Blast from the Past: “A Gun in the Home is more Likely…”

I generally do “blasts from the past” when I either don’t have anything specific I want to blog on on a particular day or when I’m not feeling well and am just not up to writing something new.

Today is the latter case.  All achy and stuffy today.

People keep making the claim that a gun in the home is more likely to be used to kill a friend or family member than it is to be used in self defense.

This all derives by a “study” by Arthur Kellerman which has long since been debunked but its fake statistics nevertheless continue to be cited by anti-gun propagandists.

Here are a few of the debunkings:

Some of its flaws:
On the one side: He only counts as “defenses” dead criminals when in truth in most cases where a gun is used in self defense merely presenting a gun is sufficient to end the threat. When the gun is fired, most of the times the person shot survives. This is even more the case in defensive shootings because when a person means harm, they are more likely to keep shooting until the target is dead whereas in a defensive shooting a person generally stops when they believe the threat is ended (and, in fact, is legally required to do so). So, the number of uses of a gun in self defense in the Kellerman study is low by orders of magnitude.

On the flip side: The original study spoke of victims known to the attacker. People citing the statistic morphed that into “friends and acquaintances” and then later to “friends and family”. But the statistic being cited as “friends and family” is actually “person shot by person known to them”. In a drug deal gone bad, the persons are known to each other. In a gang war, the members of the gang are often known to each other. An abusive ex shot in self defense is known to the person doing the shooting. And so on. So a lot of the things being included in that statistic are things that simply are not relevant to a law abiding citizen owning a gun. (Ed:  Or they will be risks the person faces whether they own a gun or not.)

The other thing that gets added in is suicide.  However possession of a firearm only really affects choice of method rather than suicide itself.  Japan, for instance, with its essentially gun-free society has a suicide rate higher than our suicide and homicide rates combined.

Looked at dispassionately we find that studies of gun use in self defense produce a low value of about 800,000 per year. The high value is 2.5 million. It’s hard to get a definitive answer to the question because see above: most times in a defensive use the gun is never fired. As a result, this means that most gun defenses are never reported to the police. In any case, most studies of the issue return results of 1 to 1.5 million gun defenses per year. However, even using the lowball estimate of 800,000 that’s quite comparable to the number of times guns are used criminally in the US. So, far from having a gun in the household making one at increased risk, one is instead about as likely (again, using that lowball result) to use a gun in self defense as to be threatened by a gun. More, actually since “gun owners” (the only population where one is able to use a gun in self defense) < “total population” (the population at risk for criminal use). Being criminally threatened with a gun has a risk of about 800,000 out of 321 (or so) million. Using a gun to defend oneself has a risk of about 800,000 (lowball again) out of 70-100 million. The latter is at worst three times the odds of the former.

Or look at it more simply. Gun ownership in the US has grown by leaps and bounds. The spread of “shall issue” and more recently “constitutional carry” means more people are carrying more guns in more places than ever before. If the “gun ownership increases risk” had any merit then we would be seeing homicide and violent crime going up. But that’s not what’s happening. It’s been going down since the 90’s and is currently at a 100 year low.

The simple truth is, the violent have been with us since the beginning of humanity. The violent have several inherent advantages. They get to choose time and place. They get to choose victims (generally choosing those smaller and weaker than themselves). What firearms do is level the playing field. With a gun, aged Aunt Millie is the equal of 6′ 4″ 300 lb, Joe Thug on Steroids. Guns are, therefore, a net good to society.

“God made man short and tall. Samuel Colt made them equal.”

“Be not afraid of any man, No matter what his size; When danger threatens, call on me — And I will equalize!”

Department of Education? Why?

In 1979, during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, the Federal Department of Education was created as a Cabinet Level department.  In the 38 years since then, we have spent $1.5 trillion on this department.  It was created in response to a study of Education in America that famously said “If a foreign nation imposed this system of education on us, it would be considered an act of war.”  It was supposed to “fix” the problem and dramatically improve education in America. [Ed:  The source where I got that information was apparently chronologically challenged as that quote was from the 1983 “A Nation At Risk” study.  It was instead created apparently to fulfill a promise Carter made to the National Education Association gaining their support during his campaign]

Can anyone honestly say that our schools are any better now than they were then?


As the above chart shows, spending has been growing by leaps and bounds but the performance of the schools, as measured by the reading, math, and science scores of the students has not measurably improved.

