Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

I Got a Bike

Not a motorcycle, a bicycle.

My last bike was a WalMart special, and special doesn't begin to describe it.

Short, heavy, slow, and a tremendous pain in the ass.

I can achieve that on my own; I don't need a bicycle.

So, I went online to see if they make bicycles sized for actual adults and it turns out that they do. I selected a moderately priced hybrid on Amazon, one with good reviews for quality and a reasonable price tag. It arrived last week, and I took it for a spin right after I put it together, and wow! What a difference! My knees no longer ram into my chin as a pedal, and my leg straightens almost completely on the down stroke. Even better, the bike is about 50% lighter than my old one.

Which by the way, is now available for the low low price of "Come and get it!"

While I'm very happy with my purchase, and I'm already starting to build up my endurance, I am in a quandary.

You see, I blew my whole budget on the bike, and I don't have enough money for a helmet.

And that's a bad thing, because I will be riding my bike a lot on the roads, and without a helmet, well, even a small spill could have drastic consequences. I could be laid up in the hospital for months with a severe head injury.

I tell you, I'm really worried about what might happen if I crash. Not worried enough to quit riding until I can afford a helmet; that's just crazy talk. I bike is meant to be ridden, and ride it I shall. After all, it's Spring, and that's the best time for riding. But I am worried, and that worry is beginning to affect my work. I know I've got a good job, but after paying for my expenses, cable, internet, cell phone, NetFlix, etc, there just aren't enough dollars left over at the end of the month to pay for a helmet.

And that's just not fair!

I mean, I have a bike, but I can't ride it safely because I can't afford a helmet, even though I'm working hard and doing my best to get ahead. And when you think about it, I'm not the only one facing the risk. If I get hurt, my medical bills will be covered by insurance, but that will make premiums go up for me, and for everybody else. And that's just not fair to me; I'm already having to stretch my budget.

I have a bike, and By Golly, I have a right to ride it safely, without having to risk my health, or my future, or to place an undue burden on the health care system if I get injured. I DEMAND that my benefits package at work covers free bicycle helmets.

And a water bottle so I don't get dehydrated.

And little flashy lights so I don't get hit by a car when I'm riding at night wearing my nifty black riding outfit.

Which I also demand.

After all, it will save money in the long run, and make me a safer more productive citizen. Not to mention healthier.

So come on America! Pay up! I have a right to ride my bike in safety, and you have a responsibility to make it happen. if you don't act now to support me and keep me safe, then you are a mean, nasty, hateful, boogerhead.

(Oh, and I want a bell too! Rinnnng riinngg!)

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (2) CommentsPermalink

Monday, February 13, 2012

George Lucas, Meet George Lucas

Yeah, in the grand scheme of things the delusions of a filmmaker seem pretty small. But to those of us who were around when Episode IV A New Hope was just simply Star Wars, it matters, damn it!

George Lucas has slipped so far into fantasy land that he thinks he can explain away one of the worst mistakes of his film career.

No, not Howard the Duck; any movie with Lea Thompson can't be all bad.

I'm talking about the revised 'gunfight' between Han and Greedo.

According to Lucas, the millions of people who remember Solo blowing that poor green bastard away have just been imagining things all these years. Lucas says that Han never shot first; that it was a piece of sloppy film editing that made it look like he fired first.

