Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March 28, 2023 • 6:45 am

It’s the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, March 28, 2023, and National Black Forest Cake Day, a cream-covered cake made with layers of chocolate cake separated with cream filling and cherries. Good, no? Here’s one:

It’s also Eat An Edy’s Pie Day (formerly “Eskimo Pie”, not changed to “Inuit Pie”), National Hot Tub Day, Weed Appreciation Day (they’re not talking about cannabis), Serfs Emancipation Day in Tibet, and Respect Your Cat Day. Here is Mishka, an English shorthair staffed by Jay and Anna:

There’s also a Google Doodle today (click below to go to its links) honoring Justine Siegemund (1636-1705), who, according to Wikipedia, “was a Silesian midwife, whose book, Court Midwife (1690) was the most read, female-published German obstetrical manual.”

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the March 28 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Another week, another school shooting, this time in Nashville, where six people died at the hands of a woman shooter

A 28-year-old from Nashville fatally shot three children and three adults on Monday at a private Christian elementary school, officials said, leaving behind writings and detailed maps of the school and its security protocols.

In the latest episode of gun violence that has devastated American families and communities, the assailant opened fire just after 10 a.m. inside the Covenant School, in the affluent Green Hills neighborhood, where children in preschool through sixth grade had just begun their final full week of classes before Easter break.

The shooter, who the police identified as Audrey E. Hale, had entered the building by firing through a side door, armed with two assault-style weapons and a handgun, according to John Drake, the chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, and went to the second floor, firing shots before being killed by the police. Chief Drake said that the assailant was “at one point a student” at the school.

Surveillance video released by the police on Monday night showed the shooter drive up to the school in what the police described as a Honda Fit. In the clip, two sets of glass doors shatter from bullets before the assailant ducks into the building through the broken glass.

Wearing camouflage pants, a black vest and a backward red baseball cap, the assailant walks through rooms and hallways with a weapon drawn. At one point, the shooter can be seen walking in and out of the church office and down a hallway past the children’s ministry, as the lights of what appear to be a fire alarm flash.

The shooter has been identified in different reports as either a trans man or trans woman; here’s what the NYT says:

There was confusion about the gender identity of the assailant in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Chief Drake said the shooter identified as transgender. Officials used “she” and “her” to refer to the shooter, but, according to a social media post and a LinkedIn profile, the shooter appeared to identify as male in recent months.

After the attack, Biden called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, but you know the chances of that are exactly zero. I keep calling for more restrictions on guns, as do many Americans, but the chances of that are also zero. What was that old bromide about changing the things you can, and accepting the things you can’t? I cannot accept that every two weeks people die because we have a crazy amount of guns in this country.

*After announcing a plan to overhaul Israel’s judiciary system, which caused Israelis to riot en masse, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed off, This is a really contentious issue and I’m trying to read about it, but it turns out that it’s more complicated than I thought. So far, I have no dogs in this fight but want to report on Netanyahu’s about face. I’m going to read two long articles about this tortuous debate; one of them is here and the other here.

“Out of national responsibility, from a desire to prevent the nation from being torn apart, I am calling to suspend the legislation,” said Netanyahu, adding that he reached the decision with the agreement of the majority of his coalition members.“When there is a possibility to prevent a civil war through negotiations, I will give a time-out for negotiations.” he said.

The plan to remake the courts — which would give Netanyahu’s government greater power to handpick judges, including those presiding over Netanyahu’s corruption trial, in which he is charged in three cases and faces potential prison time — has pitted liberal and secular Jewish Israelis against more right-wing and religiously conservative citizens, along a fault line long in emerging.

An explanation of the proposed reform is below. Clearly the attempt to control judges presiding over Netanyahu’s trial stinks of mendacity, but the problem is  that Israel has no constitution, and the Supreme Court sometimes makes decisions not on whether something conforms to the Constitution-equivalent “basic laws,” but based on whether they consider a law “reasonable.” It’s that criterion that I’m trying to find out more about.

The controversy stems from several bills amending Israel’s “basic laws” — legally equivalent to constitutional amendments — which would grant Knesset lawmakers control over judicial appointments, eliminate judicial review of legislation and allow parliament to vote down Supreme Court decisions.