One would presume that the purpose of the Department of Education would be to improve the education of American students so they would graduate possessing greater knowledge of core subjects like reading, math, science, and history.  One would presume.

Whatever the Department of Education is doing, it is not working.  The improvement has simply not been happening.

They have had thirty-eight years and one and a half trillion dollars to improve things.  They have had Democrat and Republican appointees both in charge.  They have had more liberal and less liberal Congresses passing budgets (or at least continuing resolutions).  They have had every possible chance to show that they can actually make our schools better.

They have failed.  It’s time to shut down the failed experiment.

Of course, advocating that evokes the cries of those who declare that education will collapse and we’ll suddenly have a nation of functional illiterates.  In many ways, we already have that.  But consider what we accomplished with education system more beholden to the local than the Federal level, before there was a Department of Education, before there was even a Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.  We educated a population that took us from horse and buggies to the sound barrier and beyond.  We educated a population that won two world wars, both of which involved significant technological advances.  We went from Congreve Rockets to Earth Orbiting Satellites, to Man in Space, to the Moon.  We educated a population that gave us the first sort-of reuseable spaceship (Oh, don’t get me started… But the problems were not educational.  The problems were political).  We did all that without federal meddling with people’s schooling.

What has been done, can be done.

Who has more interest in the education of a community’s children, than the community itself.  Will some fail in their charge?  No doubt.  But they will fail for themselves.  When the Federal government fails, it fails for everybody.

So, time and past time to get the Federal Government out of what should be a State, or better yet local, issue.  The money is wasted and accomplishes nothing good.

Empty promises and wishful thinking are not a substitute actual results.

Barriers to Entry and monopolies

Yesterday, starting with a nice parable produced by Frederick Bastiat, I talked a bit about capital and interest and why those who own capital–the means of production (not money; money is just something that can be traded for capital).–are entirely deserving of being compensated for making that capital available to others to use and that the compensation is based on what capital is made available not how much a particular person has.  A particular amount of capital rates so much compensation, whether that capital is owned by one person or split up between two, ten, or ten thousand.  You can’t charge too much for the use of that capital (Whether it’s a plane, or a rolling mill, or a semiconductor fabrication facility) or people will produce their own rather than use yours and pay the compensation you demand.

Or that will be the case if there aren’t barriers to entry.

Let’s go back to James and his plane.  James wants to charge more for his plane but he finds when he does so his customers, instead of paying his higher charges, say “no” and take the time to make their own planes.  The revenue they lose for taking the time to make their own plane is less than James is charging.  James either has to lower his prices or watch his customers go away.

Enter government to provide a third option.

James goes to the local Baron shows him his plane, explains how using that plane folk can make fine, splinter-free thrones for the Baron to sit upon and fine tables for his feast halls.  But other people are making planes too.  And, well, who knows what quality they are.  Really, they should not be able to do that.  And if those inferior planes were prohibited and only James were allowed to make planes, why James would be able to contributed, say 10% of the charge from renting out planes to the Baron’s feast fund.

The Baron’s stricture that only James shall be allowed to make and provide planes in the Barony is what we call a Barrier to Entry.

Barriers to Entry are anything that gets in the way of competition.

And you don’t need a complete ban to have a barrier to entry.  If, for instance, James simply suggested that anyone making planes should complete a year long “plane building course” then anyone coming in would have to charge for their planes based on the cost to them of that year spent just completing the course.  And James, already comfortably in the field, can charge that higher price confident that no one is going to undersell him.

Some barriers to entry are natural.  If a particular field requires unusual skill or talent few people will be successful in it.  The ability to hit a major league fastball is a pretty strong barrier to entry to playing major league baseball (and/or throw or field that major league fastball).  This means players can charge pretty high salaries without fear of thousands of others who can do the same thing for less money.

Same principle if something requires a rare or difficult to access resource.  Lack of that resource, or lack of access to it, is a barrier to entry.

This is how monopolies happen.  There are only two ways you can have a monopoly.  The first is that someone is so good at providing a good or service that they give better value than any potential competitors.   The second is where barriers to entry are imposed artificially.  And this second category is almost entirely the result of government regulation.  It takes force to impose such a barrier.  And the only organization that can lawfully (pretty much by definition) use force is government.

Government regulation serves as a barrier to entry and always either increases the cost of goods and services or creates a shortage.