There's one problem with that little bit of revisionist history. In the novelization of Star Wars, written by Lucas, it says otherwise.
"Going somewhere, Solo?"
The Corellian couldn't identify the voice, coming as it did through an electronic translator. But there was no problem recognizing the speaker or the gun it held stuck in Solo's side.
The creature was roughly man-sized and bipedal, but its head was something out of delirium by way of an upset stomach. It had huge, dull-faceted eyes, bulbous on a pea-green face. A ridge of short spines crested the high skull, while nostrils and mouth were contained in a tapirlike snout.
"As a matter of fact," Solo replied slowly, "I was just on my way to see your boss. You can tell Jabba I've got the money I owe him."
"That's what you said yesterday-and last week-and the week prior to that. It's too late, Solo. I'm not going back to Jabba with another one of your stories."
"But I've really got the money this time!" Solo protested.
"Fine. I'll take it now, please."
Solo sat down slowly. Jabba's minions were apt to be cursed with nervous trigger fingers. The alien took the seat across from him, the muzzle of the ugly little pistol never straying from Solo's chest.
"I haven't got it here with me. Tell Jabba-"
"It's too late, I think. Jabba would rather have your ship."
"Over my dead body," Solo said unamiably.
The alien was not impressed. "If you insist. Will you come outside with me, or must I finish it here?"
"I don't think they'd like another killing in here," Solo pointed out.
Something which might have been a laugh came from the creature's translator. "They'd hardly notice. Get up, Solo. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. You've embarrassed me in front of Jabba with your pious excuses for the last time."
"I think you're right."
Light and noise filled the little corner of the cantina, and when it had faded, all that remained of the unctuous alien was a smoking, slimy spot on the stone floor.
Solo brought his hand and the smoking weapon it held out from beneath the table, drawing bemused stares from several of the cantina's patrons and clucking sounds from its more knowledgeable ones. They had known the creature had committed its fatal mistake in allowing Solo the chance to get his hands under cover.
"It'll take a lot more than the likes of you to finish me off. Jabba the Hutt always did skimp when it came to hiring his hands."
Leaving the booth, Solo flipped the bartender a handful of coins as he and Chewbacca moved off. "Sorry for the mess. I always was a rotten host."

And there it is, written by the man himself. Greedo never even got a shot off; as Luca wrote, his fate was sealed the moment he lat Han get his hand under the table.

I feel better now.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (5) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Equality is a Bitch!

Via Linoge

At Vox Populi, a different slant on the capsized cruise ship:
Women have methodically attacked the concept of male duty and honor through every possible means for the past ninety years, and now they are whining that they don't get special treatment simply because a ship happens to be sinking. Why, exactly, should any man "prioritise women, expectant mothers and children"? On what grounds can they be reasonably expected to do so, those outdated traditional grounds that the schools teach is hateful, sexist, and bigoted?

Those big, burly crewmen shoving aside women as they prioritized their own escape should have been wearing t-shirts that said "this is what a feminist looks like".

Personally, I'm old school, raised in the South and "women and children first" is in my blood. However, that is not politically correct in today's world. "I am woman; hear me roar!" leads directly to "Every man for himself!"

Equality has a downside; you no longer merit special treatment or consideration.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (1) CommentsPermalink

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Union Insanity on Display

If you want proof that unions are counterproductive and reduce efficiency and performance, all you need to do is look at the current controversy over teachers and tenure. Here in Tennessee, Gov Haslam gave his State of the State speech. In it, he said that the criteria for keeping teachers should be their effectiveness as teachers, and not their longevity. Achievement, not seniority should rule when layoffs come around. Predictably, the unions are against this.

What amazes me in all this is the implicit admission that under union rules, the teachers kept the longest are not necessarily the best teachers. In fact, teacher's unions are admitting that their rules are designed to protect inferior teachers. If, as Gov Haslam suggests, teacher retention were based on teacher performance, then by definition, the teachers with the most seniority would also be the best teachers.

I don't know precisely how the liberal mind works, but to me, a system which automatically rewards and protects the best teachers is the one I would like to see used in our schools instead of the one that by design protects the weaker teachers. Then again, I'm funny that way. I believe that the purpose of schools is to educate our children, not to provide jobs for those who can't do anything else.

And before you go off on a rant about how many good teachers there are out there, and how dare I attack them, re-read the post. I'm not attacking teachers; I'm attacking their union, and I'm attacking those specific teachers who are more concerned about their seniority than about whether or not their pupils are performing to their full potential. I work in the real world. If I don't produce; I'm out of a job, regardless of how long I've been working there.

Why should teachers be any different?

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (0) CommentsPermalink

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I’m not Laughing Anymore

On Friday, Paul borrowed $50 from Stanley and promised to pay him back the next Tuesday. After a crazy weekend, Paul was flat broke, but he knew Stanley would kick the crap out of him if he didn't get his money,so he went to Peter and borrowed $50 to pay Stanley, promising to pay him back on Friday.

Well, Friday rolled around, and Paul was still broke, and being rather fond of knees that bent in only one direction, and knowing that Peter would enjoy altering that natural limitation of motion, Paul went back to Stanley and borrowed $50, promising to pay him back on Tuesday.

