Clackamas mall shooter faced man with concealed weapon

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Nick Meli was at Clackamas Town Center with a friend and her baby when a masked man opened fire:

“I heard three shots and turned and looked at Casey and said, ‘are you serious?,’” he said.

The friend and baby hit the floor. Meli, who has a concealed carry permit, positioned himself behind a pillar.

“He was working on his rifle,” said Meli. “He kept pulling the charging handle and hitting the side.”

The break in gunfire allowed Meli to pull out his own gun, but he never took his eyes off the shooter.

“As I was going down to pull, I saw someone in the back of the Charlotte move, and I knew if I fired and missed, I could hit them,” he said.

Meli took cover inside a nearby store. He never pulled the trigger. He stands by that decision.

“I’m not beating myself up cause I didn’t shoot him,” said Meli. “I know after he saw me, I think the last shot he fired was the one he used on himself.”

A spree-killer can be suicidal yet scared to get shot.

The case for single-officer entry against active killers

Monday, December 31st, 2012

After Columbine, police trainer Ron Borsch analyzed more than 90 active-shooter incidents and, based on the following findings, made the case for single-officer entry against active killers without waiting for back-up:

  • 98% of active killers act alone.
  • 80% have long guns, 75% have multiple weapons (about 3 per incident), and they sometimes bring hundreds of extra rounds of ammunition to the shooting site.
  • Despite such heavy armaments and an obsession with murder at close range, they have an average hit rate of less than 50%.
  • They strike “stunned, defenseless innocents via surprise ambush. On a level playing field, the typical active killer would be a no-contest against anyone reasonably capable of defending themselves.”
  • “They absolutely control life and death until they stop at their leisure or are stopped.” They do not take hostages, do not negotiate.
  • They generally try to avoid police, do not hide or lie in wait for officers and “typically fold quickly upon armed confrontation.”
  • 90% commit suicide on-site. “Surrender or escape attempts are unlikely.”

Optimistic Bias

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Humans tend to “suffer” from an optimistic bias:

Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at University College London, has studied how our brains perpetuate this bias. One factor appears to be that we selectively incorporate positive feedback into our future expectations, but ignore negative feedback.

Dr. Sharot and her team have conducted a series of studies in which participants are told to estimate the likelihood that they will face a negative event, such as dying before age 60. Then, participants are told the real probability of the event happening in the broader population.

When the likelihood is smaller than what participants’ thought, people incorporate the feedback into their estimates. When asked a second time to guess the likelihood of that negative event befalling them, they become more optimistic that it won’t.

But if the chance of something bad happening is higher than they thought, they basically just ignore the new information. They justify it by saying that feedback doesn’t apply to them—they aren’t as likely to die before 60 as other people, for instance, because they have grandparents who lived into their 90s, or because they are avid gym goers with low blood pressure.

The mechanism behind this bias appears to be located in a specific part of the brain, the left inferior frontal gyrus, which is involved in language, among other functions. In a study published in October in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers found that the participants no longer selectively considered just the positive information when the functioning of that part of the brain was disrupted with electric current.

The enemy is denial

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Dave Grossman (On Killing) noted a few years ago that zero children have died in school fires in the last fifty years:

“Look up at the ceiling! See all those sprinklers up there? They’re hard to spot — they’re painted black — but they’re there. While you’re looking, look at the material the ceiling is made of. You know that that stuff was selected because it’s fire-retardant. Hooah? Now look over there above the door — you see that fire exit sign? That’s not just any fire exit sign — that’s a ‘battery-backup-when-the-world-ends-it-will-still-be-lit’ fire exit sign. Hooah?”

Walking from the stage toward a nearby fire exit and exterior wall, Grossman slammed the palm of his hand against the wall and exclaimed, “Look at these wall boards! They were chosen because they’re what?! Fireproof or fire retardant, hooah? There is not one stinking thing in this room that will burn!”

Pointing around the room as he spoke, Grossman continued, “But you’ve still got those fire sprinklers, those fire exit signs, fire hydrants outside, and fire trucks nearby! Are these fire guys crazy? Are these fire guys paranoid? NO! This fire guy is our A+ student! Because this fire guy has redundant, overlapping layers of protection, not a single kid has been killed by school fire in the last 50 years!

“But you try to prepare for violence — the thing much more likely to kill our kids in schools, the thing hundreds of times more likely to kill our kids in schools — and people think you’re paranoid. They think you’re crazy. They’re in denial.”