Effectively, these changes would mean “there is no legal boundary to government,” said Aeyal Gross, a professor of constitutional and international law at Tel Aviv University. “A government with no limits totally undermines any idea of democracy.”

In Israel’s parliamentary system, the Supreme Court has been seen as the sole check on lawmakers and the prime minister. Israel’s high court both reviews appeals from lower courts and hears petitions filed against the government and public bodies. It has struck down laws targeting Ukrainian refugees and African asylum seekers and has delayed the eviction of Palestinians in a sensitive Jerusalem neighborhood. In other cases, rights groups say, it has upheld key violations of Palestinian rights.

*Can it be that the conservative Supreme Court actually agrees with the Biden administration on something? Apparently, and that something is the argument that it’s illegal to encourage foreigners to come to America illegally. This was in a case that upheld the right to encouragement on First Amendment grounds.

Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday appeared inclined to uphold a federal law that made it a crime to encourage illegal immigration, signaling agreement with President Joe Biden’s administration that the measure does not violate constitutional free speech protections.

The justices heard arguments in the administration’s appeal of a lower court’s decision in a case from California to strike down the decades-old provision, part of a larger immigration statute, as overly broad because it may criminalize legitimate speech protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The case involves a man named Helaman Hansen who deceived immigrants through a phony “adult adoption” program and was convicted in 2017 of violating that law and others.

In invalidating the law, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Hansen’s conviction for violating the provision, which bars inducing or encouraging noncitizens “to come to, enter or reside” in the United States illegally, including for financial gain. The 9th Circuit upheld Hansen’s convictions on mail and wire fraud charges.

The Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority. Its conservative justices appeared to agree with Biden’s administration that the law does not cover certain hypothetical scenarios that concerned the 9th Circuit, such as simply encouraging immigrants in the country illegally to remain in the United States or advising them about available social services.

The law targets only facilitating or soliciting unlawful conduct, not “general advocacy,” the administration argued.

. . .Biden’s administration urged the justices to restore an “important tool for combating activities that exacerbate unlawful immigration,” particularly because of the high volume of immigration-related litigation and criminal prosecutions that occur in the states covered by the 9th Circuit.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

So we may soon we have yet another case of speech that is not legally protected by the First Amendment. I am surprised, though, that Biden is trying to do anything to restrict immigration.

*The NYT has a “build your own college rankings” article, in which you take the criteria below and move the slider towards the right for each criterion to show how important it is for you. The article then tells you which colleges are right for you:

After I moved my sliders, the article spit out these as my top six colleges:

They want me to go to CUNY, one of the schools reported to be most ridden with anti-Semitism in America! And the University of Florida is a party school, when I ranked partying as of zero priority. Something is wrong here1

*And a bit of persiflage-y news about the late Queen Elizabeth, who apparently specified what “state gift” she wanted from Germany:

Two horses fit for a queen, please.

That’s what Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II had asked for as a gift during her state visit to Germany in 1978, weekly Der Spiegel reported Monday.

The expensive present raised eyebrows among German bureaucrats at the time, who noted that the Holsteiner and the gray Elizabeth requested cost more than any other offering made to a visiting head of state since the end of World War II.

Nevertheless, Germany’s then-President Walter Scheel approved the gift in the interests of good bilateral relations, Der Spiegel reported citing previously confidential archive papers.

The magazine reported that the papers also noted the late monarch’s aperitif preferences — gin and tonic — and dislike of helicopters.

I didn’t know that heads of state could request special gifts from other heads of state, but this all sounds a bit greedy to me–and not like the Elizabeth I’ve heard about. However, she does have good taste in aperitifs, though I would have liked her better had she chosen a Campari and soda—or a very dry fino sherry.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is very upset:

Hili: I’m horrified.
A: Of what?
Hili: The state of the world.
In Polish:
Hili: Jestem przerażona.
Ja: Czym?
Hili: Stanem świata.
And a picture of Szaron:


From David:

From Nicole:

And a cartoon from Thomas (I can’t make out who drew the cartoon):

God and Titania McGrath have pretty much stopped tweeting, which is a great shame. But we must move on, and Masih Alinejad is a reliable source of tweets about the situation in Iran.