This cycle repeated itself for a few weeks, with Paul borrowing from Stanley to pay Peter and vice versa, until they all three met in a bar on Wednesday.

Paul said, "Peter, you know that I'm going to borrow $50 from you on Tuesday so I can pay back Stanley, right?"

Peter said,"Yep." Peter is a man of few words.

Then Paul said,"Stanley, you know that I'm going to borrow $50 from you on Friday so I can pay Peter back, right?"

Stanley merely grunted, being a man of even fewer words than Peter.

Then Paul said, "Well, since you both know that I'm going to be borrowing $50 from you to pay the other, why don't you just trade $50 back and forth between the two of you and leave me out of this?"

That used to be a funny joke until the Obama administration started using that same process to prop up our banking system.

By the way, those of you from Tennessee remember Jake Butcher, who ran a similar scam with his banks. He went to prison, and a lot of people lost their life savings in the ensuing collapse.

But hey, it might work out better this time, right?

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (1) CommentsPermalink

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BIll Maher on the US Army

I just canceled HBO:

"Forget about bringing the troops home Iraq - we need to get the troops home from World War II," Maher said. "Can anybody tell me why in 2009, we still have more than 50,000 troops in Germany and 30,000 in Japan? At some point these people are going to have to learn to rape themselves."

This is not a boycott, nor is it an attempt to induce HBO to change their programming. They chose to give Maher a platform knowing what the man believed. That's their choice. I don't have to listen to it, and I damn sure do not have to pay the guy's salary. Maher belongs in the same wing of Arkham with Moore and Olbermann and the rest of the rabid yellow dog Democrats, but until that blessed day that idiots like him are kicked off the air because Americans have decided that they are tired of listening to hate disguised as smug arrogance, I'll just do without the HBO family of networks.

And they can do without me.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (0) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Friday, March 13, 2009

Well This Explains a Lot

It's hard to advance an argument based on science when you're handicapped by a complete lack of knowledge of the relevant science.

In case there are any of you out there who don;t already know this, an embryo is the result of fertilization of an egg by sperm. In other words, contrary to former President Bill Clinton, fertilization has already taken place, and the resulting zygote has already matured to the embryonic stage.

This is what happens when ignorant people are allowed to make decisions for the rest of us.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (0) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Stop the Posing, Please!

For those of you out there who think you're being all revolutionary and daring by threatening to "Go John Galt" on Twitter/Facebook/blog, get a grip on reality.

John Galt didn't talk or threaten or posture. He just did what he did because he had to.

So do it or don't, but shut up about it. You're making yourself look silly.

Next thing you know, there will be a bunch of rowdies dressing up like indians and throwing tea into the water.

Oh, wait...

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (3) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Real Change, Real Hope, and Real Audacity

Not the faux stuff being fed to you by the late night infomercial masquerading as our Federal givernment (spelling intentional), but real hope and real change.

Several months ago, I was ready to give up on blogging politics. It seemed futile because, particularly here in the blogosphere, most people have already got their minds made up, and aren't interested in hearing any new facts because it might confuse them. The only critter on God's earth more stubborn than an NRA member defending the second amendment is a liberal Democrat defending his or her ignorance. There's simply no point in talking about it with them because they aren't interested in anything beyond their democratic dogma. If the facts don't fit, they junk the facts. There's no arguing with willful ignorance.

And I don't need to write this stuff for other conservatives. They already know it, just like I do, just like anybody with an open mind and a reverence for facts rather than feelings does. We know the truth; we live in the real world, not some fantasy where everybody will get everything they need because it's their right.

Conservatives know that the simple truth is that the world does not owe us a living. The lie at the heart of modern liberalism is that just by being born, we have a right to food, clothing, housing, medical care, an education, and God knows what else they've added to that list in the last ten minutes. None of these things are rights because if they were, then every animal born on the planet would have these rights as well. They don't. They have to fight to survive in a eat or be eaten struggle for existence that makes our deepest poverty look like luxury.

I've come to realize a second truth; the truth is an impotent weapon against the barrage of lies and propaganda force fed to US citizens on a daily basis. The battle for American culture has already been waged and lost. Liberals hold the education system in an iron grip. They control most of the media as well, and their working on getting a stranglehold on the flow of information.

