Thursday, January 31, 2013

How home schooling threatens monopoly education

Column: How home schooling threatens monopoly education

In an era when everything is customizable, why not customize your child's education?

"What about home schooling? You know, it's not just for scary religious people any more." That's a line from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and it should strike fear into the hearts, not of vampires, but of public-school administrators everywhere.
The fact is, Americans across the country -- but especially in large, urban school systems -- are voting with their feet and abandoning traditional public schools, to the point that teachers are facing layoffs. Some are going to charter schools, which are still public but are run more flexibly. Some are leaving for private schools. But many others are going another step beyond traditional education, and switching to online school or even pure home schooling.
And, as Buffy so accurately noted, it's not just "scary religious people." In fact, rather than scary, those religious people are looking more like trendsetters. A recent piece in The Atlantic told of purely secular parents' decision to take their kids out of New York public schools and home school instead:
"That first year, chatting with other homeschooling parents at soccer games, picnics, and after-church coffee hours, I found that our decision was far from unusual. Homeschooling has long been a philosophical choice for religious traditionalists and off-the-grid homesteaders, but for the parents we met — among them several actors, a jazz composer, a restaurateur, a TV chef, a Columbia University physical-plant supervisor, and a handful of college professors — it was a practical alternative to New York's notoriously inadequate education system."
New York's public school system is indeed notoriously inadequate. And, like most public school systems (or public systems of any kind), it's run more for the convenience of the staff and bureaucrats than for the benefit of parents or kids. Some kids do fine anyway, of course, and some parents aren't in a position to pursue alternatives. But for many parents, traditional schooling is no longer the automatic default choice.
That makes sense. Traditional public schools haven't changed much for decades (and to the extent they have, they've mostly gotten worse). But the rest of the world has changed a lot. The public who eagerly purchased Henry Ford's Model T (available in any color you want, so long as it's black!) now lives in a world where almost everything is infinitely customized and customizable. That makes one-size-fits-all education, run on a Fordist model itself, look like a bad deal.
For "notoriously inadequate" public school systems, as I argue in a new "Broadside" from Encounter Books, The K-12 Implosion, the risk is that the outflow of kids will turn from a trickle into a flood. At some point, it's a death-spiral: As kids (often the best students) leave because schools are "notoriously inadequate," the schools become even more notoriously inadequate, and funding -- which is computed on a per-pupil basis -- dries up. This, of course, encourages more parents to move their kids elsewhere, in a vicious cycle.
Does this mean the end of public education? No. But it does mean that the old model -- which dates to the 19th Century, when schools were explicitly compared to factories -- is at risk. Smarter educators will start thinking about how to update a 19th Century product to suit 21st Century realities. Less-smart educators will hunker down and fight change tooth and nail.
Who will win out in the end? Well, how many 19th Century business models do you see flourishing, here in the 21st?
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is professor of law at the University of Tennessee. He blogs at

The ‘Truth’ Hurts (DP: lengthy but rewarding for anyone wishing to savor the scope of media bias/cheerleading over O's campaign)