Now let’s look at that first category of monopoly–where someone is so good that they can undersell all competitors and so the competitors go out of business.  When that happens, people wring their hands and worry that once the competition is gone, the monopoly can then raise its prices without limit.  However, in the absence of barriers to entry the moment they do that competitors can once again arise.  They cannot raise their prices higher than that required to make competitors profitable.

So the question should not be “is there a monopoly” but rather “is the monopoly caused by artificially imposed barriers to entry.

From a strictly economic point of view, you want the fewest barriers to entry as possible.  Ideally only natural ones and even those we would do well to mitigate.

Now, there are situations where its advisable, for reasons other than economic to distort things from the ideal “minimum barriers to entry–let everything sink or swim on its own” approach.  But that’s a topic for another day.


The plane: capital and Interest

I’m going to steal from Fredrick Bastiat today because he explained the concept so well.  This is basically a story, a parable if you will, which illustrates why the owners of capital (means of production) deserve compensation for the use of said means.

A very long time ago there lived, in a poor village, a joiner, who was a philosopher, as all my heroes are, in their way. James worked from morning till night with his two strong arms, but his brain was not idle, for all that. He was fond of reviewing his actions, their causes, and their effects. He sometimes said to himself, “With my hatchet, my saw, and my hammer, I can make only coarse furniture, and can only get the pay for such. If I only had a plane, I should please my customers more, and they would pay me more. It is quite just; I can only expect services proportioned to those which I render myself. Yes! I am resolved, I will make myself a plane.”

However, just as he was setting to work, James reflected further: “I work for my customers 300 days in the year. If I give ten to making my plane, supposing it lasts me a year, only 290 days will remain for me to make my furniture. Now, in order that I be not the loser in this matter, I must gain henceforth, with the help of the plane, as much in 290 days, as I now do in 300. I must even gain more; for unless I do so, it would not be worth my while to venture upon any innovations.” James began to calculate. He satisfied himself that he should sell his finished furniture at a price which would amply compensate for the ten days devoted to the plane; and when no doubt remained on this point, he set to work. I beg the reader to remark, that the power which exists in the tool to increase the productiveness of labor, is the basis of the solution which follows.

At the end of ten days, James had in his possession an admirable plane, which he valued all the more for having made it himself. He danced for joy — for, like the girl with her basket of eggs, he reckoned all the profits which he expected to derive from the ingenious instrument; but more fortunate than she, he was not reduced to the necessity of saying good-bye to calf, cow, pig, and eggs, together. He was building his fine castles in the air, when he was interrupted by his acquaintance William, a joiner in the neighboring village. William having admired the plane, was struck with the advantages which might be gained from it. He said to James:

W. You must do me a service.

J. What service?

W. Lend me the plane for a year.

As might be expected, James at this proposal did not fail to cry out, “How can you think of such a thing, William? Well, if I do you this service, what will you do for me in return?”

W. Nothing. Don’t you know that a loan ought to be gratuitous? Don’t you know that capital is naturally unproductive? Don’t you know fraternity has been proclaimed? If you only do me a service for the sake of receiving one from me in return, what merit would you have?

J. William, my friend, fraternity does not mean that all the sacrifices are to be on one side; if so, I do not see why they should not be on yours. Whether a loan should be gratuitous I don’t know; But I do know that if I were to lend you my plane for a year, it would be giving it to you. To tell you the truth, that is not what I made it for.

W. Well, we will say nothing about the modern maxims discovered by the Socialist gentlemen. I ask you to do me a service; what service do you ask of me in return?

J. First, then, in a year, the plane will be done for, it will be good for nothing. It is only just, that you should let me have another exactly like it; or that you should give me money enough to get it repaired; or that you should supply me the ten days which I must devote to replacing it.

W. This is perfectly just. I submit to these conditions. I engage to return it, or to let you have one like it, or the value of the same. I think you must be satisfied with this, and can require nothing further.

J. I think otherwise. I made the plane for myself, and not for you. I expected to gain some advantage from it, by my work being better finished and better paid, by an improvement in my condition. What reason is there that I should make the plane, and you should gain the profit? I might as well ask you to give me your saw and hatchet! What a confusion! Is it not natural that each should keep what he has made with his own hands, as well as his hands themselves? To use without recompense the hands of another, I call slavery; to use without recompense the plane of another, can this be called fraternity?