Piers Morgan seems shocked that Richard Dawkins really is an atheist, and doesn’t believe in souls or an afterlife:

Two tweet from Barry. All of these roosters need more practice, but the one in the second tweet has good lung capacity! Sound on, but maybe not too high. . .

From Malcolm. Perhaps this cat has something wrong with its rear legs, but it doesn’t look like it. Even if it does, this is a remarkable ability.

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a girl gassed at 14:

Tweets from Matthew. The last known thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus: the marsupial “Tasmanian wolf”) died in a zoo in 1938, but many people thought they were still out there in the wild. People still report sightings, but there have been no pictures or reliable evidence. These new data suggest that the animal lived on until recently. (I think it’s extinct, but one can hope. )

Here’s some colorized footage of the last one known:

The French manage to enjoy their cafes despite what’s going on over there:

37 thoughts on “Tuesday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    193 – After assassinating the Roman Emperor Pertinax, his Praetorian Guards auction off the throne to Didius Julianus.

    1802 – Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus Olbers discovers 2 Pallas, the second asteroid ever to be discovered.

    1842 – First concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Otto Nicolai.

    1854 – Crimean War: France and Britain declare war on Russia.

    1910 – Henri Fabre becomes the first person to fly a seaplane, the Fabre Hydravion, after taking off from a water runway near in France.

    1933 – The Imperial Airways biplane City of Liverpool is believed to be the first airliner lost to sabotage when a passenger sets a fire on board.

    1939 – Spanish Civil War: Generalissimo Francisco Franco conquers Madrid after a three-year siege.

    1959 – The State Council of the People’s Republic of China dissolves the government of Tibet.

    1978 – The US Supreme Court hands down 5–3 decision in Stump v. Sparkman, a controversial case involving involuntary sterilization and judicial immunity.

    1979 – A coolant leak at the Three Mile Island’s Unit 2 nuclear reactor outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania leads to the core overheating and a partial meltdown.

    1979 – The British House of Commons passes a vote of no confidence against James Callaghan’s government by 1 vote, precipitating a general election.

    1990 – United States President George H. W. Bush posthumously awards Jesse Owens the Congressional Gold Medal.

    1819 – Joseph Bazalgette, English architect and engineer (d. 1891).

    1868 – Maxim Gorky, Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright (d. 1936). [Dad appeared (in a very minor role) in the RSC’s British debut of Gorky’s Summerfolk in 1974.]

    1902 – Flora Robson, English actress (d. 1984).

    1921 – Dirk Bogarde, English actor and author (d. 1999).

    1936 – Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian writer and politician, Nobel Prize laureate.

    1942 – Daniel Dennett, American philosopher and academic.

    1986 – Lady Gaga, American singer-songwriter and actress.

    You become a changed person when you face the Duck of Death and deny him your soul:
    1584 – Ivan the Terrible, Russian king (b. 1530).

    1881 – Modest Mussorgsky, Russian pianist and composer (b. 1839).

    1929 – Katharine Lee Bates, American poet and songwriter (b. 1859). [Chiefly remembered for her anthem “America the Beautiful”, but also for her many books and articles on social reform, on which she was a noted speaker.]

    1941 – Virginia Woolf, English writer (b. 1882).

    1943 – Sergei Rachmaninoff, Russian pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1873).

    1953 – Jim Thorpe, American football player (b. 1887). [The first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics. Considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, he won two Olympic gold medals in the 1912 Summer Olympics (one in classic pentathlon and the other in decathlon).]

    1958 – W. C. Handy, American trumpet player and composer (b. 1873).

    1969 – Dwight D. Eisenhower, American general and politician, 34th President of the United States (b. 1890).

    1985 – Marc Chagall, Russian-French painter (b. 1887).

    2004 – Peter Ustinov, English-Swiss actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1921).

    2013 – Richard Griffiths, English actor (b. 1947).