While I won’t deny their denial, I will note that fires don’t try to counter our counter-measures.

What is wrong with American medicine

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Joel W. Hay explains what is wrong with American medicine:

Suppose you went to your local car dealership and they said they had a great deal on a new car model, the “IMRT.” Then they told you that the IMRT costs 20 times what the older model costs and probably isn’t any better. You’d immediately walk out the door. But if you are a Medicare or Medicaid patient with prostate cancer and the “dealer” is your local urologist, and the IMRT is “intensity-modulated radiation therapy,” it sells like hotcakes when it is 20 times more expensive than prostate surgery and provides no better outcomes for a majority of patients.

IMRT is the poster child for what is wrong with American medicine. The 20-fold higher price doesn’t matter much to the patient because it’s mostly covered by Medicare or other insurance. However, the urologist that prescribes IMRT can get hundreds of times as much from Medicare as they would from the more conservative treatment approach of “watchful waiting” – monitoring disease progress through routine office visits. As UC San Francisco urologist Dr. Cooperberg said, “Doctors do what they’re paid to do. If you tell them they can earn $2,000 for surgery or $37,000 for IMRT, what do you think will happen?”


By federal law Medicare is not allowed to evaluate the cost effectiveness of alternative drug treatments. By federal law, the Obamacare center for outcomes evaluation ( is forbidden from evaluating the costs of alternative health care treatments.

This is why we are facing a $60 trillion unfunded liability for future Medicare costs and why all of the increases in average worker compensation over the past two decades have been sucked away by increased health care costs.

Insomnia Is Linked to Trouble Breathing

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

In a recent study of 20 insomniacs, most of them attributed their awakenings to nightmares, a need for the bathroom, pain, or “racing thoughts”, but it turned out that 90 percent of their sleep interruptions were preceded by respiratory problems — even though none of them had any idea that they had breathing problems.

Disturbing Our Inner Ecosystem

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

By disturbing our inner ecosystem, Carl Zimmer says, antibiotics can affect our health:

In some cases, for example, antibiotics can make it easier for pathogens to invade. Eric Pamer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and his collegues recently provided a striking demonstration of this effect. They gave mice a single dose of the antibiotic clindamycin. Ninety percent of the diversity in the gut of the mice disappeared and was still gone four weeks after the treatment. The scientists then inoculated the mice with the spores of Clostridium difficile, a particularly nasty pathogen that can cause lethal cases of diarrhea. They invariably got an overwhelming infection, and half of them died within a few days. Pamer could wait as long as ten days after giving the mice antibiotics, and they were still felled by C. difficile. Healthy mice, on the other hand, easily kept the invasion in check.

Antibiotics may also exert subtler, longer-term effects on our health. Matthew Kronman of Seattle Children’s Hospital and his colleagues, for example, recently reviewed the medical records of over a million people. They found that children who took antibiotics were at greater risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease later in life. The more antibiotics they took, the greater the risk. Similar studies have found a potential link to asthma as well.

A study carried out by Dennis Kasper at Harvard hints at how antibiotics can send the immune system off the rails. They reared mice in isolated containers so that they never developed a microbiome. The germ-free rodents developed unusually high levels of an aggressive type of immune cell called an invariant natural killer T cell. If Kasper inoculated baby germ-free mice with a normal microbiome, the T cells remained rare. Antibiotics, the scientists propose, allow the T cells to explode and to run amok.

It’s even possible that long-term antibiotic use may influence how people put on fat. Martin Blaser of New York University and his colleagues carried out an experiment on mice in which they fed the animals antibiotics and then tracked their metabolism. The scientists found that the mice fed with antibiotics developed a higher percentage of body fat than mice that didn’t.*

Antibiotics cause this rise in fat, Blaser and his colleagues argue, by creating long-term changes in the microbiome. The species fostered in the mice produce enzymes that change not just how they break down our food, but also send signals to our own hormones to change the way we store energy from our food.