W. But, then, I have agreed to return it to you at the end of a year, as well polished and as sharp as it is now.

J. We have nothing to do with next year; we are speaking of this year. I have made the plane for the sake of improving my work and my condition; if you merely return it to me in a year, it is you who will gain the profit of it during the whole of that time. I am not bound to do you such a service without receiving anything from you in return; therefore, if you wish for my plane, independently of the entire restoration already bargained for, you must do me a service which we will now discuss; you must grant me remuneration.

And this was done thus: William granted a remuneration calculated in such a way that, at the end of the year, James received his plane quite new, and in addition, a compensation, consisting of a new plank, for the advantages of which he had deprived himself, and which he had yielded to his friend.

It was impossible for anyone acquainted with the transaction to discover the slightest trace in it of oppression or injustice.

That was Bastiat.  My turn for commentary now.

As we can see here, by letting William use the plane James deprived himself of what benefit he could have obtained by using the plane himself.  To compensate him for that, William not only provides him back the plane, good as new, at the end of the year, plus the value James could have obtained by using the plane himself.  William also benefits because he has the plane which he did not need to make himself.  If it happens that James is better at making planes and William is better at using them in carpentry, they both end up ahead in the arrangement.

If, however, the reverse was the case, the price James would charge for the use of the plane (representing what he would have to recoup in order to cover the lost productivity because effort is spent in making the plane in the first place) would be higher than the value William would get from using it and he would not use James’ plane but instead make his own.

So it has to be the other way because otherwise the exchange will not happen without the actual use of force.  William benefits because James makes planes available.  Yes, William has to pay James for the use of that plane, but because he can use the plane, he can produce more, and be paid more, than if he didn’t.

We could also get into the fact that William could buy the plane from James, but the cost would be much higher since William would not only be depriving James of the year of use of the plane but the value of its use forever after.

The situation does not change if James, instead of going back to work making rough furniture instead makes another plane and rents it out to Charles.  Nothing of significance changes if James gives his planes to his son Tom and Tom rents them out.  And if James has ten planes or  a hundred planes or a thousand planes rented out the compensation he earns is dependent not on the amount of time he spends renting out planes, but on the value of those planes to the people using them.  Because every person using one is benefiting from the use of that plane (or is being very foolish which is on them) for which benefit they should expect to pay.

And James (or Tom, if James has passed them on) has a bunch of planes.  He might trade some of the planes for hammers and saws and so on.  Now he can provide carpenters with the use of a complete kit.  And, again, just like with the plane, he’s perfectly entitled to the compensation for that use. (Yes, James could make another plane, but even then he would still have one less plane then he would otherwise have.)

The same principle extends in straightforward, stepwise fashion to providing work facilities, providing knowledge of markets (so you’re not producing bookshelves when chairs are what is needed), and all the other things that go into a thriving economy.  The folk providing the means of production are entitled to compensation for making those means available.  There is nothing illicit or unethical or venal in that.  Those using those means benefit from having them made available.  Without those means of production they would not be able to produce or would produce less and thus earn less themselves.  If that were not the case they could simply start up their own business providing their own means of production.

And that, right there, is capitalism.  All the other things people attribute to it?  It’s other stuff.  This, right here, is capitalism.

Where have all the heroes gone? (A Blast from the Past)

Some years back, I watched the deCappuccino version of The Man in the Iron Mask.  The movie was okay, but one line caught me.  It’s near the end, the second in command of the palace guard points to a dying d’Artagnon (it’s not a spoiler at this late date, is it?) and says, “All my life, all I wanted to be . . . was him.”

Damn . . . that moment.

You see, I grew up with heroes. I grew up with comics during the late Silver Age, Superman was the Big Blue Boyscout, when Batman wasn’t the cowled psychopath, when Robin was starting solo adventures with Batgirl (and while I knew I could never be Batman, I thought maybe Robin was achievable). I wanted to be the hero, dammit, or if not the hero, at least a competent sidekick.

Then I grew up and got “respectable”. But a part of me never quite grew out of that.

And so I like to write about heroes that are really heroes because I figure that there are other people out there, like me, who want to read about them.

I gave up on comic books, not because I outgrew them but because they “outgrew” (if you can call it that) me. In the interests of being “real” and “relevant” and “real” they wanted their heroes to be “flawed” by which they meant “scarcely better than the villains”.

I saw it in prose fiction as well. Bleah people living bleah lives with not a hero to be found.

When I saw the movie, I wrote out an anguished essay on the usenet group “rec.arts.comics” titled “Where have all the heroes gone.” The one line just struck so deeply to the core of my being.