  2. Israel is facing its greatest internal crisis since its founding. It seems that Netanyahu’s far right government is opening up schisms in Israeli society similar to that in the United States: urban, liberal citizens versus rural, religious ones. NYT columnist, Tom Friedman, hardly a flaming leftist, has been warning about the threat to democracy that Netanyahu represents. Friedman has not been alone. In a column posted today, he argues that Netanyahu has become Trump-like. Netanyahu’s attempt to neuter the Israeli Supreme Court is, according to Friedman, only one of several offenses against democracy. Friedman urges that “It is finally time that the American government, the American Congress and American Jewish leaders and lobbyists, who too often have been Netanyahu’s enablers, make it unmistakably clear that they are also marching with all those Israelis — from the military, the high-tech community, the universities, traditional religious communities, doctors, nurses, air force pilots, bankers, labor unions and even settlements — who took to the streets in the last week to ensure the 75th anniversary of Israeli democracy will not be its last.”

    If Israel were just “another” country tending to authoritarianism, seemingly becoming common in today’s world, it would not receive the attention that it is. But Israel has always presented itself as the lone democracy in the Middle East. Now that image is being shattered. If American Jews perceive this, then Israel’s independence is threatened. The withdrawal of support for Israel from American Jews would probably mean the withdrawal of support from the United States government. How long could Israel survive if this should happen? Israel is dependent upon the United States for diplomatic, economic, and military assistance. More of the American public would give credence to the claims of the Palestinians. As Trump, Netanyahu and his right-wing government is willing to destroy a country for personal power. It is all sad and depressing.


    1. Tom Friedman wrote practically the same article when Begin won the election in 1977 and later repeated the same opinion every time the Left in Israel lost an election. Somehow Israel still remained a democracy. But Tom Friedman was wrong so many times about Israel and more generally about the Middle East since his days as a student, that it’s hard to treat his new diatribe seriously.

      Since Aharon Barak’s “constitutional revolution” in 1990, there were many voices in Israel calling for legal reform. Most important among them was Prof.Ruth Gavison (member of the very left Meretz Party) who criticized the unbridled power of the Supreme Court that Aharon Barak usurped without any basis in the law.

      In how many democratic countries do Supreme Court Judges chose their own successors without any say from the parliament or government? In how many democratic countries can the Supreme Court give the verdict on the basis that it thinks the decision (a government decision in any area, a law passed by the parliament, a government’s minister decision, etc.) is “unreasonable”, even if it in no way is contrary to the law?

      In how many democratic countries do the Supreme Court (and not the government or parliament) have the last word about who will be an Attorney General (and at the same time government Legal Adviser)? And where can the decision of an Attorney General= override the decision of the Prime Minister and of the parliament? There is more in the legal system of Israel that requires reform so the balance between three branches of power can be restored.

      And for decades now there have been voices demanding such reform. Opinion polls in Israel show that the majority wants such reform. Leaders of today’s opposition (Lapid, Saar, etc.) demanded reform in the past. Now they even refuse to discuss the proposals because it was Netanyahu whom they hate and simply hoped to get rid of the man who proposed them. But he won the election because that’s what Israelis wanted.

      Just now many more people are demonstrating in France–in a much more violent way than in Israel.Where is Friedman’s article about the need for the U.S. to interfere in France’s internal politics? There are many countries in the world where democracy is much more fragile than the robust democracy in Israel. There are many countires that are dictatorships. But, inexplicably, only Israel gets such treatment from Tom Friedman and his ilk.

      1. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Israel’s judicial system. I was simply pointing out that a significant number of Israelis have gone to great lengths to protest the proposed changes, resulting in the country being ripped apart. Moreover, I used Thomas Friedman as one example of pundits that are greatly distressed in what is going on there. There are many others. Another is David Ignatius of the Washington Post, who wrote this today: “Netanyahu proposed a fundamental change in the judicial system that widened the fissure between secular Israelis, who want to retain the independent judiciary, and ultra-Orthodox Israelis who want a more religious state — and form an essential part of Netanyahu’s governing coalition. That constituency will balk at the sort of compromise that Netanyahu apparently envisions, which could rupture his coalition and deepen the political instability.” Ignatius goes on to discuss how the crisis is endangering Israel’s relationship with its neighbors.

        Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what Friedman or any other pundit thinks. What does matter is that Netanyahu has torn the country apart, whether or not judicial reforms are warranted. He has galvanized the secular Jews of Israel to fear for the country’s democracy and may be turning American Jews against Israel, which endangers the country’s survival. As Trump, he is a divider, not a uniter. The secular Jews of Israel are not standing for the country to be converted into an orthodox Jewish theocracy.


        1. There are many who think that it was not Netanyahu who ripped the country apart but that it was the handiwork of his opposition.

          From the beginning, Yair Levin, a lawyer and currently the Minister of Justice (Netanyahu was forbidden to deal with legal reform or even to talk publicly about it by the Attorney General), the author of the proposal, said that there is room for negotiations. The answer from every opposition party: a call to go out on the streets and demonstrate until Netanyahu government falls. There were all possible rumors how the proposal was a threat to minorities, women, democracy itself (it wasn’t). Lapid, Saar, Ehud Barak and many others just couldn’t believe that they lost the election and wanted to get rid of Netanyahu by “popular uprising”.

          Instead of sitting down to negotiations and presentint their own counter-proposal, the opposition parties were ripping the country apart. And how the country could become an “orthodox Jewish theocracy” with many secular members in the coalition, many women and the Speaker of the Knesset, Amir Ohana, a secular gay, is more than I (and many with me) can understand. But as a slogan, as a war cry, it was perfect. Scaremongering is a powerful tool to rip any country apart.

    2. There are two sides to this story, and painting the opening proposal by the Netanyahu coalition as the end of democracy and the beginning of autocracy is imho hyperbolic. Some of the specific changes proposed make the Israeli system more like that seen in the US and Europe, some the opposite. But, as has been pointed out from the start, Netanyahu is looking for compromise, for negotiation. And to be frank – some of the powers that the Judiciary in Israel have given to itself are beyond what we would consider proper in the US. As are some of the proposals put forward by Netanyahu.

      The issue, as Dr. Coyne said, is complicated as heck with aspects of Constitutional checks and balances from Europe, the US, and Israel all at play. There is even a possibility that these proposals will lead to a formal Constitution being negotiated in Israel, something which it does not have as such. Wiki has a good article on the specific proposals with some context:


    3. There has been a ton written lately regarding the crisis in Israel. I have read a lot about it. A major problem for me has been that just about every author has a strong opinion that colors the article. It’s difficult to read an unbiased account, so it’s difficult to me to settle on a firm position.

      All that said, I’m relieved that there has been a pause in the process. I hope that the pause will allow the various parties to formulate a plan that has broader popular support in Israel. (It would also be good for the plan to have broader support in the U.S. When Israel is in the news, antisemitism seems to thrive.) The pause, on the other hand, might simply be a tactic to lower the temperature in Israel so that the current plan can pass in a few months without modification or with very little. If the latter is the case, we’ll be back in the same place a few months from now.

  3. Another week, another school shooting,

    As you say, “situation normal”. Normal for America, not Norfolk.

    where six people died at the hands of a woman shooter

    Oh, that’s not so normal. Anyone care to bet when the first NRA nut-job starts calling for women to be excluded from owning fire arms, since they obviously can’t be on the frontline with the rest of a “well regulated militia”. They must be feeling so conflicted between their instinctive responses and their political realism – but someone is going to let the mask slip.
    Is there any country other than America where schools ever – let alone regularly – conduct “live shooter” drills?

    Here is Mishka, an English shorthair staffed by Jay and Anna:

    “Mishka” being the Russian “cuddly little bear cub, Винни Рух” version of “bear”, rather than the “pull down trees, eat your head” version – who is a “Медведев” (medvedev). This Mishka looks delightful.

    thylacine – but there have been no pictures or reliable evidence.

    I wonder if the available material would allow identification of fur (on fence posts) or scat (say, near where a ranger’s dog is encouraged to “mark territory”). They’re likely to be less ambiguous than “bigfoot grade” fuzzy video from just-out-of-view of a camera trap.
    Aren’t most of the alleged sightings of extant thyalcines from Tasmania? That seems a bit odd, given that they’re relatively large carnivores, which translates to relatively large hunting ranges, and Tasmania is relatively small compared to the mainland. Or is my memory playing tricks with the Tasmanian Devil and it’s transmissible facial cancer?