The ‘Truth’ Hurts

For many in the media, the crowning moment of the Republican Party’s long, campaign-accelerated slide into full-blown, fact-free delusion came on election night just after Fox News called the state of Ohio—and therefore the election—for President Barack Obama. Fox contributor Karl Rove, formerly the Svengali behind George W. Bush and currently the head of the influential Crossroads GPS political action committee, forcefully disputed the projection as numerically “premature.” Exasperated co-anchor Megyn Kelly retorted, “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?”
Then Kelly got up from her desk and, cameras rolling, walked down several hallways to the network’s team of number crunchers, who confidently explained and reasserted their decision. Rove was undeterred.
“I’m just saying in terms of public perception, it looks a little odd for us to be making a call with 991 votes separating the candidates,” he said. Kelly shot back: “But you know how the science works!”
If there was one overarching journalistic theme of the 2012 election, it was the alleged Republican war on science, math, and basic facts, as called out by a newly emboldened political press. A proliferation of “fact-checking” enterprises at various mainstream media outlets, combined with an increasing willingness to abandon what New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan in September called the “false balance” of “giving equal weight to both sides of a story, regardless of an established truth on one side,” produced a nearly consensus conclusion: “Let’s Just Say it: Republicans Are the Problem.”
That was the headline on an April Washington Post op-ed piece by longtime Beltway think tankers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, adapted from their book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks (Basic Books). These Washington insiders, after decades of evenhanded analysis, had finally seen enough. “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics,” they concluded. “It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”
Finally, the he-said, she-said profession was naming out loud what the press critic Jay Rosen had long referred to as the“asymmetry” between Republican and Democratic truthfulness. Competing fact checkers were now pouncing on hyperbolic claims at GOP presidential debates. Bookstores were filling up with titles like The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality. Then on the eve of the Republican National Convention, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse taped a virtual “kick me” sign on the campaign by telling Politico, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”
Sure enough, the fact-checking establishment flipped its collective wig the very next day in response to the convention speech by vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. “Paul Ryan Fails—the Truth,” was the headline employed by liberal blogger Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post. “Beyond factual dishonesty,”harrumphed New York Times editorial board member David Firestone.“As I listened to Paul Ryan,” political writer Melinda Henneberger wrote at the Post, “I couldn’t remember ever hearing an acceptance speech so rich in untrue un-facts.”
What were these monstrous lies? Top of the list was Ryan’s mention of an auto plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, that shut down during Obama’s presidency the year after candidate Obama had vowed that the facility would be there for another century. “The plant was closed in December 2008, before Obama was sworn in,” Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler wrote. But Kessler and the chorus of fact checkers turned out to be wrong; the plant did close down in 2009. Other alleged lies included Ryan’s 100-percent-accurate assertion that Obama’s presidency “began with a perfect AAA credit rating for the United States” but led to a “downgraded America” (fact checkers objected to the implied blame) and the would-be veep’s failure to disclose his own participation in a bipartisan debt-reduction committee mentioned in his speech.
After such an absurd display of overreach, the fact-checking enterprise started drawing some snickers on Twitter and in various corners of the political press, but by then the participants had dug in their heels. “Quite simply, the Romney campaign isn’t adhering to the minimum standards required for a real policy conversation,” popular Washington Post commentator Ezra Klein wrote after Ryan’s speech. “I don’t like that conclusion. It doesn’t look‘fair’ when you say that. We’ve been conditioned to want to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame, and the fact of the matter is, I would like to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame.…But first the campaigns have to be relatively equal.”
Klein, editor of the Post’s Wonkblog, is the leading exemplar of a new breed of media progressive in Washington and New York: self-consciously “wonky” on policy (“nerd” is another favored appellation), fond of boiling issues down into single everything-you-need-to-know charts, and pledged to a high-minded fairness even while rejecting hoary journalistic objectivity. The leftist media’s nerd squad wins plaudits for thoroughness and dedication to facts, even while producing journalism that overwhelmingly supports Democrats and slams Republicans. It’s a project that overlaps significantly with both the new fact checking and the older partisan bomb throwing.
Democrats were not deaf to what their ideological cohorts in the media were carrying on about. Republican truthfulness was one of the major subthemes of the Democratic National Convention. Keynote speaker Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, kicked off the proceedings by decrying “all the fictions we heard last week in Tampa.” And former President Bill Clinton stole the show with his memorable “one-word answer” for producing sane (i.e., non-GOP) federal budgets: “arithmetic.”
Republican commentators did nothing to improve their reputation for innumeracy by spending the last several weeks of the election inexplicably ganging up on the shrewd New York Times political stat nerd Nate Silver, whose poll-of-polls model consistently (and accurately, it would turn out) gave Obama a strong shot at re-election. Instead, you had Dick Morris predicting a Mitt Romney“landslide,” Peggy Noonan feeling a Romney wave in her “gut,” and Karl Rove forecasting a 285-253 squeaker for the Republican.
By the time Rove had his on-air election night freakout, the media could smell the symbolism a mile away. “The face-off made for sublimely weird television but also crystallized what’s become the meta-narrative of this election: the triumph of the data-driven nerds over ideological pundits,” wrote TV critic Meredith Blake at the Los Angeles Times.
“It was a fitting moment for an election that often seemed to be a campaign over the idea of mathematical knowability itself,” Time columnist James Poniewozik wrote. “It was, as Bill Clinton told us at the Democratic convention, about the arithmetic. And last night, the arithmetic won.”
Or did it?
Asymmetry in political discourse works more ways than one. For instance, there is the well-established asymmetry in the ideological sympathies of the working journalists who cover politics. (A 1997 survey by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, to cite one of numerous such examples, found that 61 percent of reporters identified with the Democratic Party, while only 15 percent leaned Republican.) As Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said, in the part of his Politico quote that didn’t get nearly as much press play, “Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs.”
Those beliefs, while not automatically determinative (ABC’s Jake Tapper is a fine example of a liberal journalist who pulls no punches in holding Democratic power accountable), are nonetheless evident just about every time you open a newspaper or magazine.“Obama has not been all that adept at telling his story as Commander in Chief,” Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel lamented in a special Democratic National Convention issue, swallowing the truthfulness line whole. “He likes to say that facts will win the day, but these days, people brandish their own facts. Obama is frustrated by this.” Poor Mr. President!
It is stunning at this late date that an allegedly skeptical press is still pushing string on the theory that Obama just needs to explain himself better, but more disturbing (and emblematic) is the notion that the sitting president of the United States hasn’t himself crossed the line between fact and fiction. Perhaps that conclusion is so widespread because the fact-checking exercise itself is not primarily concerned with the exercise of power.
In December the Pulitzer Prize–winning website PolitiFact, which is run by the Tampa Bay Times, announced its list of 10 finalists for “Lie of the Year.” Perhaps sensitive to conservative criticisms over prior Lie of the Year winners (Sarah Palin in 2009 for saying that ObamaCare will create “death panels,” and anyone in 2010 who said the law amounted to a “government takeover of health care”),the fact checkers came up with an evenly split list of 10 nominees: five that were Democratic lies about Republicans, and five that were Republican lies about Democrats. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell’s assertion that “Mitt Romney says he likes to fire people” was there alongside Rush Limbaugh’s claim that ObamaCare includes “the largest tax increase in the history of the world.” And so on.
But the real problem with such lists isn’t the lack of partisan diversity; it’s the glaring lack of lies told to the public in the service of wielding government force. Only one of PolitiFact’s Top 10—Obama blaming 90 percent of the 2009−12 deficit increase on George W. Bush—involved an official lying about his own record. The rest all focused on the way that politicians (and their surrogates) characterized their competitors’ actions and words. This isn’t a check on the exercise of power; it’s a check on the exercise of rhetoric.
And when it comes to rhetoric that motivates journalists into action, nothing beats culturally divisive figures from the opposing political tribe. So it was that in May 2011, the respected Nieman Journalism Lab set the mediasphere abuzz with an academic study of more than 700 news articles and 20 network news segments from 2009 that addressed a single controversial claim from the ObamaCare debate. Was it the president’s oft-repeated whopper that he was nobly pushing the reform rock up the hill despite the concentrated efforts of health care “special interests”? Was it his promise that “if you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan,” something that has turned out not to be true? Was it the way Obama and the Democrats brazenly gamed and misrepresented the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of the bill, claiming it wouldn’t add “one dime” to the deficit?
No. The cause for reconsideration of the ObamaCare coverage was not the truth-busting claims made by a sitting president in the service of radically reshaping an important aspect of American life but rather the Facebook commentary of a former governor, Sarah Palin.
“Our data indicate that the mainstream news, particularly newspapers, debunked death panels early, fairly often, and in a variety of ways, though some were more direct than others,” survey authors Matthew Schafer and Regina Lawrence concluded.“Nevertheless, a significant portion of the public accepted the claim as true or, perhaps, as ‘true enough.’ ” Meanwhile, the president got away with abusing the facts while ramming through an unpopular law and continues to be hailed as a noble truth teller in a fallen empire of lies.
At the end of November, Politico published an article about how progressive journalists, now that Obama was safely elected, were beginning to consider criticizing the president a bit more. “He was the champion of our side, he vanquished the foe,” New Yorker political columnist Hendrik Hertzberg said. “[But] now liberals don’t have to worry about hurting his chances for re-election, so they can be tougher in urging him to do what he should be doing.”
It was a remarkable admission of what many have long suspected: Portions of the press are in the tank for Democrats. Now that’s a fact worth checking.

