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A Fascinating Gun Violence Study

001A gun violence study from a European perspective.

This is an excerpt from a study done about gun violence in the Balkans. I found it largely by accident and it was insightful, enjoyable reading. Most academic writing is barely penetrable. This is lively and interesting. An academic dealing with gun issues, in particular criminal justice, will find this interesting reading if only for the summary of Eastern European gun laws in the appendix. It is a very fine example of social science research.

James Pilant

From the Introduction:

This study is based on the premise that culture is not static but is constantly evolving and changing and it is not
just a product of past traditions but develops and is reinterpreted as society changes. This report will focus on
‘culture’ to mean a society’s particular set of values, norms – both social and legal – and meanings that render
an action or thought acceptable and legitimate. Guns are not separable from the cultural environment in which
they are acting and this means that the prevailing norms and values that render certain gun ownership and use
acceptable must be understood within a geographical, political, historical and socio-economic context. ‘Gun
culture’ lacks an established definition and is subject to continued debate, so this report will take ‘gun culture’
to be the cultural acceptance of gun ownership in situations where the principal motivation or justification for
it is not for utilitarian or economic reasons but because their society has a set of values and norms that deem
it acceptable behaviour. A simple example would be when a man carries a gun, primarily not for hunting or for
protection, but because his ‘culture’ interprets his behaviour as a sign of masculinity and status.

From later in the same study:

Notions of anarchy strongly influenced 18th and 19th century folklore. Tales abound about the revolutionary
movements of the Balkan Christians such as, the formation of rebel groups, dangerous trips to remote towns to
buy guns and ammunition, heroes being chased by the enemy or engaged in long battles. The ending usually
either laments the tragic deaths of the heroes or celebrates victory over the Turkish forces. Typically these
heroic epics are exaggerated tales about the beauty, physical strength, honour and courage of the heroes. They
are about men trying to prove their worthiness to be the leader of a haidouk (rebel) group, showing off their
marksmanship, horse riding and sword fighting skills. People glorified haidouks as saviours who could protect
them from attacks by the Turks or bandits. Stories and songs about the haidouk recount how the groups acquired
weapons, the struggles for leadership and the battles they fought. They often describe haidouk everyday life,
making contrasts between their joyful, romantic daily routines and the cold winters when the haidouks hid their
guns and returned to their homes.

Here is the link to the full pdf file, so you can read the study in its entirety – (To my shock, after careful reading I discovered I was writing about two different studies – the one quoted is list first and the other on domestic violence is afterwards. They are both wonderful. JP)




Here is a link to the web site where I found the study, mappinggunculture.


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Ten Worst American Cities for Murder – from the Star-Telegram

I have criminal justice students and they tend to believe that the cities like Los Angeles or New York are the leaders in murder. Their television induced wisdom is a problem. It disguises the developing geographic picture of crime, and that picture is of the most violent crimes moving more toward the South and Central United States.

The data, in particular the top cities for murder list below, surprises most people. I was shocked by the ranking of Anchorage. I went and had a look at the overall stats and while murder is bad compared to much of the United States, the rate of forcible rape is much, much worse than the rest of the country.

Here you are presented for your information – the top ten –

No. 1 – Detroit

No. 2 – Memphis

No. 3 – Springfield, Ill.

No. 4 – Flint, Mich.

No. 5 – Anchorage, Ak.

No. 6 – Lubbock

No. 7 – Stockton, Calif.

No. 8 – Tallahassee, Fla.

No. 9 – Las Vegas, Nev.

No. 10 – Rockford, Ill.

Read more: http://blogs.star-telegram.com/crime_time/2011/10/which-texas-city-do-you-suppose-made-the-forbes-list-of-most-dangerous-in-the-us.html#ixzz1aGVKxCO7

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Are Lion Burgers in Poor Taste?

Sometimes something happens that catches your attention. This is it.

I laughed when I first heard this. Why the fuss, I thought, calling a fancy burger, a lion burger is hardly crime. Then I read the article. The burgers are 80% lion meat. I didn’t know you could get it. I can’t figure out why you would want to get it.

So, my second thought was, well maybe, a lion killed his sister and this is revenge. Not a good reason to eat lion, but better than nothing. Nope, no family losses to lions. What does that leave? Is he allergic to cats?

This is just a bad idea. Get a regular burger, call it a lion kill burger, a lion victory over some beefy animal. We have lots of beefy animals and very few lions.

I suppose we should ask at some point – is it ethical to eat lion meat or to sell it? If you believe that meat eating is okay, eating lion is probably okay save from an aesthetic point of view. Currently the lion is not an endangered species although I have confidence that human greed and incompetence will eventually get it there.

