But a man who has an African-American look (tincture of Jefferson, so to speak), can’t really change that. The best he can do is try so to dress and speak as to lower his odds (think “Henry Louis Gates“) of suffering unjust suspicion. This goes back to the matters of mental triage or stereotyping.


Public Radio’s This American Life‘s “primary aim is to make upper-middle-class folks feel good about themselves, not to advance critical thought,” so the facts are handled carelessly. Thus saith The Baffler.

I think my subscription to The Baffler is going to be pretty thought-provoking.


The “French Spring” movement (le Printemps Français) has rattled the French political establishment – and even gay marriage advocates in faraway California. That’s because it calls into question the claim that same sex marriage is “inevitable” and opposition to it mere bigotry.

In recent months, between 400,000 and a million demonstrators of all ages have crowded the streets of Paris and other large cities in France, loudly objecting to a gay marriage law that, the demonstrators insist, enshrines the notion that mothers and fathers are “optional” for children.

The demonstrators carry signs with a striking logo: a red fist and a blue fist, signifying a man and a woman in revolt, with the tiny white hand of a child between them. Their motto, On ne lâche rien, can be roughly translated, “never give in” or “give nothing up.”

“This is not simply a law to give homosexuals the right to marry,” Philippe Brillault, the mayor of Le Chesnay, a small town near Versailles, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a new concept of the family.”

“When a heterosexual couple adopts, they are fulfilling, or replicating, the roles of the biological parents,” Bourges responded. “If a homosexual couple adopts, they are denying the natural origins of humanity. They are saying that children do not come from a relationship between a man and a woman. They are a possession, an accoutrement, something that you can choose to acquire like a car or a necklace.”

(In the birthplace of revolution, a French Spring) Regrettably, if the French are against it, some of our “conservatives” may abruptly decide they’re for it.


The University of Wisconsin political scientist Andrew Kydd offers an interesting critique of the spread of concealed carry and stand your ground statutes. Departing from a Weberian definition of the state as a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, Kydd suggests that “[t]he United States is now embarked on an unprecedented experiment, in that it is a strong state, fully capable of suppressing private violence, but it is increasingly choosing not to.” Kydd attributes loosening restrictions on the possession and use of guns to a libertarian fantasy that “the absence of the state will lead to a paradise for individuals.” But he follows Hobbes in predicting grimmer consequences: the replacement of violence under law by anarchic clashes between mercenaries, clans, and vigilantes.

I share Kydd’s concern about the decriminalization of gun violence, which looks to me like a risky solution to an exaggerated problem (violent crime has been falling for years).

(Samuel Goldman)

For some reason, the distillation “decriminalization of gun violence” caught my eye and my imagination. Is that what’s going on in “concealed carry” and “stand your ground”?

These are not mere codifications of the common law right of self-defense. “Stand your ground” takes “a man’s home is his castle” (wherein he has no duty to retreat before using lethal violence) and moves it to the streets. Concealed carry allows a person to defend herself extemporaneously, before the police could arrive, but also encourages Barney Fife bravado.

It somehow seems an oversimplification to think that all this is bona fide deterrence of the bad guys, to keep them from acting bad. It surely contemplates legal, lethal, private gun violence when a bad guy plays “bet you’re not armed” roulette — and loses.


Michelle Meyer has a great post at The Faculty Lounge. Among other things, for those who think that Zimmerman “routinely profiled black males and only reported black males to the police,” Meyer has some analysis of Zimmerman’s calls that at the very least complicate the story.

(David Bernstein)


No work of art was ever created by a committee. (Well, maybe the King James Bible).

“The Freedom from Religion Foundation would like to edit your winning design, Mr. Libeskind: lose that superfluous Star of David:”

FFRF believes with the state of Ohio it is important to memorialize the Holocaust … We also believe that the solemnity and import of the task can be accomplished without permanently placing a religious symbol on government property. As the Star of David was deemed by European Jews to be the symbol that “would represent Judaism just as the cross did Christianity” its prominent inclusion in the memorial gives the impression of an endorsement of Judaism.

These FFRC people are a true inspiration to idiots everywhere.


July 17, 2013:

NEW DELHI — Twenty-two children died and more than two dozen others were hospitalized on Tuesday after eating a free lunch believed to have been prepared with cooking oil stored in an insecticide container at a primary school in the eastern state of Bihar, officials said.

Years ago when my brother was in India
A small town baker got a bright idea
He cut his flour with pesticide
and sent a bunch of neighbours on their longest journey
He was just being cheap – trying to make a profit
Didn’t even have shareholders to answer to

But it’s worth remembering, as we sell off the forest
gene-splice the world’s food into an instrument of control
maim and destroy as acts of theatre,
what came next –
That when the survivors looked around
and understood what had been done
they butchered
that baker

(Bruce Cockburn, You’ve Never Seen Everything)

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

One thought on “Sunday, July 21, 2013

  1. “The University of Wisconsin political scientist Andrew Kydd offers an interesting critique of the spread of concealed carry and stand your ground statutes. … he follows Hobbes in predicting grimmer consequences: the replacement of violence under law by anarchic clashes between mercenaries, clans, and vigilantes.”

    Legal concealed carry in fact tends to reduce violent street crime. Criminals may in fact choose less risky forms of criminal behavior (burglary instead of street robbery) because of the increased risk of being shot by an armed citizen carrying a concealed handgun. The “Shall Issue” concealed carry movement started in the 1980s in Florida as a response to the number of assaults on women in public. The result was an immediate decrease in these crimes, almost certainly attributable to concealed carry.

    People who go to the trouble to get a legal permit or license to carry a concealed handgun are demonstratably some of the most law abiding and safest people in the country. Like any system a few people will slip through who are not, but that is always the case. It is the case with police officers too. As a fact people with a concealed carry license are arrested for firearms violations at a rate very slightly less than sworn police officers being arrested for the same offense (a very low occurance).

    When I got license to carry in Texas it was made very clear to me by the instructor the serious consequences of using handgun in self defense (which is why I am a paid up member of Texas Law Shield). Even if fully justified, the costs of dealing with the legal system can be very high (as no doubt George Zimmerman knows now).

    Using a firearm in self defense is not “vigilantism.” It is not “taking the law into your own hands” any more than if a sworn police officer shoots a criminal in self defense. Self defense is a basic human right.

    As to “stand your ground” laws I cover that here:

    Stand Your Ground and Self Defense

    The previous requirement to retreat had serious flaws and often led to injustice in cases of self defense. Many states have some version of “stand your ground” laws today and fortunately I live in one.


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