A nation of takers

A nation of takers

by Scott Johnson in Lincoln, Obama administration, Welfare

Nicholas Eberstadt is the author of A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic. The book, it should be noted, includes dissenting essays by Yuval Levin and William Galston.
President Obama seems to have been responding to Eberstadt in a key passage of his second inaugural address: “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. (Applause.) They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. (Applause.)”
Let us pause to consider the import of what has been said. Here we have the Obama doctrine: transfer payments are the source of America’s greatness.
Nicholas Eberstadt responds:
[T]he country’s social-welfare spending is generating severe and mounting hazards for the nation. These hazards are not only fiscal but moral.
The evidence documents as well a number of perverse and disturbing changes that this entitlement state is imposing on society.
• Over the 50-plus years since 1960, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, entitlement transfers—government payments of cash, goods and services to citizens—have been growing twice as fast as overall personal income. Government transfers now account for nearly 18% of all personal income in America—up from 6% in 1960.
• According to the BEA, America’s myriad social-welfare programs (the federal bureaucracy apparently cannot determine exactly how many of these there are) currently dispense entitlement benefits of more than $2.3 trillion annually. Since those entitlements must be paid for—either through taxes or borrowing—the burden of entitlement spending now amounts to over $7,400 per American man, woman and child.
• In 1960, according to the Office of Management and Budget, social-welfare programs accounted for less than a third of all federal spending. Today, entitlement programs account for nearly two-thirds of federal spending. In other words, welfare spending is nearly twice as much as defense, justice and everything else Washington does—combined. In effect, the federal government has become an entitlements machine.

• According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly half (49%) of Americans today live in homes receiving one or more government transfer benefits. That percentage is up almost 20 points from the early 1980s. And contrary to what the Obama White House team suggested during the election campaign, this leap is not due to the aging of the population. In fact, only about one-tenth of the increase is due to upticks in old-age pensions and health-care programs for seniors.
Instead, the country has seen a long-term expansion in public reliance on “means-tested” programs—that is, benefits intended for the poor, such as Medicaid and food stamps. At this writing, about 35% of Americans (well over 100 million people) are accepting money, goods or services from “means-tested” government programs. This percentage is twice as high as in the early 1980s. Today, the overwhelming majority of Americans on entitlement programs are taking “means-tested” benefits. Only a third of all Americans receiving government entitlement transfers are seniors on Social Security and Medicare.

Under the Obama doctrine, we can see, America is becoming greater all the time. Just wait until Obamacare kicks in!
Eberstadt continues:
• As entitlement outlays have risen, there has been flight of men from the work force. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the proportion of adult men 20 and older working or seeking work dropped by 13 percentage points between 1948 and 2008.
The American male flight from work is so acute that more than 7% of men in their late 30s (the prime working age-group) had totally checked out of the workforce, even before the recent recession. This workforce opt-out, incidentally, was more than twice that of contemporary Greece, the poster child for modern welfare-state dysfunction. The share of 30-somethings neither working nor looking for work appears to be higher in America than in practically any Western European economy.
• Arithmetically speaking, the recent American flight from work has largely been a flight to government disability programs. According to the Social Security Administration, the number of working-age Americans relying on Social Security’s disability programs has increased dramatically over the past two generations.
In December 2012, more than 8.8 million working-age men and women took such disability payments from the government—nearly three times as many as in December 1990. For every 17 people in the labor force, there is now one recipient of Social Security disability program payments.
But the pool of working-age government disability recipients may be even larger than those getting funds just from the Social Security disability programs alone. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 12.4 million working-age Americans obtained disability income support from all government programs in 2011. That’s more than the total number of employees in the manufacturing sector of the economy.
• In recent years, the biggest increases in disability claims have been for “musculoskeletal” problems and mental disorders (including mood disorders). But as a practical matter, it is impossible for a health professional to ascertain conclusively whether or not a patient is suffering from back pains or sad feelings. The government’s disability-insurance programs were intended to address genuine need. On the current trajectory, the Social Security disability fund is projected to run out of money during Mr. Obama’s second term.
Not to worry: the Federal Reserve can pick up the slack. Eberstadt concludes:
The moral hazard embedded in the explosion of social-welfare programs is plain. Transfers funded by other people’s money tend to foster a pernicious “something for nothing” mentality—especially when those transfers seem to be progressively and relentlessly growing, year by year. This “taker” mentality can only weaken civil society—even as it places ever-heavier burdens on taxpayers.
Our modern house divided may precipitate another crisis:
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

5 Facts About Guns, Schools, And Violence

5 Facts About Guns, Schools, And Violence

In the wake of December’s horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Vice President Joe Biden is chairing a panel of experts that will make gun-control recommendations to President Barack Obama by the end of the month. The president has said that enacting new restrictions on guns will be one of his highest priorities.
No one wants to ever again see anything like the senseless slaughter of 26 people – including 20 children - at a school. But as legislators turn toward creating new gun laws, here are five facts they need to know.
1. Violent crime – including violent crime using guns – has dropped massively over the past 20 years.
The violent crime rate - which includes murder, rape, and beatings - is half of what it was in the early 1990s. And the violent crime rate involving the use of weapons has also declined at a similar pace.
2. Mass shootings have not increased in recent years.
Despite terrifying events like Sandy Hook or last summer’s theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, mass shootings are not becoming more frequent. “There is no pattern, there is no increase,” says criminologist James Allen Fox of Northeastern University, who studies the issue. Other data shows that mass killings peaked in 1929.
3. Schools are getting safer.
Across the board, schools are less dangerous than they used be.Over the past 20 years, the rate of theft per 1,000 students dropped from 101 to 18. For violent crime, the victimization rate per 1,000 students dropped from 53 to 14.
4. There Are More Guns in Circulation Than Ever Before.
Over the past 20 years, virtually every state in the country has liberalized gunownership rules and many states have expanded concealed carry laws that allow more people to carry weapons in more places. There around 300 million guns in the United States and at least one gun in about 45 percent of all households. Yet the rate of gun-related crime continues to drop.
5. “Assault Weapons Bans” Are Generally Ineffective.
While many people are calling for reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons – an arbitrary category of guns thathas no clear definition – research shows it would have no effect on crime and violence. “Should it be renewed,” concludes a definitive study, “the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is as horrifing a crime as can be imagined. It rips at the country’s heart and the call to action is strong and righteous. But as Joe Biden and his panel of experts consider changes to gun laws and school-safety policies, they need to lead with their heads and not just their hearts.
Over the past dozen years, too many policies – the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, the TARP bailouts – have been ruled by emotion and ideology.
Passing sweeping new restrictions on Second Amendment rights won’t heal the pain and loss we all feel but just may create many more problems in our future.
Written by Nick Gillespie. Produced by Amanda C. Winkler. Additional camera work by Joshua Swain.
About 2.30 minutes. Scroll below for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to receive automatic notifications when new material goes live.

How Big is California’s “Wall of Debt”?

How Big is California’s “Wall of Debt”?