James Pilant

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Another Whistleblower Firing – Should you sacrifice your career over people’s right to vote?

There is a strange little story today out of the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin has created a requirement that voters present a picture ID before they can vote. This is designed to deal with a serious even catastrophic outbreak of voter fraud, of which there is no evidence save in the legislature’s imagination. Nevertheless, the legislators of the state feel any sacrifice on the part of the voters is worthwhile. That sacrifice is being placed upon those without picture ID’s, the elderly and the poor. The legislature feels that these people cannot be counted on to vote in their best interest.

But the legislature has a problem. If it comes out and says that the poor and elderly are voting the wrong way and that they will stop them by requiring a picture ID, the feds will suspect that the state is violating the Voting Rights Act.  So, the legislature made the ID’s free, so that anyone who wanted to vote could go and get one.

Now that is fair to everyone, isn’t it? All you have to do is go to a Department of Transportation Office and ask for your free ID. There is a little hitch, the Department issued instructions not to tell anyone the ID’s were free and to collect the regular $28 when possible.

So, Chris Larson sent an e-mail of his own to fellow employees reminding them that the ID’s were supposed to be free. He was a whistleblower letting people know what the state was doing.

He has been fired.

I tell my students that the greatest lie they learn in high school is that virtue is rewarded, that if you do the right things, the expected things, and keep your head down – you will be alright, rewarded, worthy, etc.

No, you will not be rewarded. You will not be considered worthy and, in fact, doing the right thing is most likely to cause you pain.

This is a case in point.

James Pilant

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Kyle Willis Dies Because He Couldn’t Afford His Meds

This is from ABC news

A 24-year-old Cincinnati father died from a tooth infection this week because he couldn’t afford his medication, offering a sobering reminder of the importance of oral health and the number of people without access to dental or health care.

According to NBC affiliate WLWT, Kyle Willis’ wisdom tooth started hurting two weeks ago. When dentists told him it needed to be pulled, he decided to forgo the procedure, because he was unemployed and had no health insurance.

When his face started swelling and his head began to ache, Willis went to the emergency room, where he received prescriptions for antibiotics and pain medications. Willis couldn’t afford both, so he chose the pain medications.

The tooth infection spread, causing his brain to swell. He died Tuesday.

I can’t help but remember during the debate over whether some form of universal health care was necessary, I heard many, many times that it wasn’t because you could always go to the emergency room.

That isn’t always enough.

Humans are valuable. Even though we are at more than nine percent unemployment, there is no need to kill off the surplus population ala Scrooge.

I wonder about people who feel that when we act in brotherhood by helping the weak, the helpless, the young and the poor that we damage society, weaken it in some fundamental way.

They point to some strange future in which the society crumbles into clusters of helpless idlers watching television and waiting for their government hand out.

I suspect this has something to do with Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and most particularly, a fellow named Friedrich Nietzsche. He points to a “master slave mentality.” Let me allow Wikipedia to explain –

Master-slave morality is a central theme of Friedrich Nietzsche‘s works, in particular the first essay of On the Genealogy of Morality. Nietzsche argued that there were two fundamental types of morality: ‘Master morality’ and ‘slave morality’. Master morality weighs actions on a scale of good or bad consequences unlike slave morality which weighs actions on a scale of good or evil intentions. What Nietzsche meant by ‘morality’ deviates from common understanding of this term. For Nietzsche, a particular morality is inseparable from the formation of a particular culture. This means that its language, codes and practices, narratives, and institutions are informed by the struggle between these two types of moral valuation. For Nietzsche, master-slave morality provides the basis of all exegesis of Western thought. While slave morality values things like kindness, humility and sympathy, master morality values pride, strength, and nobility.

I am a happy victim of the slave mentality. I want to be kind and sympathetic to those in trouble. But I can’t help but notice that I also try to live my life as a gentleman and a scholar, values that seem to derive from the master morality.

Perhaps, Rand, Friedman, and their confederates err in believing too much in self-interest. Instead of accepting the master morality as a different version of responsibility (nobility), they refine or reduce it to a philosophy of self worship. In other words, we exist only as individuals in fierce competition. We are no more than individual atoms in conflict with one another incapable of real connection.

It is an interesting point of view. You might call it cruel. But it aims at results. Those who are productive, for instance – job creators, should be rewarded by society while the non productive classes should be reduced in number by enforcing on these poor non-producers the need to compete and exert themselves.

So, the best of all possible worlds is one in which the weak are discarded when they fail to measure up.

