The Problem With Pit Bulls

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

The problem with pit bulls is that they simply aren’t just like other dogs:

Pit bulls make up only 6% of the dog population, but they’re responsible for 68% of dog attacks and 52% of dog-related deaths since 1982, according to research compiled by Merritt Clifton, editor of Animals 24-7, an animal-news organization that focuses on humane work and animal-cruelty prevention.

Clifton himself has been twice attacked by dogs (one pit bull), and part of his work involves logging fatal and disfiguring attacks. Clifton says that for the 32 years he’s been recording, there has never been a year when pit bulls have accounted for less than half of all attacks. A CDC report on dog-bite fatalities from 1978 to 1998 confirms that pit bulls are responsible for more deaths than any other breed, but the CDC no longer collects breed-specific information.

Another report published in the April 2011 issue of Annals of Surgery found that one person is killed by a pit bull every 14 days, two people are injured by a pit bull every day, and young children are especially at risk. The report concludes that “these breeds should be regulated in the same way in which other dangerous species, such as leopards, are regulated.” That report was shared with TIME by PETA, the world’s largest animal-rights organization.

Pit Bull Attacks

“If you need a marker in your head for when pit bulls got out of control, it’s 2007 with Michael Vick,” Lynn says. Vick’s high-profile trial for dogfighting and cruelty to animals roused a growing sympathy for pit bulls, which led more people to adopt them and bring them into their homes.

“We need to get used to mauling injuries, because we’re going to be seeing a lot more of them,” warns Lynn. “Each of us will know a mauled, disfigured child by a known dangerous breed of dog. There will be one in every school.”

But what can be done about the growing number of pit bulls? Some say the best solution would be breed-specific sterilization, which would curb the pit-bull population and reduce euthanasia in shelters. Most dogs of all breeds are spayed and neutered — about 80%, by Clifton’s estimation. But only 20% of pit bulls are sterilized, partly because the population that owns pit bulls tends to resist the spay-neuter message. He notes that there are a number of free sterilization programs for pit bulls, including one run by the ASPCA, but that even the largest programs aren’t sterilizing enough pit bulls to reduce the number of shelter intakes.

Lynn agrees that breed-specific sterilization laws are the most humane and efficient way to deal with the situation and avoid having more dogs euthanized. “If you want to hit that ‘no kill’ status, you better do something about the pit-bull problem.” Pit bulls currently account for 63% of the dogs put down in shelters, but only 38% of the admissions. Lynn says that all pit bulls should be sterilized, except those that come from licensed breeders.

Even PETA, the largest animal-rights organization in the world, supports breed-specific sterilization for pit bulls. “Pit bulls are a breed-specific problem, so it seems reasonable to target them,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s senior vice president of cruelty investigations. “The public is misled to believe that pit bulls are like any other dog. And they just aren’t.” Even the ASPCA acknowledges on its website that pit bulls are genetically different than other dogs. “Pit bulls have been bred to behave differently during a fight,” it says. “They may not give warning before becoming aggressive, and they’re less likely to back down when clashing with an opponent.”

A Different Kind of Custer Massacre

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

While the British were busy Christianizing the uncivilized world with the Gatling Gun, the United States was at peace and had little use for it:

There was nothing to warrant the expenditure of ammunition except an occasional Indian uprising, which was suppressed by the regular army. The old-line military men were still not inclined to accept anything as revolutionary as the Gatling. Although it is recorded that each detachment in the field had several of these guns on its allowance list, nothing can be found to show their use in the Indian warfare of the Western plains.

For the purpose of conjecture and discussion, it should be noted that when Gen. George Custer’s entire troop was annihilated at Little Big Horn in 1876. his headquarters had on hand four of the 90-pound Gatlings having a rate of fire of 1,000 rounds a minute. These perfected weapons were designed especially for animal transportation, and could be fired from horseback or from the ground on a tripod mounting. They were chambered for the Army standard caliber .45-70-405 infantry center-fire rifle cartridge. Had General Custer taken with him only one of the four that were available, the phrase “Custer massacre,” so well known to every school child, would have had a reverse meaning — as one can hardly visualize a more perfect target for a tripod-mounted machine gun than a band of Indians galloping in a circle.

Norway arms police over increased terror threat

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Norway’s PST intelligence service expects a terrorist attack on its police or army in the next 12 months, so the country plans to arm its police:

On November 5, the PST said that “within the coming 12 months, it is likely that Norway will be threatened by terrorist attacks or exposed to attempted strikes,” referring to recent attacks perpetrated or thwarted in Canada, Britain and Australia.

Norwegian authorities have said they fear the return of seasoned and radicalised jihadis to the country after fighting in the Syrian conflict.

According to PST, about 60 people with links to Norway have taken part or still participate in combats in the war-torn country.

If you expect jihadis to return to your country and attack your police, wouldn’t it be simpler not to invite them back in?