They will succeed. They'll kill every outlet that doesn't lean their way, from talk radio to the internets, to insure that their message is the only one heard. The irony is that they will do so in the name of diversity. The tragedy is that the people of the United States will believe them, because they've been conditioned to.

Think about it. Just last night, a President who has spent more money in a month than President Bush spent on the entire Iraq war lectured us on fiscal restraint.

Were there any boos or cries of outrage? Nope. As long as Joe Public gets his $12 a paycheck and gets to vent about those damned corporations screwing the taxpayer, President Obama will find smooth sailing for his legislative plans.

I believe those plans will devastate everything that I find admirable and wonderful about America. Our freedom to succeed by our own efforts will be undermined. Our ability to do as we think best will be removed. Our ability to excel will be denied. Our ability to innovate and create will be choked off. Our ability to profit from our own ingenuity and hard work will be taken away. All of these precious things will disappear in the service of ensuring an equal outcome for all regardless of effort, talent, or inspiration.

The Democrats and our President have worked hard and long and effectively to demonize anyone who has succeeded. All I hear about is how those who have succeeded need to pay their fair share, an odd thing to hear since by any realistic measure, they are already paying more than their share. But the new standard of fair doesn't rest on anything real, just some nebulous concept of affordability. "They can afford it, so they should pay it," as if their money isn't their own. Nothing crushes innovation faster than realizing that the benefits of your sweat and inspiration will be given to some clod who never advanced past running a fryer at a fast food joint simply because you can afford to pay for his flat screen TV and he can't.

Again, that battle is lost.

But there really is hope. Not for the United States of America; that dream is over. All that's left is for the zombie to realize it's dead and fall down. But the people who made America what it was are still here. They've been beaten down, frustrated, reviled, and hated, but they are still here. In the military, where they learn that service to something greater than yourself is the most noble thing a man can do; in business, where they learned that perseverance, innovation, and ingenuity are still rewarded, and that doing something well is its own reward; in churches, where they learned to love God and their neighbor, and that right and wrong are not arbitrarily assigned based on fashion, but on moral absolutes given by God and proven over the centuries; in small towns, where they learned that self reliance and interdependence are two sides of the same coin. In all of these places and more, where they know that nobody owes you a living, but that we can all use a hand up from time to time, the American way still survives.

As this decadent and corrupt society crumbles down around us, wreaking terrible carnage as it goes, some of us will remain standing. Some of us will be here to rebuild. Some of us will have learned from the lessons of the past, and we will build a new nation from the ashes. That's hope based on the real world, not denial. That's change based on history, not some advertising campaign.

The audacity? Including myself in that group! But I'm an optimist, and I'm hoping I'll squeak by.

From a practical standpoint, that means there's going to be some changes around here.

There are things that I love in this world. My God, my family, my friends, science, math, books, music, gadgets, guns, and gizmos, and natural philosophy. These are the things I'll be focusing on from now on. I'm sure that the cares of the world will have an impact from time to time, but I'm going to be in the world, not of it. This world has nothing for me, so I will fix my attention where it is most profitable and least contentious.

And that means a name change as well. Shots Across the Bow echoed the concept of a warning shot. It was designed to tell people that here is where I stand, you may go this far and no farther. Unfortunately it was about as effective as a sandcastle trying to hold back the tide. It doesn't fit the new direction, so I'm looking for suggestions for a new title.

I expect to have the new site up in a week or two, (my wife/web designer is going to kill me for springing this on her) and this one will remain up indefinitely because I think (hope) I wrote some good things over the last several years.

Anyway, I hope you're looking forward to the changes. I know I am.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (5) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Question of Substance or the Lack Thereof

Is it just me, or is it true that every time President Obama has to choose between showing leadership, or campaigning, he always defaults to campaign mode?

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (0) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Awww.  I Hurt Somebody’s Feelings

An anonymous troll took exception to my post on the Obama/Jessica Simpson comment. He accused me of looking for a cheap gloat, and then took the time to imply that my fiance is unpleasant to be around.

Yeah, he's all class.

