Chart of the day

Just because the election is over doesn’t mean Nate Silver’s not still doing good work.  Interesting post today on the increasing partisan polarization of gun ownership.  Here’s a rather telling chart:

Also of note, gun ownership rates are lowest among young people.  What I’d love to know is if this is always the case and we’re talking about a lifecycle effect, or if young people are turning away from guns as they are also becoming more liberal on social issues like gay marriage

Don’t want to offend my FB friends

and yes, many of them read this blog, but I just have to vent somewhere.  I’m so tired of the references to the didn’t happen Mayan apocalypse.  It’s just not that funny.  That is all.

Photo of the day

Enjoyed this set of photos of women guarding the works of art in Russian museums.  Reminded me of my trip to the Hermitage 23 years ago.  It’s got an absolutely amazing collection, but I was so jet-lagged and just tiredfrom our travel schedule that I basically slept-walk through the place without anything making much of an impression.  One of my great regrets.

Andy Freeberg, Guardians

Stroganov Palace, Russian State Museum.

Andy Freeberg.

Realism, fantasy, and the Hobbit

Saw the Hobbit a couple days ago.  It’s so hard to view a movie like this outside the context of the book.  I usually try to do so, but in this case I really spent far too much of the movie thinking, “How do you make a 2:45 movie for the first part of a trilogy for a 300 page book?!”  Pacing!  I guess when you are Peter Jackson nobody just says, “seriously?!”  It was certainly an amazing visual spectacle, but way too bogged down.

What really frustrated me, though, was the lack of realism.  What? you ask.  We’re talking about a movie with Orcs, goblins, dragons, and magic rings.  That aside, of course.  The reason the Harry Potter books are so great is because within the world JK Rowling has invented everything rings so damn true– from awkward teenage love to the desire for the ever better flying broom.  No real complaints with Tolkien on that score, but in the movie, I swear Bilbo, Gandalf, and the company of Dwarves somehow managed to avoid any serious injury throughout a series of violence and mayhem that would have even killed James Bond. Sure, I get that the heroes get to avoid their share of swinging swords and flying arrows, but 16 people don’t escape hundreds of similarly armed, attacking foes without a single casualty.  Dwarves, hobbits, giant flying eagles, etc., don’t pull me out of a movie and my suspension of disbelief, but surviving absolutely ridiculous attacks and calamities completely unscathed sure does.


I don’t have anything directly to say about the NRA’s absurd, armed cop in every school approach or utter inanity of blaming this on Hollywood and video games.  I will though, excerpt this absolutely fabulous essay in the Times about what’s so wrong with the NRA’s view of the world.  I’ve been known to give the modern discipline of Philosophy a bit of a hard time every now and then, but in truth, sometimes philosophers have a wonderful way of seeing right through to the core of the matter.  Anyway:

As N.R.A. president Wayne LaPierre expressed in a recent statement on the organization’s Web site, more guns equal more safety, by their account. A favorite gun rights saying is “an armed society is a polite society.” If we allow ever more people to be armed, at any time, in any place, this will provide a powerful deterrent to potential criminals. Or if more citizens were armed — like principals and teachers in the classroom, for example — they could halt senseless shootings ahead of time, or at least early on, and save society a lot of heartache and bloodshed.

As ever more people are armed in public, however — even brandishing weapons on the street — this is no longer recognizable as a civil society. Freedom is vanished at that point.

And yet, gun rights advocates famously maintain that individual gun ownership, even of high caliber weapons, is the defining mark of our freedom as such, and the ultimate guarantee of our enduring liberty. Deeper reflection on their argument exposes basic fallacies…

But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

As our Constitution provides, however, liberty entails precisely the freedom to be reckless, within limits, also the freedom to insult and offend as the case may be…

often think of the armed protestor who showed up to one of the famously raucous town hall hearings on Obamacare in the summer of 2009. The media was very worked up over this man, who bore a sign that invoked a famous quote of Thomas Jefferson, accusing the president of tyranny. But no one engaged him at the protest; no one dared approach him even, for discussion or debate — though this was a town hall meeting, intended for just such purposes. Such is the effect of guns on speech — and assembly. Like it or not, they transform the bearer, and end the conversation in some fundamental way. They announce that the conversation is not completely unbounded, unfettered and free; there is or can be a limit to negotiation and debate — definitively.

The very power and possibility of free speech and assembly rests on their non-violence. The power of the Occupy Wall Street movement, as well as the Arab Spring protests, stemmed precisely from their non-violent nature.

Wow– what an insightful piece.  Forget about cost/benefit, all the deaths, etc., just a great argument that widespread gun ownership is, in fact, antithetical to true democratic freedom.  Read the whole thing.

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