Mr. Willis is an unfortunate example of the slave mentality in action. If he would have only had the proper mentality, that of the master morality, he would have found a job, removed the tooth himself; you know – he would have discovered self-reliance. But Mr. Willis lived in a society with 35 million unemployed. Wisdom teeth are difficult to get at without the right tools and self-reliance is a good deal if you have loads of money, the rest of us have to depend on each other.

I disagree with the master philosophy when it is interpreted as a form of self-interest. We are all brothers and sisters sharing a responsibility one to all and all to one.

I adhere to a slave mentality in many ways. For instance – this one –

Luke 7:22-23
22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.
23 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”

Of course, by the standards of some philosophies, this was a cruel weakening of the Hebrew nation. But once again, I will disagree.

That a fellow named Kyle Willis is dead is a tragedy for us all. It is a testament to the tragedy of unemployment, to the problem of a nation without universal health care, and to a population hardened by years of media reinforcement of self worship and cruelty to others.

James Pilant

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South Dakota Schools Are Having to Go to Four Day Weeks

South Dakota State Capitol, in Hughes County

Image via Wikipedia

South Dakota schools cut costs with 4-day week is the headline from the Associated Press.

The four-school week is an increasingly visible example of the impact of state budget problems on rural education. This fall, fully one-fourth of South Dakota’s districts will have moved to some form of the abbreviated schedule. Only Colorado and Wyoming have a larger proportion of schools using a shortened week. According to one study, more than 120 school districts in 20 states, most in the west, now use four-day weeks.

The schools insist that reducing class time is better than the alternatives and can be done without sacrificing academic performance. Yet not all parents are convinced.

I work in a college with a four day week but we have the same teaching time as in a five day schedule so the students aren’t being short changed. But these students are actually getting less time.

What kind of society do we live in where we can’t find the money for schools?

That’s easy. We live in the kind of society where taxes are off the table in many states no matter what they are meant to pay for. We live in a kind of society where corporations allied with compliant state legislatures have been busily reducing or eliminating their responsibility to pay taxes. I can go on. But doesn’t this kind of decision making suggest we’re sliding into a kind of third world status?

James Pilant

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A Victory for Home Owners in Massachusetts!

The New Bottom Line reports that –
Members of SEIU and No One Leaves packed the Springfield City Hall to support the passage of a foreclosure ordinance that will raise the fee on banks from $100 to $10,000 for every foreclosure in the city and require banks to negotiate with owners through city-led mediation.
This could raise a million dollars for the city and prevent future foreclosures. The ordinances need a final enactment vote (expected in August), but got unanimous support last night — nothing like a packed gallery and the sweet taste of victory!
This is important. The banks are creatures of the law. They are only private business in a sense. Their accounts are protected by law and they have been given fast and favorable legal methods for foreclosure because in previous decades they had acted the role of responsible capitalism. Now that the banks have demonstrated they are unworthy of foreclosure favoritism, it is time to tighten the legal procedures and make them earn their money by legitimate means.
You may be tempted to argue that they have every right to foreclose on someone who has stopped payments on a home. That would be true if that is the only way they have been working it. But all over this nation, they have been using a somewhat different procedure. A home-buyer calls up and says he has trouble with paying this month’s mortgage. The bank kindly says, “Don’t pay it. Don’t make any payments for three months. That will qualify you for the HAMP program, and we can renegotiate the loan.”
The trusting home owner doesn’t pay for three months then resumes payments. He is stacked with penalty fees for late payments. Concerned, the home owner calls the bank. But the bank never seems to find the time to call him back. Eventually a letter is received saying that he has been denied admission to the government program and all payments including penalties are due now to avoid foreclosure. Then when the unfortunate client is unable to come up with the thousands of dollars in fees, they foreclose. I suspect the bank hands out a bonus and maybe a bottle of champagne per kill.
When the banks act in this manner, the legal procedures designed to protect their profits no longer make sense in a civilized society.
James Pilant

Nassir Ghaemi: Linking effective leadership and mental illness (via Minding the Workplace)

Abraham Lincoln with Allan Pinkerton and Major...

Abraham Lincoln with Allan Pinkerton and Major General John Alexander McClernand at the Battle of Antietam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nassir Ghaemi Links Mental Illness to Success

This is different. Very different.

Mental illness as an advantage?

I find that difficult to believe on many levels but the article is persuasive.

Are mental problems really an adaption to difficulties. If the strategy is successful, maybe its not crazy but a successful adaption.

Maybe, someone smart enough to adapt in so strange a fashion has superior powers of creation and those have application in other fields?

I don’t know.

See what you think?