  4. I have not seen it mentioned, so I am curious to know if the Nashville shooter was receiving testosterone.

  5. I didn’t know that heads of state could request special gifts from other heads of state, but this all sounds a bit greedy to me–and not like the Elizabeth I’ve heard about.

    Maybe she was actually asked beforehand. I don’t know what the protocol is for deciding on what gift to give, but I imagine there must be some checking that the recipient is not going to be embarrassed by the gift or refuse to accept it.

    The Dawkins interview was interesting. I too would love to see Arsenal win every weekend, but I suspect it would get boring after a while. One of the things that makes this football season so joyous is the fact that Arsenal have been pretty poor (by their standards) in the last decade.

    1. I’m afraid to say that your last paragraph reminds me of the old joke:

      – Tell me, do you enjoy watching football?
      – No, not really, I’m an Arsenal supporter.

      1. I think the team in that joke has been replaced by Liverpool or maybe Chelsea, unless you’re going for the “boring Arsenal” meme which hasn’t been true since Wenger took over.

  6. One news service reported that the Nashville shooter was a transgender female, which makes sense since males do more than 90% of mass shootings. This might also provide a motive, since a person deviating from the norm could not have had an easy life at a Christian school.

    1. But the shooter was 28 years old, and the school is a K-6 elementary. She hadn’t attended there for a long time. Who holds a 15-year grudge against 9 year olds? Some folks are making a big deal out of her trans identity and testosterone. More likely to be straight-up psychopathy. The local police say she left behind writing that points to a motive. Waiting to read about that.

    2. No shortage of bullying the different at public secular schools, Charles. Your comment reeks of religious bigotry.

    3. The shooter was a natal female who identified as male. It’s a very unusual situation, since shootings of random strangers by women is exceedingly rare. For what it’s worth, I believe that the last woman to participate in such an atrocity also identified as male (although in that case she had a male accomplice). As noted above at comment #4, artificial testosterone could be a factor although we have no evidence for that theory as yet so it remains pure speculation. Yesterday’s shooter apparently left a manifesto, so her motivation may become apparent in due course.

      1. “The shooter was a natal female who identified as male.”

        I’m glad you’ve been able to ascertain that information. May one hope to find that information in the NY Times in the next few days, which so far has been of no clarifying help in that regard when it states:

        “There was confusion about the gender identity of the assailant in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Chief Drake said the shooter identified as transgender. Officials used “she” and “her” to refer to the shooter, but, according to a social media post and a LinkedIn profile, the shooter appeared to identify as male in recent months.”

        Hey NY Times, is the shooter a natal female – woman? Are you bound and determined not to mention that? It apparently appeared quite obvious to officials that the shooter was a natal female/woman. Where’s the “confusion”?

        Were the shooter a biological male – a “cis” male, would the Times have said that the shooter would have “appeared to identify as a cis-male”? Or would the Times simply have identified the shooter as a “male” or “man”?

        1. The media seemed reticent to user the word transgender to describe Audry/Aiden, mostly referencing an “emotional disorder.”

          They had no problem championing a rapist/murder male identifying as female to being housed with women. Why aren’t TRA’s at least, demanding that the media acknowledge her gender identity as male?

  7. The expensive present raised eyebrows among German bureaucrats at the time, who noted that the Holsteiner and the gray Elizabeth requested cost more than any other offering made to a visiting head of state since the end of World War II.

    As the one from Sheba said, it’s good to be queen.

  8. I drove right past the Nashville school and church that was shot up on my way to work for 14 years. Desperately sorry for all of the people affected. School shootings are always terrible, but this one has surprised me by how much worse I feel simply by being able to visualize the place and know that our own kids were in school only a few miles away. I am so sick of this.

    What I came to say was that the cockerel sounds a bit like a Spanish language football commentator calling a goal. But the laws of physics put me onto a school shooting rant.

  9. I’ve fallen in love with the sultry Mishka, am jealous of Jay and Anna. 😍😉 (Thanks for sharing the photo!)

    1. Mishka is hard to resist! When we came to the breeder to get a kitten, she offered 3 Brish Shorthair kittens to choose from. And we immediately fell in love with Mishka — he was special. Then it took us about an hour to actually get him, as he was running around the house in excitement. We almost gave up.