Testing the Gatling Gun

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

The Gatling Gun underwent strenuous testing around the world:

The development of this type of weapon divided military men into two schools of thought. One believed that it should be an artillery support; the other considered it a special objectives gun for bridges or street defense. Neither recognized its true mission as an infantry weapon.

Many of the trials included its being fired in competition with howitzers and cannon. In each instance the Gatling placed more bullets in the target than did the artillery if allowed to fire as many bullets as the number of grapeshot fired. On the basis of these results, the gun was officially adopted by the United States Army on 24 August 1866.


Some of the European governments, in order to prove certain tactical points, subjected the weapons to most unusual competitive events. For instance, in Carlsbad, Baden, in 1869 there were pitted against the rifle-caliber Gatling, 100 picked infantry soldiers, armed with the celebrated needle gun and trained to fire by volley. The machine gun was to fire the same amount of ammunition as the 100 riflemen at a distance of 800 meters. The results showed that the Gatling put 88 percent of its bullets into the target, while the soldiers succeeded in scoring only 27 percent hits. Doubtless the difference would have been even greater had the firing taken place during the heat and smoke of battle.


The endurance of the Gatling gun seems almost phenomenal when judged by modern standards. On 23, 24, and 25 October 1873, at Fort Madison near Annapolis, Md., 100,000 rounds of center-fire caliber .50 ammunition were fired from one gun to test not only the durability of the 1865 model gun, but also the quality of the cartridges. Lt. Comdr. J. D. Marbin supervised these trials under the auspices of Commodore William Nicholson Jeffers, Chief of the Navy Bureau of Ordnance. Excerpts of the official report are given below:

October 23, 10:33 a. m., commenced firing in the presence of Chief of Bureau of Ordnance and others. Ten drums, each holding 400 cartridges (making 4,000), were fired rapidly, occupying in actual time of firing ten minutes and forty-eight seconds. The firing was then discontinued to witness experimental firing of the 15-inch Navy rifle. The firing of the Gatling gun was resumed in the afternoon, when some 28,000 cartridges were fired. Commenced firing at 8:50 a. m., October 24, the gun having been cleaned.

One hundred and fifty-nine drums, of 400 cartridges each, making a total of 63,600 cartridges, were fired without stopping to wipe out or clean the barrels. At the close of the firing, which extended over a period of five hours and fifty-seven minutes, although the actual time of firing was less than four hours, the barrels were not foul to any extent; in proof of which a very good target was made at 300 yards range before cleaning the barrels. On the 25th day of October the remainder of the 100,000 cartridges were fired. The working of the gun, throughout this severe trial was eminently satisfactory, no derangements of any importance whatever occurring.

Posters for Imaginary Sequels

Friday, November 28th, 2014

The Sequel “gallery show” presents posters for imaginary sequels:

Sequels Iron Giants

Sequels Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League

Sequels Labyrinth 2 Return of the Gobline King


Fun With Guns

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Collectors Weekly turns it eye toward fun with guns and the art of the arcade target:

Today, the notion that it was once considered perfectly normal to deliver a rifle filled with live ammunition into the hands of anyone with some spare change in their pocket seems absurd—a tragedy waiting to happen, followed by a costly lawsuit. Indeed, the liability issues surrounding the casual distribution of loaded weapons in public places helped kill .22 caliber shooting galleries, which were replaced by arcades designed to receive the less-lethal impact of air-powered BB guns and pistols that shoot pressurized streams of water.

Arcade Target Rooster with Star

Many people, though, still set their sights on those cast-iron targets from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which are collected as a form of Americana or folk art. In the eyes of at least one collecting couple, arcade targets may even be considered progenitors of the bull’s-eye paintings of mid-20th-century artists Kenneth Noland and Jasper Johns.

There are certainly people I wouldn’t trust with a loaded .22 short rifle, but it doesn’t seem especially crazy to let people shoot at a shooting gallery. I guess I’m old-fashioned that way.

Industrial By-Products of the Gun Trade

Friday, November 28th, 2014

In order to speed up and to economize on weapon production, gun-makers conceived and perfected machine tools, which proved useful in other industries:

In the history of weapon progress, the advent of the machine age rivals the discovery of gunpowder. Power tools accomplished the impossible with the guns of the day, and opened means for the progressive inventor to write an unequaled chapter of development.

The influence of machine tools in modern life is little appreciated by the average person. The New York Museum of Science and Industry has on its wall a panel stating that the origin of machine tools has made possible all generated light, heat, and power; all modern transportation by rail, water, and air; all forms of electric communication; and has likewise caused to be produced all the machinery used in agriculture, textiles, printing, paper making, and all the instruments used in every science. “Everything we use at work, at home, at play, is either a child or a grandchild of a machine tool.” But the Adam and Eve of the machine tool, and its application to mass production, were the early Connecticut and Massachusetts gunsmiths.