After listening to left wingers take unfair potshots at President Bush for 8 years, I think it's hilarious that they are so outraged when the tables are turned on them. The funny thing is that Obama did everything in his power to set himself up for ridicule. His campaign rhetoric about lowering the seas and the rest was sheer arrogance at its finest. The fact is that he can never manage to live up to the image he purposefully created on the campaign trail, and every time he falls short, he's going to pay a price for his hubris.

Think about it. While people are freezing to death in Kentucky because of a massive ice storm, he's cranking up the heat in the Oval Office and criticizing Bush for "unconscionable ineptitude" in his Katrina response. And what exactly has Obama done for Kentucky?

Apparently cavalier apathy isn't as unconscionable as ineptitude.

The truth is that Obama isn't up to the job. Those of us who maintained our sanity during the election cycle all knew this. He simply doesn't have a Presidential resume. Remember, this is a guy who won his first election by kicking all of his opponents off the ballot.

This is the post partisan president who justifies his embarrassingly impotent and expensive bailout plan simply by saying, "I won." This is the president who ran on transparency, yet began secret talks with al Qaida before he even won the election. This is the president who ran on a campaign of ending business as usual in Washington, yet nominated a tax cheat as head of the treasury department. This is the president who ran on a campaign of getting lobbyists out of Washington, yet hired several for his administration. This is the president who ran on a platform of ending rendition, but now he says it is a lawful and useful tool and he will not rule it out.

In short, he's a phony who followed a script to the White House and now that the reality of the job has sunk in, he's lost. That's what happens when you elect an image of a leader instead of an actual leader.

But rest assured, if Obama does something I think is right, then I'll give him credit for it. I just don't see many signs of that in the near future. There are some who agree with his decision to limit CEO salary if they take a government bailout. I disagree for two reasons. Some companies were forced to take the bailout, a truly mind boggling concept when you think about it. Second, in my opinion,. the bailout was unconstitutional in the first place, and if it is wrong, then exercising power over the operations of a business through an unconstitutional act is still wrong, even if it makes sense from a certain perspective, i.e., if the taxpayers are investors, they, or their representative, should have a say in how the business is run.

I respect the office of the President of the United States, and I respect the process by which we select the man who serves in that office, and I hope that the man currently in that office manages to grow into it, and quickly. But as of today, he has done nothing to earn my admiration or respect. By his own admission, he plans to gut the first and second amendments of our Constitution and I will oppose him in those areas. By his own admission, he plans to saddle our country with a debt we can never pay off, one that will cripple our future and I will oppose him on this. By his own admission, he intends to sacrifice members of our next generation in order to improve the lot of the current generation, and in this perversion of the natural order, I will oppose him as well. By his own admission, he intends to disarm our nation in the face of our enemies and I will oppose him.

I may be in the minority in my positions. But in America, the minority still has a voice, and I will use that voice as my means of opposition. Because we have a system of government that is unique in history. The conflict of ideas is not resolved through force of arms, but by the power of the voice. President Obama will push his agenda in the court of public opinion, where it will gain support and by carried out, or lose support and be buried. My voice will be heard, here on this small website, and anywhere else I can manage. Other voices will join with me, or they will not; it doesn't matter. I will speak my piece, and I will vote accordingly. And as long as the votes are counted, I'll abide by the expressed will of the people because that's the way this country works.

But I'm not going to sit by and reward arrogance, condescension, and hypocrisy with my silence.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (1) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Benefit of Hyper Inflation

In the interest of fairness, I do need to point out that there is one benefit of hyper inflation. If you owe somebody a lot of money, inflating your currency means that you're paying them back with dollars that are worth less than the ones you borrowed.

For example, I borrow $100 from you today (Don't worry,I'm good for it) and I promise to pay it back in a year. During the year, hyper inflation sets in and the dollar's value is cut in half. When I pay you back, the value of the $100 I give you is only $50.

That's good for me, not so much for you.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (0) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yes, I’m Pro Life, not Anti-Choice

There are those in the Pro-Choice community who refer to folks like me as anti-choice. They do this for a couple of reasons. First, when you can label an opponent as anti-whatever, you get to cast them in a negative light. We were originally called anti-abortion, but we chose Pro-Life, because we stand for something. Similarly, the Pro-Choice crowd shuns the label Pro_Abortion to signal that they really don't like something as icky as abortion, but they feel that women ought to have that option.