(DP: This is an excerpt from the linked article)

...First of all, the $181.2 billion of debt recognized in Brown’s budget plan does not include unfunded pension and health care debt incurred by any of California’s cities or counties who do not participate in either CalPERS or CalSTRS. Since these two biggest pension funds only cover about two-thirds of California’s state and local government workers, you have to increase this officially recognized unfunded amount by 50%, which adds another $90 billion to the tab. Next, as exhaustively analyzed in a 2011 study authored by Stanford Professor (and former Assemblymember) Joe Nation, entitled “PENSION MATH: How California’s Retirement Spending is Squeezing the State Budget,” if the rate of return on investment currently used by the major pension funds is dropped from 7.5% to 5.5% or even 4.5%, the size of these unfunded liabilities could increase by another $200 to $300 billion.
To summarize, here a very rough estimate of the real “Wall of Debt” confronting California’s taxpayers:
  • $34.7 billion for short-term borrowing by the state
  • $30 billion for short-term borrowing by local cities, counties and agencies (very rough estimate, probably conservative)
  • $80.7 billion for State General Obligation Bonds
  • $177.6 billion for Local General Obligation Bonds
  • $28 billion for Trust Fund Loans
  • $181.2 billion for unfunded retirement and health care liabilities – CalPERS & CalSTRS participants only
  • $90 billion for unfunded retirement and health care liabilities – independent pension plan participants
  • $250 billion – impact of lower investment returns on retirement pension funds (quite likely a conservative estimate)
Grand total: $872 billion, or $23,000 per California resident, or $87,000 per California household.
It is important to emphasize that even using official estimates, about half of the total state and local government debt in California is to fund retirement benefits to government workers. And for anyone who is skeptical that it may be necessary to recognize (and eventually pay) an additional $250 billion in unfunded retirement health care and pension liabilities for California’s state and local government workers, please review the new GASB accounting regulations and the new Moody’s credit rating criteria, both set to take effect in 2014.
When Gov. Jerry Brown suggests that California’s state government is positioning itself to eliminate the so-called “Wall of Debt,” he’d be well advised to consider just how big that wall really is – especially when you remember that the only meaningful calculation of how much California state taxpayers owe must also include the amounts they owe its local governments.

Do Gun-Control Laws Control Guns?

The gun-control controversy is only the latest of many issues to be debated almost solely in terms of fixed preconceptions, with little or no examination of hard facts.
Media discussions of gun control are dominated by two factors: the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment. But the overriding factual question is whether gun-control laws actually reduce gun crimes in general or murder rates in particular.
If, as gun-control advocates claim, gun-control laws really do control guns and save lives, there is nothing to prevent repealing the Second Amendment any more than there was anything to prevent repealing the Eighteenth Amendment that created Prohibition.
But, if the hard facts show that gun-control laws do not actually control guns, but instead lead to more armed robberies and higher murder rates after law-abiding citizens are disarmed, then gun-control laws would be a bad idea, even if there were no Second Amendment and no National Rifle Association.
The central issue boils down to the question: What are the facts? Yet there are many zealots who seem utterly unconcerned about facts or about their own lack of knowledge of facts.
There are people who have never fired a shot in their life who do not hesitate to declare how many bullets should be the limit to put into a firearm’s clip or magazine. Some say ten bullets, but New York State’s recent gun-control law specifies seven.
Virtually all gun-control advocates say that 30 bullets in a magazine is far too many for self-defense or hunting — even if they have never gone hunting and never had to defend themselves with a gun. This uninformed and self-righteous dogmatism is what makes the gun-control debate so futile and so polarizing.
Anyone who faces three home invaders, jeopardizing himself or his family, might find 30 bullets barely adequate. After all, not every bullet hits, even at close range, and not every hit incapacitates. You can get killed by a wounded man.
These plain life-and-death realities have been ignored for years by people who go ballistic when they hear about how many shots were fired by the police in some encounter with a criminal. As someone who once taught pistol shooting in the Marine Corps, I am not the least bit surprised by the number of shots fired. I have seen people miss a stationary target at close range, even in the safety and calm of a pistol range.
We cannot expect everybody to know that. But we can expect them to know that they don’t know — and to stop spouting off about life-and-death issues when they don’t have the facts.
The central question as to whether gun-control laws save lives or cost lives has generated many factual studies over the years. But these studies have been like the proverbial tree that falls in an empty forest, and have been heard by no one — certainly not by zealots who have made up their minds and don’t want to be confused by the facts.
Most factual studies show no reduction in gun crimes, including murder, under gun-control laws. A significant number of studies show higher rates of murder and other gun crimes under gun-control laws.
How can this be? It seems obvious to some gun-control zealots that, if no one had guns, there would be fewer armed robberies and fewer people shot to death.
But nothing is easier than to disarm peaceful, law-abiding people. And nothing is harder than to disarm people who are neither — especially in a country with hundreds of millions of guns already out there that are not going to rust away for centuries.
When it was legal to buy a shotgun in London in the middle of the 20th century, there were very few armed robberies there. But, after British gun-control zealots managed over the years to disarm virtually the entire law-abiding population, armed robberies became literally a hundred times more common. And murder rates rose.
One can cherry-pick the factual studies, or cite some studies that have subsequently been discredited, but the great bulk of the studies show that gun-control laws do not in fact control guns. On net balance, they do not save lives but cost lives.
Gun-control laws allow some people to vent their emotions, politicians to grandstand, and self-righteous people to “make a statement” — but all at the cost of other people’s lives.
— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. © 2013 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Is Ned Ludd Writing for the Associated Press?

Is Ned Ludd Writing for the Associated Press?

by John Hinderaker in Economy, Unemployment

The Associated Press has undertaken an ambitious series of reports on the rotten U.S. and global economies. To its credit, the AP recognizes that our current recovery is, by any historical standard, awful:
In the U.S., the economic recovery that started in June 2009 has been called the third straight “jobless recovery.”
But that’s a misnomer. The jobs came back after the first two.
Most recessions since World War II were followed by a surge in new jobs as consumers started spending again and companies hired to meet the new demand. In the months after recessions ended in 1991 and 2001, there was no familiar snap-back, but all the jobs had returned in less than three years.
But 42 months after the Great Recession ended, the U.S. has gained only 3.5 million, or 47 percent, of the 7.5 million jobs that were lost. The 17 countries that use the euro had 3.5 million fewer jobs last June than in December 2007.
What is the cause of this apparently permanent joblessness? The AP blames technology:
Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market. What’s more, these jobs aren’t just being lost to China and other developing countries, and they aren’t just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers.
They’re being obliterated by technology.
Year after year, the software that runs computers and an array of other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done. For decades, science fiction warned of a future when we would be architects of our own obsolescence, replaced by our machines; an Associated Press analysis finds that the future has arrived.
The baleful effect of technological advancement has spread throughout the economy:

For more than three decades, technology has reduced the number of jobs in manufacturing. Robots and other machines controlled by computer programs work faster and make fewer mistakes than humans. Now, that same efficiency is being unleashed in the service economy, which employs more than two-thirds of the workforce in developed countries. Technology is eliminating jobs in office buildings, retail establishments and other businesses consumers deal with every day.
The AP is aware, of course, that blaming unemployment on technology has a long and disreputable history. But this time, they tell us, it is different:
Technological innovations have been throwing people out of jobs for centuries. But they eventually created more work, and greater wealth, than they destroyed. Ford, the author and software engineer, thinks there is reason to believe that this time will be different. He sees virtually no end to the inroads of computers into the workplace. Eventually, he says, software will threaten the livelihoods of doctors, lawyers and other highly skilled professionals.
Many economists are encouraged by history and think the gains eventually will outweigh the losses. But even they have doubts.
“What’s different this time is that digital technologies show up in every corner of the economy,” says McAfee, a self-described “digital optimist.” “Your tablet (computer) is just two or three years old, and it’s already taken over our lives.”
Peter Lindert, an economist at the University of California, Davis, says the computer is more destructive than innovations in the Industrial Revolution because the pace at which it is upending industries makes it hard for people to adapt.
But if the cycle of destruction and creation is speeding up, shouldn’t that mean that new jobs are coming along faster than ever? Or is the problem that the cycle of destruction and creation has been interrupted, so that jobs (and wealth) are being destroyed, but not many jobs, and not much wealth, are being created?
The first installment of the AP series addresses job destruction, but never mentions economic growth. If the story were merely one of increased efficiency attributable to technology, wouldn’t we be seeing GDP growth in line with prior recoveries? One would think so, but we aren’t. GDP growth is lagging, just like job growth. That tells us there is more going on than mere increases in efficiency.
The AP stresses that the job loss phenomenon is global, pointing to unprecedented levels of unemployment in the European Union. But some would say the EU is poorly governed, just as the United States is. Moreover, if we look at unemployment data by country, there are obvious differences. Countries calculate unemployment differently, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics took the trouble to normalize selected countries’ unemployment data to U.S. definitions; this chart is the result:
This comparison shows that the United States is doing quite poorly, even compared with countries that historically have had higher unemployment rates than ours. Why might that be, and what could account for GDP growth being so anemic in the U.S.? Poor government policies are the obvious explanation. The AP, with unintentional humor, notes that no country has done anything to stem technological innovation:
Technology is replacing workers in developed countries regardless of their politics, policies and laws. Union rules and labor laws may slow the dismissal of employees, but no country is attempting to prohibit organizations from using technology that allows them to operate more efficiently – and with fewer employees.
I should hope not, although the AP’s attitude toward this consensus is unclear. But short of banning technological improvements, there are many important differences in governmental policies that affect the economy. Thus, Singapore–number two in the Heritage Foundation’s 2013 Index of Economic Freedom–currently has an unemployment rate of 1.9%, just slightly lower than North Dakota’s. Is Singapore technologically backward? I don’t think so. A businessman friend of mine who travels there frequently told me recently that one-third of all Singapore residents over the age of 30 have a net worth in excess of $1 million. Wealth can be created rapidly, but not in an environment dominated by excessive regulation, bloated, wasteful government spending, and high taxes.
Technological innovation has always eliminated jobs, a fact for which we should be thankful: our ancestors were brick-makers, arrow fletchers and animal skinners. It has also created wealth, and that wealth has been invested in new ventures, using new technologies, that have created new jobs. This has been true for thousands of years. So what has seemingly changed so suddenly? It seems obvious that in the U.S., the game-changer is metastasizing government spending, much of it wasteful, combined with trillions of dollars in government borrowing and oppressive regulation, which together have suppressed the wealth creation and investment that normally would have created millions of new jobs, along with trillions in new economic output.
In other words, the current recovery is uniquely awful because we have never before had such a left-wing federal government. It will be interesting to see whether the Associated Press gets around to this explanation in its three-part series.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Obama, Out of the Closet

Obama, Out of the Closet

by John Hinderaker in Barack Obama

It has been amusing, in a black-humor sort of way, to see various media figures finally admit that Barack Obama is a far-left, out of the mainstream political figure. Just kidding; they don’t actually admit that. But at least they are now willing to acknowledge–most of them, anyway–that he is a liberal. “I told you so” is, as usual, cold comfort. Michael Ramirez sums up the last six years of press coverage:

Don's Tuesday column

    THE WAY I SEE IT   by Don Polson   Red Bluff Daily News   1/29/2013

Guns, polls, genocide and bullying

Meeting note: Tea Party Patriots will have as tonight’s guest Jeff Sutton who is in charge of the Diversion Dam; 6 PM at the Westside Grange.

Following are some gun-related thoughts and vignettes: Look up a fascinating article, “Why Young Women Want AR-15s,” by Celia Bigelow and Aubrey Blankenship, searchable by title; use the nationalreview.com link. It begins, “Sorry, President Obama. As young women we prefer an AR-15 ‘assault’ rifle with a 30-round magazine for self-defense … AR-15s are the most popular rifle in the U.S.; more than 3 million Americans own one. And its popularity isn’t with criminals – assault rifles account for only 0.6 percent of murders every year (but) are the guns of choice for many hunters, target shooters, and home defenders … Our goal when defending against a home invader is simple: to hit where we aim.”

After remarking on its relative light weight, low recoil, ease of shooting, as well as the intimidation factor (important against intruders who might take on a mere revolver), they wrote of the woman defending herself in Georgia. Six rounds fired from her place of retreat with her children failed to bring her assailant down, let alone kill him; he stumbled back out the door. Draw your own conclusion about her chances against additional men after having emptied her gun.

Lessons: Those who focus on the hardware, gun styles, bullet capacity, etc. are willing to deprive law-abiding citizens of their choices in either their God-given right to self-defense, or their God-given right to pursue happiness on a shooting range. Criminals, as we often report on KBLF, or the police log, pay zero attention to what they are legally prohibited from carrying and using. Do you really believe a few gang-bangers with knives will say that since you’re unarmed, they’ll give you a pass? Get real!

An article in the Washington Post, picked up by the Bend Bulletin on Jan. 12, titled “District was quick to arm guards at schools,” (searchable by title, use link) tells the story of a Butler, PA, school superintendent, Mike Rogers, who had specialized in school safety for 20 years. His three binders full of security plans and lockdown drills felt suddenly inadequate on December 14, as his concern mounted over a possible copycat attack the day after the Sandy Hook elementary mass murders.