I will never be that hero. I like to think that the dream, however, might make me a better person than I would have been.

And that’s why I love the idea of Human Wave.

And so I leave you with this musical interlude:

(Yes, the production values are cheesy but I love it for the pure unvarnished emotion.)


And pity Within Temptation doesn’t have an official video for this one.


2017 Dragon Awards Finalist List

The list of finalists for the 2017 Dragon Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy is now out.  It’s an interesting set of categories and with quite a number of interesting items in each one.  Voting is open so feel free to register and vote for works you like.

Best Science Fiction Novel
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey
Death’s End by Cixin Liu
Escaping Infinity by Richard Paolinelli
Rise by Brian Guthrie
Space Tripping by Patrick Edwards
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)
A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day
Beast Master by Shayne Silvers
Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter
Dangerous Ways by R.R. Virdi
Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo
The Heartstone Thief by Pippa DaCosta
Wings of Justice by Michael-Scott Earle

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Firebrand by A.J. Hartley
It’s All Fun and Games by Dave Barrett
Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright
The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
Allies and Enemies: Exiles by Amy J. Murphy
Caine’s Mutiny by Charles E. Gannon
Cartwright’s Cavaliers by Mark Wandrey
Invasion: Resistance by J.F. Holmes
Iron Dragoons by Richard Fox
Star Realms: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz
Starship Liberator by B.V. Larson and David Van Dyke
The Span of Empire by Eric Flint and David Carrico

Best Alternate History Novel
1636: The Ottoman Onslaught by Eric Flint
A Change in Crime by D.R. Perry
Another Girl, Another Planet by Lou Antonelli
Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
Fallout: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove
No Gods, Only Daimons by Kai Wai Cheah
The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville
Witchy Eye by D.J. Butler

Best Apocalyptic Novel
A Place Outside the Wild by Daniel Humphreys
American War by Omar El Akkad
Codename: Unsub by Declan Finn and Allan Yoskowitz
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
The Seventh Age: Dawn by Rick Heinz
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
ZK: Falling by J.F. Holmes

Best Horror Novel
A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau
Blood of Invidia by Tom Tinney and Morgen Batten
Donn’s Hill by Caryn Larrinaga
Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn
Nothing Left to Lose by Dan Wells
The Bleak December by Kevin G. Summers
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

Best Comic Book
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eleven by Christos Gage, Rebekah Isaacs
Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
Motor Girl by Terry Moore
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa
Saga by Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples
The Dresden Files: Dog Men by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, Diego Galindo
Wynonna Earp Legends by Beau Smith, Tim Rozon, Melanie Scrofano, Chris Evenhuis

Best Graphic Novel
Clive Barker Nightbreed #3 by Marc Andreyko, Clive Barker, Emmanuel Xerx Javier
Girl Genius: the Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne, Book 2: The City of Lightning by Phil and Kaja Foglio
Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Wild Card by Jim Butcher, Carlos Gomez
Love is Love by Marc Andreyko, Sarah Gaydos, James S. Rich
March Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris
Stuck in My Head by J.R. Mounts

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series
Doctor Who, BBC
Lucifer, Fox
Marvel’s Agents of Shield, ABC
Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, Sky1
Stranger Things, Netflix
The Expanse, Syfy
Westworld, HBO
Wynonna Earp, Syfy

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie
Arrival directed by Denis Villeneuve
Doctor Strange directed by Scott Derrickson
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 directed by James Gunn
Logan directed by James Mangold
Passengers directed by Morten Tyldum
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story directed by Gareth Edwards
Wonder Woman directed by Patty Jenkins

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game
Dishonored 2 by Arkane Studios
Final Fantasy XV by Square Enix
Mass Effect: Andromeda by Bioware
NieR: Automata by PlatinumGames
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild by Nintendo
Titanfall 2 by Respawn Entertainment

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game
Con Man: The Game by Monkey Strength Productions
Fire Emblem Heroes by Nintendo
Monument Valley 2 by Ustwogames
Pokemon GO by Niantic
Sky Dancer by Pine Entertainment
Super Mario Run by Nintendo

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game
Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk by Avalon Hill
Gloomhaven by Cephalofair Games
Hero Realms by White Wizard Games
Mansions of Madness (Second Edition) by Fantasy Flight Games
Scythe by Stonemaier Games
Terraforming Mars by Stronghold Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game
A Shadow Across the Galaxy X-Wing Wave X by Fantasy Flight Games
Bloodborne: The Card Game by CMON Limited
Dark Souls: The Board Game by Steamforged Games
Magic the Gathering: Eldritch Moon by Wizards of the Coast
Pulp Cthulhu by Chaosium
Star Wars: Destiny by Fantasy Flight Games


People are having cows over recent policy and legislation proposals to base immigration on things like possessing useful skills and speaking English.