Best Practices for Raising Kids

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Westerners are often struck by the emotional security, self-confidence, curiosity, and autonomy of members of small-scale societies, Jared Diamond says, which lends him to suggest a list of best practices for raising kids from hunter-gatherers:

We see that people in small-scale societies spend far more time talking to each other than we do, and they spend no time at all on passive entertainment supplied by outsiders, such as television, videogames, and books. We are struck by the precocious development of social skills in their children. These are qualities that most of us admire, and would like to see in our own children, but we discourage development of those qualities by ranking and grading our children and constantly ­telling them what to do. The adolescent identity crises that plague American teenagers aren’t an issue for hunter-gatherer children. The Westerners who have lived with hunter-gatherers and other small-scale societies speculate that these admirable qualities develop because of the way in which their children are brought up: namely, with constant security and stimulation, as a result of the long nursing period, sleeping near parents for ­several years, far more social models available to children through ­allo-parenting, far more social stimulation through constant physical contact and proximity of caretakers, instant caretaker responses to a child’s crying, and the minimal amount of physical punishment.

I strongly suspect that young hunter-gatherers display such emotional security, self-­confidence, curiosity, and autonomy because they’ve grown up in an environment that they’re well adapted to. Modern children can be left to their own devices in playgrounds and parks, too, but not in factories or office buildings.

Also, modern children can learn many “primitive” tasks by watching their parents — gardening, DIY repairs, etc. — but they can’t get much out of watching adults read reports, run numbers in Excel, email colleagues, etc.

Human Hands Evolved for Punching

Friday, December 28th, 2012

David Carrier considers humans substantially more violent than other great apes, which are already relatively aggressive amongst mammals.  His latest study, with Michael Morgan, suggests that human hands evolved for punching:

First, they analyzed what happened when men, aged from 22 to 50, hit a punching bag as hard as they could. The peak stress delivered to the bag — the force per area — was 1.7 to 3 times greater with a fist strike compared with a slap.

“Because you have higher pressure when hitting with a fist, you are more likely to cause injury to tissue, bones, teeth, eyes and the jaw,” Carrier said.

The second and third experiments determined that buttressing provided by the human fist increases the stiffness of the knuckle joint fourfold. It also doubles the ability of the fingers to transmit punching force, mainly due to the force transferred from the fingers to the thumb when the fist is clenched.

In terms of the size and shape of hand anatomy, the scientists point out that humans could have evolved manual dexterity with longer thumbs, but without the fingers and palms getting shorter.

Gorilla hands are closer in proportion to human hands than are other apes’ hands, but they and no other ape — aside from us — hits with a clenched fist.

The infamous boxer’s fracture might suggest that we’re not particularly well evolved for punching.

Why Soldiers Keep Losing to Suicide

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Most soldiers who commit suicide haven’t seen combat.  In fact, most haven’t even deployed overseas:

About 53 percent of those who died by suicide in the military in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, had no history of deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, according (pdf) to the Defense Department. And nearly 85 percent of military members who took their lives had no direct combat history, meaning they may have been deployed but not seen action.

A Cheeky Maverick Looking for a Fight

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Did the editors of The Washington Post feel the least bit chastened by Bing West’s letter?

In the Dec. 9 Book World review of “Into the Fire” [“When disobeying orders seems the only option”], Elizabeth D. Samet referred to my co-author, Sgt. Dakota Meyer, as “a cheeky maverick… ‘looking for a fight.’?” Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor for attacking five times in the face of almost certain death. To label him as a “cheeky maverick” was condescending. If you leave the wire with a passive, rather than aggressive, attitude, you will lose.

In that same context, Samet, a teacher at West Point, referred to Meyer’s valor under fire as if he were a management consultant. “In the apparent absence of authority,” she wrote, “he attempted to exert some control over events.” In fact, Meyer charged forward time and again, after his seniors froze. He emptied five weapons and killed one enemy with a rock. That is how he “exerted some control.”

Dismissing a willingness to fight as “cheeky” and describing valor as an “attempt to exert control” erodes the soldierly virtues at West Point and elsewhere. The United States cannot prevail in battle without ferocious warriors such as Meyer.

Gary Gygax explains why Christians shouldn’t celebrate Christmas

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Gary Gygax, co-inventor of Dungeons and Dragons, published this note in the IFW Monthly of February 1969 explaining why Christians shouldn’t celebrate Christmas:

Gary Gygax explains why Christians should not celebrate Christmas

Gygax was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness at the time.

(Hat tip to Boing Boing.)


Friday, December 21st, 2012

Strategy lends itself to paradoxes, Edward Luttwak says.