“He looked out his office window at the snow-covered trees of western Pennsylvania and imagined a gunman approaching one of Butler County’s 14 schools, allowing the attack to unfold in his mind. In came the gunman past the unarmed guards Strutt had hired after Columbine, past the metal detectors he had installed after Virginia Tech; past the intercom and surveillance system he had updated after Aurora.

“Strutt stood from his desk and called the president of the Butler County School Board, Don Pringle. “This could happen here. Armed guards are the one thing that gives us a fighting chance. Don’t we want that one thing?” A wise question that I hope is being asked among those responsible for our collective children’s safety here in Tehama County. Look it up, either at or at Polecat News and Views ( before writing one more word about the issue on this page, please.

Remember the polls showing overwhelming support for armed school guards (Pew as well as RasmussenReports.com The favorability/approval of the National Rifle Association is about the same as that for President Obama (Rasmussen). Please note also, according to Rasmussen, “Two-out-of-three Americans recognize that their constitutional right to own a gun was intended to ensure their freedom” (“65 percent See Gun Rights as Protection Against Tyranny” 1/18/13).

Finally, polling Americans on practical measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill people does not violate our 2nd Amendment rights, but actually banning magazines or any type of weapon does. So, a poll result to that effect is as irrelevant and ineffective as saying newspapers shouldn’t write stories about mass murdering criminals. Law abiding gun owners and their freedom to purchase those items are not part of the problem; a gangster could go out tomorrow and acquire a fully automatic gun, no matter the illegalities.

I was reading about the fascination many liberals have with Turkey, when it was called the Ottoman Empire. Part of the late history and demise of the Ottoman Empire involved the genocidal murder of groups, especially the Armenians. Look it up; however, you’ll not likely find reference to the fact that the Armenians were disarmed before the genocide. All of the tyrannical “-isms” of the last century disarmed their citizens prior to murdering them. Incidentally, I will personally place a “Gun free zone” sign in front of anyone’s home, if asked.

A new book, “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans,” by Ben Shapiro is relevant to an email I received. “The left is the greatest purveyor of bullying in modern American history … as they attempt to quash their opponents through … rhetorical intimidation …” The email, from Mr. Mazzucchi, admonished me to “concentrate on your own column and commentaries and stay the hell out of mine.” Really? Or what? Seems a bit angry and arrogant, no? No one gets to tell me what to do. (I do try to say “As you wish” to she-who-must-be-obeyed). Readers can view the whole email at, as well as the comments to which RM took exception.

The writing of an angry, arrogant, petulant man--Note last sentence whines that critics have "chilling effect" on his free speech. Sheesh! Can you say thin-skinned?

Inappropriate Commentary of January 22, 2013


I would much appreciate it if you would concentrate on your own column and commentaries and stay the hell out of mine. Mr. Bachelor, as you well know, even if he is not an alias of yours as some suspect, is more than well equipped to speak for himself and does not need you or anyone else to demand an apology. It is apparent to me that you fail to appreciate the libelous nature of claims that many make on-line in the heat of the moment, including calling others out by name as liars, mentally deficient, depressed, and any variety of other indefensible untrue statements.

Perhaps I misinterpreted Mr. Bachelor's statement of my propensity of "taking folks to the showers with bread in my pockets" as a reference to Dachau - hence the perceived Nazi assignation, but this does negate his untruthful statement that I would deny him his dietary choices or recreational activities. I only suggested that hunting and gun sports be restricted, not outlawed. Such restrictions might include the types of weapons used, the areas and times of use, and the control responsible management of personal firearms to include mandatory security provisions and stiff consequences should the weapons be unregistered or find themselves used in the commission of a crime.

Nonetheless whatever readers have to say about my writing is really none of your business and I would hope that you will in the future refrain from extracting and publishing text from the my on-line commentary and thereby unnecessarily fanning flames of derision. The impact of your comments and those of Les Wolfe have a chilling effect on my first amendment rights of free speech despite your claims to respect and uphold such rights.

Thank you for your consideration,

Rick Mazzucchi

8570 State HWY 99E
Los Molinos, CA 96055

530 200-0656

The comments that apparently pushed Mazzucchi too far

  • Mike Bachelor · Top Commenter
    Mr. Mazzucchi has descended into a new low where he uses the founders and The Constitution's words for a convoluted argument while exhibiting a disdain for it. And quite honestly, I haven't read such a greater example of contempt for it and the founders as I have right here.
    His ignorant argument has our local "research engineer" exposed as lacking the facts, again. His research falls quite short of James Madison's Federalist #46.

    It's easy to see the dishonesty here.
    Mr. Mazzucchi is playing a con game as he writes the original intent of the Founders and The Constitution as being divine while prefering to completely reinvent and corrupt it at the same time.
    This week Mr. Mazzucchi actually manages to type the words, "magnificence of our constitution", regardless the context.
    What a disgusting display of dishonesty when it's qu...ite clear what he really thinks of The Constitution with his usual insistence that The Constitution is a much less dignified, "reinventable document".

    I think this is one of the most bi-polar interpretations of The Second Amendment that is out there.
    Mr. Mazzucchi views The Second Amendment as nothing more then a, "tyranny card" while dictating our recreational activities and our dinner menus.
    So much for being a pacifist or having superior intellect as well. Mr. Mazzucchi supplies us with a disrespectful cheap shot from the depths of a depressed intellect.
    We who Mr. Mazzucchi refers to as "insurrectionists" have held the Second Amendment for over 200 years and there hasn't been any tyranny. It hasn't happened! Again, nothing more psychological projection.

    Mr. Mazzucchi the self proclaimed, "scientist" can reinvent The Constitution, and the government the founders envisioned. This ordinary con man wishes for all your guns, even your hunting firearms. He wants huge government and all it will give him from the sweat of others.
    This weeks clever convolution that our three branches know best and are all trusting ignores reality in every direction. And again spits the faces of our founders who were quite clear in their views about trusting government.
    It is a complete lack of respect to The Constitution to infer it should take back seat to the will of government. Yet, that is precisely the mindset of subversive Constitutional reinventionists.

    Mr. Mazzucchi also says he's peaceful, a pacifist, and turns the other cheek. Hardly, it's a lie. Mr. Mazzucchi's contempt for the majority of Americans is nothing less then psychological projection as he paints law abiding gun owners as irresponsible, tyrannical, insurrectionists or something less then patriotic.

    Our local Judas Goat wants your recreational habits, your taste for wild game, and ALL of your guns.
    "Turning the other cheek" is nothing more then his perceived right to be up in your business poised to dictate much more then our menus and our recreational activities.