First off, let’s deal with that English issue, shall we?  Someone coming to the US and wanting to be a functioning member of our society is going to have to deal with other people.  While Congress has never bothered to declare an official language in the US, we do have a common language.  The vast majority of people in the US speak English.  They may also speak another language.  English may not be their first or primary language even.  But most speak English.  If you want to communicate with the majority of people one might meet in America, then English is the language you’ll need for that.

Recognizing that is not any kind of “ist”.

Indeed, this will remain so even if we push more people to be bilingual.  Get more people to learn a second language and what happens?  Some learn Spanish.  Some learn French.  Some learn German.  A few go with less common (in America) languages:  Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Swahili, Hindi, whatever.  But all of the speak English.

It just makes sense to ask people who want to come here to live to acquire at least a basic knowledge of English.

“But it’s not fair,” some say.  “It’s too much to ask.”

Spare me.

My wife is Japanese; born and raised in Japan. She learned English well enough to attend and graduate from college in the US–in English. (She came over on a student Visa and when we met one thing led to another and…)

A friend of mine is from Russia and speaks English better than most native speakers I know. (He’s also a stronger proponent of America’s founding values than most as well, but that’s a different essay. I am definitely proud to call him friend.)

Another friend is from Portugal.  She speaks, reads and writes English.  She came to the US as an exchange student in high school and finished her senior year here in English.  She returned to Portugal but ended up marrying an American and emigrating.  Since coming here she’s written and sold thirty some novels for various publishers.  In English.  Yes, she does have an accent, but while its different it’s no more extreme than many of the regional accents in the US.  Her use of written language is certainly as good as anyone’s.  Oh, and she’s another stronger proponent of America’s founding values than most people born here.

And so on and so on.

Works the other way too.  I learned Russian in the Air Force. I had a pretty damn good accent at the time (as approved by instructors who were native speakers). My vocabulary and grammar weren’t quite up to “native speaker” levels but one of my classmates was good enough to be selected as the person to play the role of a Soviet defector in an exercise at the base he was assigned to (note: the folk at the base did not know it was an exercise. They thought he really was a defector) and fool other linguists into thinking he really was Russian.

So, no, it is not too hard.  It is not an unreasonable expectation.  The above examples go far beyond what anyone is asking of new and prospective immigrants.  It is not too much to ask that they have, or seriously commit to gaining, a working knowledge of English.  Why would anybody coming here and expecting to live and work here, to be part of our country, do anything else?

I, personally, welcome folk who come to the US to be part of our country, to celebrate and live by our founding values of liberty, self-reliance, and the rights of the individual (we haven’t always lived up to those ideals but they have always been the ideals), to become and be Americans.  People who want to turn it into the same place they are leaving, not so much.

And if you’re coming here to become an American, then why in the world would you not commit to learning the dominant language of America?

Rape culture?

So, there was this:


First off, I wouldn’t tell anyone what they can and cannot wear.  I get to that in a little more detail later but first let’s consider why this picture presents a stupid (yes, I said stupid) argument.

Your dog will obey that command. Now, would you use the idea that your dog will obey as evidence that you can leave steaks lying about wherever dogs happen to be.would you consider that a good idea? Some dogs aren’t trained. Some dogs, no matter how much you train them won’t restrain themselves.

Consider.  I wear black. (No.  Really.) Now, does wearing black mean that I deserve to get hit by cars?  Of course not.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m harder to see at night.  So while I don’t “deserve” to be hit and in the end it’s the drivers’ legal responsibility to avoid me it’s still in my best interest to use a little bit of extra caution compared to someone who is dressed in outfits that are easier to see at night.