The problem is that I am not anti-choice. I'm all about choice; I think choice is where it's all at as long as you are willing to accept the consequences of the choices you make.

When a man and woman choose to have sex, one of the possible consequences is a pregnancy. Yes, you can use contraception to minimize that chance, but it is still there. The time for choice is prior to having sex, not after. Prior to conception is the last time when both partners have an equal burden of responsibility and an equal share in the decision making process. After conception, the playing field is permanently and dramatically altered. There is no fair way to allocate responsibility and authority at this point and the current situation demonstrates that. The pregnant woman has complete decision making authority, while the man has to shoulder the responsibilities that result from her unilateral decision.

I'm an old fashioned moralistic Bible thumping old fart, but I believe that you don't have sex with somebody unless you are willing to make a baby with them. You can call that unrealistic all you want, but so is thinking that the proper solution to an unplanned pregnancy is to kill the baby.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (0) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

The World’s Biggest Con Job

Last week, we celebrated the 36th anniversary of the greatest swindle ever conducted in the history of the earth. The scope of the con is breath-taking, and its success unparalleled as the marks continue to sign on even after almost 4 decades.

Of course, I'm talking about abortion.

Convincing women that abortion was something they wanted, something that they should fight for, was the greatest thing to ever happen to men. Think about it for a minute. If you're an immature, irresponsible guy looking for an excuse to spray sperm anywhere and everywhere, having women march for abortion rights was like entering the promised land. Where before, if you got a girl pregnant, you were looking at ducking an angry father, paying hundreds of thousands in child support over 18 years, or going to jail, now there was a new option on the table. A few hundred dollars and you're away free and clear.

And she's the one that asked for it! That's the beauty of the con! The lowlife loser gets to move on down the line to his next victim without a care in the world, because it was her body, her choice.

How many women do you think have abortions because they know that the sperm donor won't be a good father? How many abortions are performed on women whose partner told them that they weren't going to be around, no matter what? How many women get abortions because they know that even with child support, raising a baby on their own is going to be a tremendous burden on them, a "punishment" as our President called it? 60%? More than that?

It's quite the racket and it's making quite a bit of money for the industry as well. And now that the federal government is going to fund embryonic stem cell research, well, let's just say that I'm certain that the abortion clinics won't be giving that little lump of tissue away.

And the reason this is such a good con, why it's the greatest swindle in history is that even though everything I said is the truth, any pro-choice woman who reads this is going to be pissed off, not at the swindlers, but at me, for pointing out the truth. Abortion enables irresponsibility, not for the woman, but for the jerks out there who take advantage of women.

But then again, it's your choice who you sleep with, right?

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (0) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Teacher Carry:  Yes or No?

I have a column in the Knoxville News Sentinel today exploring the idea of allowing teachers with TN carry permits to carry their guns while teaching. There is a companion discussion on School Matters. In those two venues, I worked to maintain a neutral perspective, relating relevant facts, both statistical and anecdotal, with a minimum of analysis, and as little personal opinion as I could manage, although I did play devil's advocate from time to time during the discussion in order to bring in additional perspectives and issues.

One commenter called me on it, suggesting that my personal biases were showing in the discussion. I let him know that was not the case, and that after the paper was published, I would state my personal position here. I figure that's the best way to maintain a separation between writing an article for the News Sentinel, where my opinion isn't relevant, and writing here, where it's all that really matters.

After researching school violence statistics for the article, and after careful deliberation, I came away with two findings. First, we need to increase security in our schools. Second, teachers are not reliable enough to be considered part of that security system.

Let's talk first about school security. Here are some statistics.

Clearly, schools are not as safe as we need them to be. The question becomes how do we make them safer? Jamey Dobbs, posting on an article on School Matters discussing random searches in schools points to a study done by the US Secret Service called the Safe Schools Initiative which studied 37 school shootings from 1974 through 2000. She says that the report concludes that random searches are not effective. In fact, the report makes no conclusions regarding the efficacy of different approaches to stopping school violence. Instead, the report uses the research to develop a threat assessment model that, in the words of the authors, might prevent some future attacks.