      We wrote a little story about him (and other kitties) here:

  10. Will and capability. The desire to act and the capacity to effectively do so. We each understand these basic principles of military strategy (and business, political, etc.). Israel fears what Iran might do with nuclear weapons—with the coupling of ill will to effective capability. On the other hand, despite their known (or presumed) capability, we in the United States have no fear of nuclear destruction at the hands of France, the UK, or Israel. Where there is no ill will present or foreseeable, one does not worry about another’s capability. If the UK were to double its nuclear inventory, nobody in the Pentagon would waste a minute worried about how to defend against it.

    These points are obvious to the point of an almost embarrassing simplicity. Now to Nashville and the gun control debate. In theory, if we eliminate capability, we need not worry about will. In theory. But laws and regulations that try to create a closed system generate black markets and other work arounds that open the system. (Those with the will, will try to find a way. See Russia, Iran, North Korea on the international front.) Still, I grant the point: no guns, no mass murder with guns. Fine. Now set it aside, along with all arguments about the Constitution, prudence, freedom, practicality, alternative methods of violence, assault-style weapons, large-capacity magazines, and so on. (For the record, I think that there are sensible control measures far short of confiscation, eradication, or state-monitoring of all weapons.)

    I constantly think about “will” when shootings like that in Nashville happen. Why are we in America so obviously fucked up? Shootings? Check. Rampant and increasing drug abuse and overdose deaths? Check. Mental health problems rising in youth? Check. Add your own social pathology (some involving intent, others not). There was a time in this country when teen boys could have shotguns in their pickup trucks at school. Everybody knew it was hunting season; nobody called the police. Nobody assumed that the kid was going to blow the heads off three classmates before killing the principal. This is not nostalgia; it is simple fact. In parts of rural America today, where guns are tools, one can still find loaded shotguns or small-caliber rifles near farmhouse front doors. This was extraordinarily common in the past. Yet farm boys weren’t killing their neighbors en masse.

    Before anyone accuses me of peddling the “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” trope, I am not. That trope is oftentimes used to dismiss dealing with the “capability” side of the equation. And, as I already stated, I see value in addressing that side. But ready dismissal of the trope is equally guilty of one-sidedness: of ignoring the “will” side of the equation. What are we doing—or not doing—in America to create these homicidal sociopaths? Why do we seem so increasingly fucked up as a country? WE. WE. Not them. WE.

    I am probably not in the mood for Pinkeresque paeans to our great material and intellectual progress! Two things can be simultaneously true: we have made great progress and are increasingly messed up. I ask in this forum because I have read many thoughtful people here who can consider problems outside of an ideological stovepipe.

      1. America has always been an outlier. However, the number of households with guns have been steadily decreasing for decades. As recently as 1980, there were an estimated 46% of US adults living in households with firearms. Only nine states had rates of 40% or lower. That national average had declined to 32% by 2016, and 29 states then had rates of 40% or lower. I do not have data at hand for midcentury, but I am quite confident that the vast majority of rural homes had firearms—oftentimes loaded and unsecured. Yet, their young adults and children were not slaughtering children. Whether we are talking school shootings or just any regular weekend in Chicago, we have a problem. And guns are not the only problem. Thus, my earlier points focusing on both “will” and “capability”.


    1. Doug,
      A view from abroad, informed by a much simpler but still fizzling gun-control effort:

      What gun problem, exactly, are you trying to solve? There are many types of gun crime committed by different types of people with different types of weapons.

      While there are lots of deaths of despair from poor economic and mental health that you catalogue, those deaths occur in the docile “left-behinds”, not murders committed by the dangerous classes that scare people. Gun violence in the inner city has been a problem since the 1950s and along with the putative “root causes” has remained insoluble, albeit still down from a peak that coincided with the baby boomers going through their peak violent-crime years. Frankly I wouldn’t worry about it, unless you are the police chief of a large city. Problems that have no solutions aren’t really problems. They’re just facts of life.