Truth is, I don’t know if a rapist is more likely to choose a woman in “revealing” attire than one more “modestly” dressed.  And the truth is, most places I’ve seen where that question is asked don’t. answer. the. question.  They answer a different question about who’s to blame for the rape. (The rapist.  Duh.) The closest I was able to find was an answer on a quora question which said:

In South Africa, where rape is a extremely big problem compared to India, they did actual study and found out that dress did influence a rapist, but in a different way, and it has NOTHING to do with the sexiness of the dress. (Will update link if I find it)

Dress made up a small percentage of the victim picking, but it wasn’t based on how sexy it was, but more so based on how much of a trouble the dress would be for the rapist. So jeans,shorts, and certain pants are big turn offs, skirts no matter what their length are advantageous to the rapist,( so are the “traditional” Indian dress of Salwar-Kameez).  Essentially all the rapist cares about is how easy it would be to get to her, rape her, and get out of the area, and the dress that caused the least issue was chosen.

Even so, in the end it’s the rapist that’s at fault, not the victim whatever her attire.  Now, if I were to say that because certain styles of dress are more likely to be picked by rapists for attack that when wearing such styles one should use extra care not to be victimized, there are those who would scream “rape culture”, “blaming the victim”, and “teach men not to rape.”

They all really boil down to that last one:  teach men not to rape.

Here’s the thing, though.  We already do.  We have been teaching men not to rape for a very long time.  Just like we have been teaching men and women not to steal, teaching men and women not to murder, teaching men and women not to defraud others, and so on and so on.  For the most part, it works.  Most men and women don’t steal, they don’t murder, they don’t commit fraud…and they don’t rape.

But there’s always that one asshole who doesn’t get the message.  It’s not the vast majority of men one has to worry about.  Like the dog in the picture of the OP, they’ll take “no” for an answer.  But there remains an irreducible fraction of scum who won’t, that no amount of attempting to teach them to morally and ethically get along with others will reach.  Those are the ones you have to worry about.

In the end, you have to look after your own safety.  Not because you’re at fault, even if you don’t.  But because you don’t want to be a victim.  So when I suggest that you might want to learn to defend yourself against an attack, to use care in situations where you might be attacked, or to arm yourself against an attack by someone bigger and stronger than you (after all, rapists rarely pick victims their own size and strength), I’m not blaming you for being victimized.  That blame lies entirely with the attacker.  I’m trying to help you not be victimized since there’s little I can do about the attacker.

So if you want to take extra precaution, I’ll cheer your choice  If you look at the options and decide they’re not for you, I’ll cheer for you making your own choice.  If you want some specific advice, there are some things I can suggest.  Changing to frumpy clothes would probably not be among those suggestions.

But if you want to accessorize, I hear Colt, Beretta, and Kimber make some excellent anti-rape fashion accessories.  Nothing teaches rapists not to rape like jacketed hollow points to the center of mass.

And if that’s a direction you’d like to go, I’d be more than willing to help as would a lot of other people.


Blast from the Past: Land of Second Chances

One of the thing I like best about the US is that, more than just about anyplace else in the world, it’s the land of second/third/fourth/morth chances.  The ability to say “I screwed, up, but I can still make things better” and have that mean something is quintessentially American.

It makes sense, in a way.  So many people originally came to America because they were looking for a second chance.  For one reason or another things weren’t working for them “back home” so they came here for a new start in a new home.  Maybe they were looking for wealth in a new land.  Maybe they were looking for religious isolation.  Maybe they wanted to build their own farm in the wilderness where they wouldn’t be beholden to anyone.   For whatever reasons, they left what they had behind for a new try in the “new world.”

This whole “try again” attitude permeates American culture.  It did, anyway.  Lately it seems to be falling by the wayside.

My own life has been driven by a series of bad choices made on my part and new chances to make better choices.

In High School I never learned to study.  I didn’t need to to “get by” and simple unstructured reading in subjects that interested me was enough to get me “good enough” grades in most of my classes.  But I never learned the discipline of sitting down and studying a particular subject, especially any that didn’t particularly interest me at the time, until I’d mastered it.  Bad choice on my part.  Also in High School I never took the time to seriously look for work.  Whether I found it or not, I needed to be looking for it..  This resulted in my having very poor work habits by the time I graduated from school.

But the real bad choice I made in that era was only applying for one college.  It was a religious school, run by the religion I was practicing at the time.  When the local clerical leader essentially vetoed my application (because I wore my hair too long–it touched my ears and yes they were that strict) I had nowhere else to go.

So I went with “second chance” number one.  I joined the military.  Here I made yet another bad decision.  I originally planned to go into electronics, take whichever job had the longest school (thereby getting as much electronics training as possible), and parlay that into college afterwards.  I let the recruiter talk me into switching to another field.  I would prove remarkably unsuited to that field (thus making a military career out of the question) and it was also almost completely devoid of civilian application so I couldn’t turn military training into a decent civilian job.