James Pilant

Sane ideas from Tufts psychiatry prof: Linking effective leadership and mental illness When Nassir Ghaemi, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts Medical Center, studied prominent figures of the American Civil War, he discovered that many of the greatest leaders during the war (e.g., Abraham Lincoln and Union general Ulysses Grant) were mentally abnormal or mentally ill, while many … Read More

via Minding the Workplace

From the web site, Struggling with the Elephant in the Room:

The first creative leader identified with full symptoms of bipolar disorder is General Sherman of the American Civil War. Sherman is the man credited for revolutionizing warfare from the Napoleonic style of en masse warfare to total warfare, where civilian infrastructure is targeted. It set the stage for warfare that would rule the 20th century and is credited for its extensive role in ending the American Civil War. Sherman displayed everything from failure due to mania in his previous life before taking over as General in the war where he failed to hold down any sort of job and constantly moved; while also appearing to have severe depression, even psychosis. He constantly paced, had intense energy levels, and also had his depressions that threatened his life and terrified his closest friends. But through the mania, he became creative and saw a new form of warfare that could end the war. It was risky, he cut off his supply chain, marched toward Atlanta with no back up. He was considered mad for taking such a risk, but it is this riskiness that led him to carry out a plan that defined a new breed of warfare.

From the web site, What We Blog About When We Blog About Love:

A First-Rate Madness ranges across the 19th and 20th century (with a quick toe dip in the 21st) to identify historical figures (all men, it turns out) whom Ghaemi believes illustrate this inverse law. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, FDR, JFK, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., are all examples of leaders with mental illness — usually depression, but also mania or other disorders. Ghaemi’s examples of sane leaders (he defines them as “homoclites”) are less numerous and more ambiguous: he contrasts Neville Chamberlain with Churchill, then lumps Richard Nixon, Tony Blair and George W. Bush into one chapter at the very end of the book. (If there is one thing Richard Nixon was not, it was a mentally stable individual.)

And finally, from the web site, Bipolar Today, Life at the Poles:

I have a slight twinge of concern, however. The moods that come from bipolar disorder are pathological. They can’t be counted on and, though positive in themselves, are a part of an illness that overall causes a great deal of suffering (something that Dr. Jamison notes as well). It’s also important to note that most poets, for example, are not mentally ill. My concern with a book like this is that it separates off mentally ill people from people without mental illness, giving mentally ill people almost special powers. While the creativity that comes from hypomania and the realism that comes from depression are both good traits, we would still be better off if we had those traits in a non-pathological way.


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Wall Street plunges after S&P downgrade (via Reuters)

Stocks plunged on Monday, with the S&P down more than 6 percent for its largest drop in nearly three years on rising fears of a recession exacerbated by the United States’ loss of its triple-A credit rating.

I wonder what would have happened if we had actually defaulted. I guess it would have been very entertaining from a news standpoint. Of course, from the point of view of an American trying to get by, it would have been less entertaining.

How bad is this going to be? I expected this to be the kind of response an actual default would have caused. So, I’m not that good a guide. Apparently these financial gurus bear more resemblance to an overpopulation of lemmings than to coldly analytical Ivy League grads.

The next shoe to drop will be the reaction of the overseas markets especially the Asian ones. If there is a sell off there. We may continue the sell off here.

Great fun. I tell my students we are in the midst of history being made. This history does not seem to me to be fairly similar to other historical eras. I think the self destructive tendencies of the Congress are worse then at any other time besides the Civil War. We could be creating a fiscal situation unprecedented in all of world history, a great power literally committing financial suicide – a great power giving up its planetary pre-eminence to avoid raising taxes on the rich.

James Pilant


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Did Newsweek choose Michele Bachmann cover photo to make her ‘look crazy’? (via Yahoo! News)

A month after editor-in-chief Tina Brown Photoshopped the late Princess Diana walking alongside Kate Middleton onto the cover of Newsweek, sparking outrage among fans, Brown is drawing the ire of the tea party for selecting a photo of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) for Newsweek’s cover that makes the 2012 Republican hopeful look, well, crazy.

I looked at the cover photo. It is obvious that Newsweek chose the photo to make the presidential candidate look foolish or worse. I am no fan of Michele Bachman but this is wrong. It will always be wrong.

I expect on the front page of a tough conservative magazine less than flattering pictures of Obama, etc. On magazines like Rolling Stone, I expect satirical cartoons of any politician currently in the news. But Newsweek is not supposed to be a advocacy magazine or a satirical publication.

I expect a campaign style picture of any candidate for higher office. Anything else is insulting, and intended to be.

James Pilant

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