      The shootings that occur randomly involving multiple strangers not themselves of the criminal class are the ones that worry people the most, especially away from the shelter of the home in places like schools where the vulnerable are clustered together under the trusted protection of the authorities. Since I would suspect this is the only type of gun crime that really worries most Americans, I propose that for purely selfish utilitarian reasons this should be where your efforts should be directed. But only if you think this subset problem is both bad enough to tackle — remember it’s spread all over the population of the third-largest country in the world so almost never in any one location affecting any one family — and also tractable to solution.

      While semi-automatic rifles are classically used in school and other public stranger shootings, handguns account for more multiple shootings over-all. I don’t know if multiple shootings with handguns are all just particularly vigorous gang activity or are lumped in with the archetypal school shooting that just happens to be done with handguns. This is important because semi-auto rifles are, in theory, easier to tackle because there are so many fewer of them and unlikely to be owned by hardened criminals. For sake of argument, I’m going to assume that the type of mass shooting by stranger we all worry about are all done with semi-auto rifles.

      By common sense, the easy availability of suitable weapons seems surely likely to enable these shootings. Yet the likelihood that any one semi-automatic rifle out of the estimated 20 million in circulation* will ever be used in a shooting is very small, given the large denominator. Gun-control advocates like to talk about gun violence as a public health problem (as a way to make it not sound like gun control, I guess.) So here’s a public health concept: How many rifles would you have to confiscate to prevent one school child from being randomly shot? Remember that psychopaths would make efforts to prevent their guns being discovered until they were ready to use them. Even if you decided not to disarm the criminal classes of their handguns (to reduce the number of cops shot during confiscation efforts), you would still suffer some police casualties in seizing millions of rifles that people had paid good money for and believed they had a Constitutional right to possess. 20 million rifles, many likely buried in the backyard, spread unevenly across 124 million dwellings, plus summer cottages and hunting camps, and god-knows how many automobiles and pickup trucks is a lot of searching. And what would be the probable cause for the search warrants?

      Maybe it’s more efficient just to keep the school doors locked, and call the cops to come shoot people dead if they try to break in while carrying a rifle.
      * https://www.forbes.com/sites/joewalsh/2021/03/25/us-has-at-least-20-million-assault-rifles-a-ban-wouldnt-reduce-that-number/?sh=632fe70b4978. This is estimated at about 3% of the total number of firearms, many of which are handguns or more conventional shotguns and bolt-action heavy-calibre hunting rifles.

      1. Leslie, I quite often get a chuckle out of your comments–as much when I agree as when I occasionally disagree. Cheers to you!

        Joviality aside, I was hoping to shift the discussion somewhat from the tools of violence to include the impulse for violence. We in the States have long been a more physically violent place relative to some of our more genteel peers. (Of course, many of those peers lack both the will and the forces to defend themselves even if Putin did have the inclination and capability to run a Blitzkrieg up their gap.) Amidst that violence in our country, I have personally known (outside of professional capacity) some who have killed; others who attempted to kill; those who have nearly been killed; and those violently killed. My experience is not unusual. Perhaps it is no different than the common condition of man throughout history–better now in many, many ways–but I hope to never lose the impulse to decry it.

        1. I should have said at the outset, Doug, that I appreciated your thought-provoking discussion of how will to harm interacts with capacity. It seems that once you get outside the professional criminal class, those with truly malevolent ill will directed at random strangers are spread quite thin. If there were no weapons available allowing them to kill several people in a few seconds, their ill will might be frustrated into harmlessness. But there are so many guns…and a determined hardened criminal in Saskatchewan last year managed to kill 20 of his neighbours and a partner in crime with just a knife.

          I think it is only reluctantly and theoretically that people surrender to the state the monopoly on the use of violence. The will to use it is only restrained by consequences, and for some not even those are sufficient.

        2. “Amidst that violence in our country, I have personally known (outside of professional capacity) some who have killed; others who attempted to kill; those who have nearly been killed; and those violently killed. My experience is not unusual.” Not unusual? Seriously???

    1. New Zealand “allowed” Posie Parker to visit the country the same way John Wick was allowed to visit Paris in the movie John Wick Chapter 4.

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