Still, I could have put my time in the military to good use.  The military was willing to pay 75% of tuition costs in accredited colleges while served.  Also, the “GI Bill” of the day was voluntary—save up to $2700 for college and the government would match it 2:1.  Bad decision on my part was to not take advantage of either of these.  The only “college” I got from my military tour was from my technical training itself.

So, as the end of my enlistment neared, I got to “second chance” number two.  I applied to college again, several colleges this time.  Each of these colleges, however, required recommendations from high school teachers.  I sent the proper forms back home, to my mother, with lists of teachers to contact.  Once again I made the bad decision of putting my future in the hands of one person . . . who failed me.  She never forwarded the forms.

On returning from the military with no job prospects and no college, oh, and a broken collar bone because I was hit by a car shortly before separating from the military, I ended up in some menial jobs–bussing tables, washing dishes, that sort of thing–and I got to second chance number three.  I tried again to get into college.  Money was tight even for application fees so I applied to only one college, the state university.  I hand carried the forms to the college, met with various people at the college, and got accepted.  The proposed financial aid package would cover my need and all would be well except . . . bad decision:  I had been spending my money, even at the menial job, as fast as it had been coming in.  I had been working at a resort in Virginia at the time (my State of Residence was Ohio).  The job came with a room and cheap meals.  If I had sucked it in for just one summer–banked my paychecks and lived extra frugally for just one summer all would have been well.  But I didn’t think I needed to.  I had the financial aid package that would cover college, including room and board, so I thought everything would be fine and did not plan for the unexpected.  Naturally, something unexpected happened.  I would not receive part of the financial aid until halfway through the semester.  However, the housing arrangements required payment up front.  No one would grant me a short term loan to cover the gap between needing the money and getting the money.  So no college for me that year.

So I went back to menial work yet again, falling deeper into depression.  That’s when I took second chance number four.  My mother had returned to school in Akron and, when the resort job had ended (they closed for the winter) I moved back there.  I was unemployed, selling plasma for cash, and was walking with a cane because of problems with my knees (since improved).  The knee problem, which meant I couldn’t stand on my feet for long at a time, even prevented me from taking most menial jobs.  I was so depressed that I had largely stopped trying but my mother (whose financial situation as a college student was little better than mine) said she would front the application fee if I would just apply at the local university.  I did.  This time I was accepted.  I found housing I could afford based on the financial aid I would actually be receiving.  I entered the University of Akron majoring in physics.

While I was at school, I learned to study.  I learned to talk to people who actually worked in industry about what I needed to be able to get a job and to act on what they said so that when I graduated I would be able to get a good job.  I then acted on that and got the job.  Once I had the job, I got married.  Once I’d been stably employed for a couple of years I then went looking for a house, one I could afford (even though lenders were urging me to take more based on the “ratios” I had at the time) and would be able to continue paying for even if things took a “downturn” down the road.

I’d like to say that I’ve stopped making bad decisions but it would be a lie.  I still make them.  But when I make them, I have to realize that they are my decisions and it’s up to me to make them right.  I cannot rely on other people to make them for me.  They have their own interests at heart and if they also have mine it’s happy chance, not something on which to count.  My choices are my responsibility.  I can take advice or leave it but in the end it’s my choice.

And so I continue to be employed.  I have a wife and family.  I have a house that is not in imminent danger of foreclosure.  And I did it despite the very many bad decisions I made along the way.  And I did it by recognizing that the bad decisions were bad decisions, that they were my bad decisions not anyone else’s, and that I needed to make better decisions if I wanted to move ahead.

Second chances feature strongly in the second story in my short collection “FTI:  Beginnings”:
$2.99 in Kindle Store, Free to read in Kindle Unlimited

The Future is Now:
Richard Schneider forms a new company to develop a space launch system. His philosophy is simple: don’t cut corners; find better ways. His main rival, however, operates on a different philosophy. Originally written as near-future SF, the story is now alternate history, a tale of what might have been.

Match Point:
Set some years after The Future is Now, top ranked tennis player Tom Stryker is stricken with a neurological disorder that slows reflexes. No longer able to compete in professional tennis on Earth, he decides to try his hand at the low-G variant of the game, finding himself in a rivalry with the top-ranked low-g player in a match on the Moon.