    Mr. Mazzucchi has made it quite clear what he thinks of his fellow Americans, our Founders, and The Constitution. He's not at all above leading us to the showers with a snicker on his face and a piece of bread in his pocket.
    See More

District was quick to arm guards at schools

bendbulletin.comThe Bulletin

District was quick to arm guards at schools

By Eli Saslow / The Washington Post
Published: January 12. 2013 4:00AM PST
Les Strawbridge chats with Butler Intermediate High School teachers. The Butler public school system recently hired retired state troopers such as Strawbridge to serve as armed guards. - Michael S. Williamson
The Washington Post
Michael S. Williamson The Washington Post
Les Strawbridge chats with Butler Intermediate High School teachers. The Butler public school system recently hired retired state troopers such as Strawbridge to serve as armed guards.
BUTLER, Pa. — Four hundred miles from Sandy Hook Elementary, a Pennsylvania superintendent named Mike Strutt left a morning meeting on Dec. 14 and decided to place his schools on “threat alert." He was concerned about a copycat attack on the day of the Connecticut shooting. But, as he read reports of the massacre, he started to worry more about something else.
For 20 years he had specialized in school safety, filling three binders with security plans and lockdown drills — all of which felt suddenly inadequate. In the case of an attack, would a “threat alert" do him any good?
He looked out his office window at the snow-covered trees of western Pennsylvania and imagined a gunman approaching one of Butler County’s 14 schools, allowing the attack to unfold in his mind. In came the gunman past the unarmed guards Strutt had hired after Columbine; past the metal detectors he had installed after Virginia Tech; past the intercom and surveillance system he had updated after Aurora.
Strutt stood from his desk and called the president of the Butler County School Board, Don Pringle.
“This could happen here," Strutt said. “Armed guards are the one thing that gives us a fighting chance. Don’t we want that one thing?"
That question has preoccupied schools across the country since 27 people died in Newtown, Conn., last month.
And the emerging solutions reflect the nation’s views on gun control. In a divided America, guns are either the problem or the solution, with little consensus in between. A dozen states have proposed legislation to put armed guards in schools; five others have drafted plans to officially disallow them.
Groups in Utah are training teachers to carry their own guns, Tennessee is hiring armed “security specialists" for $11.50 an hour and the National Rifle Association is working on a plan to arm school volunteers even as teachers gather in protest outside the group’s headquarters.
At stake in the debate are basic questions about the future of gun control in the United States. Do guns in schools assuage fears or fuel them? Do they keep students safe or put them at risk?
Here in Butler, a shale-mining town in the woodsy hills north of Pittsburgh, Strutt and the school board decided their reaction to Newtown could allow for neither hesitation nor ambiguity. No local school had ever experienced a gun-related threat, but neither had Sandy Hook Elementary. The district was running on a $7 million deficit, but some priorities demanded spending.
The school board worked out details with a solicitor, who submitted a proposal to a judge, who came into work on a Sunday to sign an emergency order. Before the first funeral began in Newtown, Butler’s head of school security began calling retired state troopers to ask two questions with major implications for the future of public education:
Did they own a personal firearm?
Would they be willing to carry it into an elementary school?
Marksmen needed

Frank Cichra owned a gun that he was willing to carry, so he arrived early last week at a shooting range in the mountains outside Butler, hoping to qualify as an armed school policeman. He wore snow boots, a heavy jacket and earmuffs that doubled as ear protection from the cracking sound of gunfire. He slipped on gloves and cut the black fabric away from his right index finger.
“Won’t hit the target unless I can feel the trigger," he said.
He loaded the magazine of his .40-caliber Beretta as a half-dozen other men arrived at the range. Like Cichra, they all were retired Pennsylvania state troopers who had been recruited as guards.
Butler County had cut 75 teaching and administrative positions in the last five years because of a shrinking budget, but now the district of 7,500 students couldn’t hire armed guards fast enough. It had added a new insurance policy and $230,000 to the annual security budget in order to arm and employ at least 22 former state troopers — enough to station at least one guard at each school and every after-school event. In a town where hunting guns hung on the wall of the prosecutor’s office and the rifle team won championships, the decision to arm guards had elicited a single protest. One family boycotted school for a day before returning the next.
The district’s hiring requirements for guards were at once simple and absolute: only retired state troopers with 20 years of experience who owned a gun and could pass a 60-round shooting test.
Cichra, 46, paced in the snow to keep warm and watched the first few troopers begin the test. He had been retired for exactly seven months on the day of the shooting in Newtown and that had felt like long enough. He couldn’t stand watching TV. Home improvement bored him. He had spent four years in the Army and 21 more on patrol — a career built on the hard reality of “good guys versus bad," he said, and Newtown offered him another mission. He had three kids, ages 5, 14 and 17, attending schools near Butler.
“We might not like it, but the modern reality is our kids are vulnerable, and they need our help," he said. “Nobody’s doing this job for money."
In front of him on the range was a trooper who had retired four days earlier because he thought the school district needed him and another who had just spent $600 to buy his first personal weapon, a Glock, so he would have a gun with which to qualify. Smoke rose from the targets and the smell of burnt powder filled the air.
The first group of shooters rotated out, and Cichra holstered his Beretta and took his position on the range. The instructor explained that the test was meant to simulate a firefight — “a worst-case scenario," he said. Cichra would be asked to shoot with one hand and then with two; while kneeling and while standing; while walking backward and while moving toward the target. “Listen to me and focus on the threat," the instructor said. “Imagine you are closing in on the shooter."
Cichra took aim at a silhouette target from 25 yards.
“Fire!" the instructor yelled, as gunshots echoed off the mountains.
Fifteen yards.
“Hit his chest," the instructor shouted.
Seven yards.
“Kill shot."
Two yards.
“He’s wearing a vest. Aim for the head!"
Cichra fired his last round and holstered his weapon. The instructor studied the mangled target and counted his score. Cichra had been shooting guns for most of his life: hunting rifles as a kid; an automatic M-16 in the Army; a revolver, a Glock and the Beretta as a state trooper. He put on a gun in the morning like he put on his glasses or his watch. He needed to score a 226 out of 300 on the test to qualify as an armed school guard. The instructor came back with a score sheet.
Sixty shots fired. Fifty-nine to the chest and one to the head.
“A real marksman," the instructor said.
He had scored a perfect 300.
At school