The report found that, contrary to popular opinion, there is no useful profile of students who engaged in school violence. They varied in age, race, and family status, and some were honor students while others were failing. 41% of attackers were socially active while 34% were loners. 63% had never or rarely been in trouble while 25% had been suspended at least once. Most attackers had no history of violence prior to the attack.

Think about this for just a moment. The perpetrators of school attacks show no uniformity in age, behavior, prior acts, or scholastic performance. They look and act like every other student.

The report goes on to say that in 88% of the cases, "at least one adult was concerned by the attacker's behavior." The behaviors were both directly related to the coming attack, i.e. trying to get a gun, or completely unrelated, i.e. expressing thoughts or feelings of depression or rage in class writing assignments. The report does not indicate how many students engaged in these behaviors without going on to initiate an attack on the school, a critical omission when developing an assessment model. If you don't know how prevalent the behavior is outside of kids who attack schools, then you don't know how reliable that behavior is as a marker.

The report also says that in most cases, while the details may or may not have been known, other students knew that an attack was coming. In a few cases, these other students reported their concerns to parents or school faculties, but in most cases, they did not.

There's another interesting statistic from the report; the majority of school attacks end before law enforcement intervenes. Roughly one third end when the attacker is overcome by faculty or students. 35% of the time the attacker just quits, or kills himself. Only in 27% of the cases did law enforcement arrive in time to do anything.

So the research shows us a couple of very important things. First, that there is no easy way to spot a student who is about to launch a violent attack. Second, law enforcement rarely arrives in time to do any good. In most cases, it's all over by the time they arrive on scene.

So, clearly, we need to do something to improve security in the schools. Implementing a threat based assessment that relies on underpaid, overworked, and unqualified teachers to pick up on behaviors that are common in all teens, not just those who go on to attack their schools, is a very risky plan, particularly when you rely on it as your sole proactive measure. Depending on adolescents to report behavior is also a risky proposition, considering the natural feelings of distrust and rebellion. Initiating school programs to try and alleviate those feelings is certain to meet with only limited success.

When you talk to parents and teachers about other proactive measures, like random searches, dress codes and uniforms, increased surveillance, or the increased presence of armed School Resource Officers, the overwhelming reaction is that we are turning our schools into prisons, and that none of these methods will work. In many cases, they fall back on a familiar litany.

"If we just get to know these kids, if we can get them to trust us, then we won't have these problems."

There's a couple of problems with that approach. First, you're ignoring everything we know about the biology and psychology of the adolescent. Second, while you're trying to develop a rapport with the kids, some of them will continue to die because you aren't doing anything to protect them. Any successful strategy to combat school violence must consist of two parts: prevention and reaction.

Prevention includes building avenues of trust among the students, but it also includes enhancing their physical security. Schools are a target because they are known to be undefended. We have to change that.

Reaction means that we cannot adopt any strategy that relies on the attacker to stop on his own, or to wait for the police to arrive. Those strategies will cost lives. Va Tech is a prime example of that. A successful strategy will be one that reduces the amount of time the shooter has to carry out his attack.

And that's where teachers come into the mix. At first glance, and once you get past the initial squeamishness of deliberately allowing guns into a classroom, the idea seems to make a lot of sense. Teachers are right there, on the spot, and are in a position to react quickly. Rather than waiting for the attacker to decide he's had enough, or for the police to arrive, an armed teacher can act to interrupt the attacker, bringing an earlier end to the attack. Not only that, but knowing that schools are no longer defenseless may act as a deterrent to some would be attackers. Finally, there's the argument that people with carry permits have been found to be more law abiding and much less likely to be convicted of a violent offense than those without a permit. But let's look at those arguments a little bit closer, starting with the Pearl Mississippi case I mentioned in the article.

If you didn't follow the link, here's a brief recap. Luke Woodham, a student at Pearl High School killed his mother with a knife, and then brought a single shot hunting rifle to school, and by single shot, I mean he had to stop and reload the rifle after every shot. He entered the high school and shot his ex-girlfriend, killing her, and also shot her friend standing next to her. He continued to move through the school, shooting other students. When he heard sirens from the approaching police, he left the school, leaving two dead and seven wounded behind him. He got into his car, intending to move on to the junior high where he would repeat the slaughter. Fortunately, he was stopped by Assistant Principal Joel Myrick, who went out to his car, where he kept a .45 pistol. He confronted Woodham, and held him at gunpoint until the police arrived.