Right now I’m wrapping my brain around the fact that left-libertarian philosopher-type-guy Aretae has declared WarfightingMCDP1, or the U.S. Marine Corps Book of Strategy — the best (nonfiction) book he has ever read:

It is more concise, to the point, correct, profound, unconventional, easy to read, and concept-dense than anything else on my bookshelf. Wow. For a moderately fast reader, the 100 pages of the book should take about 20 minutes to read. Large type, short sentences, clear meanings. But it is incredibly well thought through.

If you are overeducated in the ways of the Academy/Cathedral, and you want to learn additional ways to think, the military strategists/military historians are the best anti-academic thinkers around. But this book just blew me away. I thought I had learned to simplify, and say clearly (in in person presentations, not on the blog — the blog is for complex thinking that I need to share with someone). I am thoroughly impressed.

What price multiculturalism?

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

What price multiculturalism?, Alexander Boot asks:

The proportion of Muslims in youth jails now stands at 21 percent, up from 13 percent two years ago. That’s more than five times the proportion of Muslims in the population, which raises all sorts of awkward questions, including the one in the title.

But the first question is why? Why are young Muslims in Britain criminalised to such an extent? Is there something in Islam that encourages bestial behaviour?

In fact, a fourth of Muslim offenders claim that by committing crimes they follow their faith. Not being an unequivocal admirer of Islam, I still have to say they are slandering their religion. There’s nothing there that promotes everyday criminality.

For example, Turkey’s crime rate is lower by orders of magnitude than that in the USA. Even Pakistan has a lower crime rate than most Western nations, this despite the 10 years of ‘war on terror’ and the resulting black market in guns, the biggest in the world.

Why then are young Muslims five times more likely than their white neighbours to commit crimes in Britain? For the same reason that thugs would be more likely to paint-spray an obscene graffito on someone else’s front door than on their own.

Or perhaps a better analogy would be to look at the behaviour of most youngsters at home and abroad. Observing them, one has to notice that they feel even less constrained on their foreign travels than in their own neighbourhoods. The moment they land on foreign soil, all bets are off and school’s out.

It’s as if the already thin veneer of civilisation has been rubbed off them. British stag parties seem to have no compunction against trashing a bar in, say, Prague (where many bars display ‘No British’ signs), something they’d think twice about doing to their local.

This is difficult to condone but easy to understand. Not just young louts but even a perfectly respectable middle-aged gentleman takes much better care of his home than of his hotel room. The problem with youth criminality in Britain stems from just that: they simply don’t regard Britain as their home. In a similar vein, Muslim rapist gangs target white girls but hardly ever Muslim ones — white girls are alien to them, and normal civilities just don’t apply.

Why then do Muslims, even those who are British born and bred, feel like strangers in their own land? One could write a whole book on this subject, but in a short piece it’s sufficient to observe that the drive for multiculturalism has predictably produced results exactly opposite to those intended.

Rather than making all cultures and religions equally welcome, promoting thereby good will among all, multiculturalism has effectively destroyed a single, dominant culture for which others could reach tropistically. Such a culture is a sine qua non of a truly integrated society, for without it the social fabric will remain a tissue-thin patchwork, soon to be torn to tatters.

If a denizen of Bradford were to feel English first, British second, Yorkshireman third and Muslim a distant forth, he’d be less likely to treat his home town with all the loving care of a conquering vandal. Surely this is self-evident?

Advancing in a Different Direction

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

On CSPAN2′s Book TV Thomas Ricks discussed The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today and told the story of O.P. Smith at the Chosin Reservoir:

In October 1950, the 1st Marine Division landed at Wonsan on the eastern side of Korea under the command of the Army’s X Corps commanded by Edward Almond. Almond and Smith shared a mutual loathing of each other that dated back to a meeting between the two in Japan before the landing at Inchon. During the meeting Almond had spoken of how easy amphibious landings were although he had never planned or taken part in one and then referred to Smith as Son although he was only 10 months older than he was.

Smith and the Marine command also felt Almond was overly aggressive and were sure that there were large numbers of Chinese Forces in North Korea when higher headquarters in Tokyo was telling them it was not the case. Although ordered to go north to the Yalu River as fast as he could, Smith continuously slowed the division’s march to the point of near insubordination. Also along the way he established supply points and an airfield.

In November 1950, with the 1st Marine Division surrounded at the Chosin Reservoir, he directed the breakout and subsequent 70 miles (110 km) march to the seaport of Hungnam. In the end his careful march north and ability to keep the division together saved it from total destruction and quite possibly the entire X Corps.

He’s the one who famously said, “Retreat, hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.”