That qualified him to carry his Beretta to work the next morning at Summit Elementary, a single-story school of about 200 students located amid the shale mines and snowfields on the edge of town. Cichra arrived early and turned on a metal detector at the front entrance. He loaded one bullet into the chamber so he could fire instantaneously in case of an attack and 11 more into a magazine. He sat at a desk facing the glass doors, his eyes scanning the parking lot. A sergeant had told him once that a good state trooper operated like a traffic light on yellow, always on edge, anticipating whatever might come.
In came a boy, 8, tripping over his untied shoelaces. “You’re going to fall and hurt yourself, son," Cichra said.
In came a boy, 6, with crayons spilling out his pocket. “Let me get those for you," Cichra said, bending over to collect them.
In came a girl, 10, carrying her backpack though the metal detector, which set off the alarm. “I’m sorry," she said. She handed Cichra her pink binder and her lunch bag. He opened it and sifted through the contents inside. String cheese. Goldfish. Chocolate milk. “Looks good," he said, handing the bag back to the girl. “Looks tasty."
He had decided the best way to carry a gun in an elementary school was to act nothing at all like a person carrying a gun. A few of the other school guards in Butler wore old police vests and displayed guns on their hips, but Cichra dressed in reading glasses, khaki pants, a collared shirt and a sweater that covered up his Beretta. He sat by the entrance, reading a newspaper and studying attendance lists so he could memorize students’ names. Whenever one walked by, Cichra stretched out his right hand to give a high-five. “Hit me," he said, until his palm turned red and a teacher stopped by to offer hand sanitizer.
“We usually think of germs as our number one threat," the teacher said.
Every few hours, Cichra made coffee in the faculty lounge and then patrolled the school’s two long hallways, stopping along the way to admire the first-graders’ cardboard gingerbread men that decorated the walls. Summit Elementary had been built when administrators feared a fire more than anything else, and it had five sets of doors to allow for easy exit. Now those doors were possible entrances for an attack, and Cichra double-checked the locks and shook the handles.
Every once in awhile, a student approached him to ask a question. Did he carry a gun? Did he have any secret weapons like Batman? Did he have an extra badge to give away?
One student, a fifth-grader, wanted to know if Cichra had ever needed to pull his weapon. He thought for a minute about his decade on midnight patrol in the lonely outreaches of Butler County — the heroin addicts, the car crashes, the trips to notify families of dead, the drunk who had charged at him with a knife and forced Cichra to pull his Beretta, the closest he had ever come to firing a weapon. None of the stories felt appropriate here.
“Nothing big," he said. “Just for some police work."
He went back to the desk at the front of the school and watched the door for $14.71 an hour. He wondered: Was he protecting kids’ environment or changing it?
“It’s a fine line," he said.
He had brought along a book called “American Sniper," a soldier’s memoir that showed a picture of an automatic rifle on the book’s cover. Now he removed the cover and hid it inside the drawer of his desk. “The kids don’t need to be seeing that," he said.
He sat by the door and read the book with its cover off, feeling now and again, out of habit, for the Beretta on his hip.

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2011

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Young Women Want AR-15s

Sorry, President Obama. As young women, we prefer an AR-15 “assault” rifle with a 30-round magazine for self-defense.
In fact, we wouldn’t want to be stuck at home without one. In the wake of mass murders like Sandy Hook and the horrific rapes and murders of thousands of women each year, pepper spray, mace, or five-round handheld pistols aren’t going to cut it.
So what’s a girl to do? When choosing our tool for home defense, we want the best — in accuracy, handling, and aesthetics. The best choice by all three criteria is — hands down — the AR-15.
AR-15s are the most popular rifle in the U.S.; more than 3 million Americans own one. And its popularity isn’t with criminals — assault rifles account for only 0.6 percent of murders every year. Rather, the semi-automatic AR-15 is the gun of choice for many hunters, target shooters, and home defenders.
Critics pin the allure of AR-15 on Hollywood (think Angelina Jolie’s “Wait, why do I get the girl gun?” in Mr. and Mrs. Smith), video games, and the military, but women especially haven’t chosen this weapon on a whim.
Our goal when defending against a home invader is simple: to hit where we aim. One shouldn’t underestimate the value of target practice, but using an accurate weapon is the key to hitting a target with ease and confidence.
The AR-15 is lightweight and practical. As light as five pounds, it produces low levels of recoil, and it’s easy to shoot. It also looks intimidating, which is what you want when facing an assailant or intruder. But don’t let its appearance intimidate you. Assault rifles such as the AR-15 aren’t more “dangerous,” as liberals claim. They don’t fire faster than other rifles, and don’t normally contain more powerful ammunition.
Accuracy? Check. Ease in handling? Check. Intimidation factor? Check. An AR-15 might be a woman’s best friend.
We are rational women who, as law-abiding citizens, understand the need — and the right — to defend ourselves. We don’t want to be caught underprepared in the kind of desperate situation that happens too frequently to people across America.
This past week in Georgia, an intruder entered the home of a mother and two children. The mother grabbed her two children and her gun, and proceeded to hide in a crawlspace in the attic. When the intruder entered the attic, the mother fired and hit him with five out of six shots (he still lived).
Imagining ourselves in a high-stress, violent situation, we want a gun with enough ammo, and more, to get the job done. Sometimes, you only get one shot. At other times, you may need more. When you don’t have time to reload in the heat of a home invasion, the AR-15’s 30-round magazine gives you the flexibility and security a handgun will not.
High-capacity magazines serve as a life-saving insurance mechanism, a self-defense back-up if something doesn’t go according to plan. Yet you would never think of these guns in this sense by listening to anti-gun zealots and their allies in media.
Assault rifles and high-capacity magazines have been under fire from our nation’s legislators since the Newtown massacre. It only took Senator Dianne Feinstein two days to announce her intention to reinstate the Clinton-era assault-weapons ban to get “these dangerous weapons of war off our streets.” New York governor Andrew Cuomo took it upon himself to make his state the first to tighten gun laws post-Newtown, proudly outlawing magazines over seven rounds because “no one needs ten bullets to kill a deer.”
Senator Feinstein and Governor Cuomo: We may not need ten bullets to kill a deer, but we sure need them in our own defense. Criminals rarely use assault rifles. Nearly ten times as many murders are committed with hammers and clubs, and 35 times as many with knives. Does that mean we need to ban those too, Senator Feinstein? Banning assault weapons will only take weapons away from my house — not from criminals on the street.
Criminals with the intent to harm or kill will always find ways to do so. If they want to kill with an assault rifle or using high-capacity magazines, they will also find a way to do so, regardless of the law. As young, responsible women, we want the ability to defend ourselves against these criminals, and we should be able to do so with weapons of equal or greater power.
Violence is always going to exist. As women, we should possess the right to best defend ourselves against it, whether with a handgun or our much preferred AR-15. So, Mr. President, use the First Amendment as much as you like to rail against our AR-15s, but hands off our Second Amendment right to use them.
— Celia Bigelow is the campus director for American Majority Action. Aubrey Blankenship is the communications director for the same organization. Find out more at