This seems to be a perfect argument for allowing teachers to carry, but there's another part to the story. There was a teacher standing next to the first two victims. While Woodham was reloading, he ran for cover. The school principal, Roy Balentine, heard the shots, and ran out into the hall, saw what was going on, and then ducked back into his office to call the police. Again, Woodham was reloading. For each shot, Woodham had to stop, pull the bolt on his rifle to clear the chamber, reload, acquire a new target, aim and fire.

During that time, not one teacher made a move to stop him. Just as importantly, not one teacher acted to put themselves between a student and Woodham.

Despite all the overblown rhetoric, teachers are not paid to be heroes. For every Joel Myrick, there are dozens of other teachers who will dive for cover, leaving your child exposed to danger. Placing themselves between your child and danger isn't in their job description. Those who are willing to do so are the exception, rather than the rule. While they might be able to utilize a handgun effectively in a crisis, most could not. They aren't prepared to take on the responsibility that carrying a gun entails.

But what about those exceptions? Can we allow them to carry? Like I said earlier, people with carry permits have demonstrated a seriousness of purpose and a pattern of behavior that places them in a category above the average citizen. However, there are some caveats here as well. Most people who get a carry permit get one for self defense. They are looking to defend themselves or their family or their home against a stranger. A school is a different matter altogether. There you are looking to defend your students, possibly against other students. That's a huge burden for anyone to carry, particularly a teacher, whose entire career is built upon establishing relationships with their students.

Say you have a teacher who is dedicated enough to his students to put his life on the line to stand between them and another one of his students. That would be one very rare bird indeed, but for the sake of argument, let's say you've got such a guy on your staff. Now he has to worry about innocent bystanders as he draws his gun to face down the attacker. We're in an area where the balance is very delicate. If the attacker is unopposed, he will undoubtedly rack up more victims than if he is confronted, but how many more bystanders may get caught in a crossfire with two guns involved? This is not the sort of thing a carry class trains you for. The bottom line is that in order to safely carry a gun in a school, the teacher would require a significant amount of additional training.

So now, not only do we need an almost mythical superman to be our teacher with a gun, he would also have to be willing to undergo a significant amount of additional training, most likely on his own time and at his own expense. How likely is that going to be?

The bottom line is that whether or not we allow teachers to carry is basically irrelevant to providing a more secure classroom. Those teachers who have the responsibility, the willingness, and the skills to carry a weapon in a school are going to be so rare that the likelihood of their being able to make a difference is virtually non-existent.

Except for the fact that they already have made a difference. Pearl, MS and Appalachian Law School in West Virginia are two instances where armed teachers or students prevented a massacre from getting worse. So now what do we do?

The Constitution recognizes the right to keep and bear arms and the recent Supreme Court decision in DC vs Heller has recognized that it is an individual right, not a collective one. However the Supreme Court has also held that cities, states and the federal government have the right to regulate where guns can be carried, based on public safety. Absent public safety concerns, the right to carry should be considered inviolate. Under this reasoning, if a person with a carry permit could demonstrate that by carrying a weapon, he would have no negative effect on public safety, then there would be no reason to deny his right to carry on school grounds. Demonstrating this would require a more stringent screening process, well beyond that for a standard carry permit, as well as more in-depth training, including crisis management, strategy and tactics, marksmanship, and maintaining calm under stress. These are skills that can't be learned in a classroom; they must be practiced in the field as well. Additionally, in order to ensure that the practice is effective, the skills must be evaluated regularly.

So finally, we come to an answer. Allowing teachers to carry on school grounds is not likely to have a significant impact on school security, but if a teacher can demonstrate that carrying a weapon will not compromise the safety of the students, then the teacher should be allowed to carry, in accordance with the Bill of Rights. However, proving that there will be no negative impact on student safety should involve stringent screening, training, and regular testing at least equivalent to what School Resource Officers must go through.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (6) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Page 1 of 20 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »


Bible Verse of the Day

Monthly Archives