Good mechanics have been found in every nation, yet for some reason, most of the important machine tools used throughout the world originated in only two places: Great Britain and New England. The English craftsmen, traditionally lovers of the hand-finished product, benefited little from this fact. They have furnished no serious competition in this field since the 1850′s when undisputed leadership shifted to New England. This section of the United States became, practically, a manufacturing arsenal. Its mechanics were recognized as the world’s best. In fact, some of their contributions to the power tool industry have affected the course of history more through industrial progress than their fine weapons did on the battlefield.

Among the little-known inventions of these men can be found the first milling machine with a power feed which was devised by the original Eli Whitney; it was the direct predecessor of what is known today as the power miller. Christopher M. Spencer, who was noted for his repeating rifles, patented a great improvement on the drop hammer, and perfected a cam control, or “brain wheel,” whereby the operation of lathes was made automatic. This invention was one of the few for which the original drawing was so perfectly devised that it is still used today. Another gunsmith, Henry Stone, developed the turret principle for lathes. The high speed automatic lathe of today is a combination of the work of Spencer and Stone. The two men originated many improvements which extend from farm machinery to silk winding machines, but their first success was in weapon design.

Francis A. Pratt was one of the best designers of machine tools. After founding the Pratt & Whitney Co. for manufacturing guns, he found other products so profitable that, today, few people know of the influence of firearms on this outstanding manufacturing concern.

Asa Cook, a brother-in-law of Pratt, and a former Colt mechanic, was the inventor and manufacturer of machines to make screws and bolts automatically. Eli J. Manville, a former Pratt & Whitney engineer, established with his five sons at Waterbury, Conn., a plant which has been conspicuous in the design of presses, bolt headers, and thread rollers for the brass industry.

The arms plants proved training schools for inventors. Guns were made as long as profitable, but with changing times these versatile men began to make things entirely unrelated to firearms. Many became so successful in other manufacturing ventures that today it is often hard to associate a large telescope company or a successful sewing machine plant with its original founder, a master craftsman, working patiently on the development of a new firearm. Yet the fact still remains that American domination of manufacturing “know how” came largely from the honest effort of gun producers just before the Civil War to compete with each other in providing the world’s finest weapons.

It did not take long for American gun makers to carry the gospel of machine tool performance across the seven seas. As early as 1851, a Vermont firm showed at a London fair guns with interchangeable components manufactured by mass production methods. The British government was so impressed that it ordered the making of 20,000 Enfield rifles in American factories by this method. Three years later Great Britain ordered from the company that made these weapons 157 gun milling machines, which were the first automatic tools to be used in Europe. Among them was the eccentric lathe invented by Thomas Blanchard of the Springfield Armory. This device allowed wooden gun stocks to be machine carved with great rapidity in lieu of the laborious hand method formerly employed. The machine turned out irregular (eccentric) forms, from patterns, with automatic speed and precision; and has undergone practically no change in design since it was invented by Blanchard. Like innumerable other weapon-inspired tools, it contributed not only to American domination of the armament business but also helped to reshape the entire structure of the manufacturing world.

Richard Scarry’s Busy Town in the 21st Century

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Ruben Bolling updates Richard Scarry’s Busy Town with jobs more appropriate for the 21st century:

Tom the Dancing Bug

The Popularity of Frozen

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

The popularity of Frozen has been magnified by the rise of gender segregation in toys:

Princesses may seem like a permanent feature of the toyscape, but they were less common before the 1990s. “The idea that pink princess fantasy dream dolls have always been a part of girlhood is false,” says Elizabeth Sweet, a lecturer at the University of California, Davis, who studies the cultural history of toys. Sweet has found that the popularity of gender-neutral toys reached a peak in the mid-1970s. Since then, toy makers have embraced the market-doubling effect of pushing certain toys to boys and other toys to girls. Sweet says the level of gender segregation has never been higher. A typical big-box store might have four aisles of blue toys and four aisles of pink toys with an aisle of yellow toys in between. “Separate but equal,” she says. Legos, for example, evolved from simple packs of building blocks into play sets mostly sold to boys, often with brand tie-ins. In 2012, the company introduced Lego Friends, which are basically Legos for girls.

Disney really began to focus on princesses in 2000, after a new executive went to see a “Disney on Ice” show and was struck by how many of the girls in the audience were wearing homemade princess costumes. “They weren’t even Disney products,” the executive, Andy Mooney, told the writer Peggy Orenstein for her book about the rise of princesses, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.” The Disney Princess line now makes about $4 billion a year, on par with the earning power of Mickey Mouse himself. (The “Frozen” girls are not, as yet, official members of the Princess ensemble.)

State-Sanctioned Riots

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Henry Dampier calls them state-sanctioned riots:

The police and the national guard aren’t there to protect the townspeople. They’re there to protect the rioters from people who would defend their property with lethal force.

America has ceded what used to be the prerogative of militia to professional standing armies and police forces. The result is that public defense gets left to parties who have a limited direct stake in the town itself. The soldiers don’t care because they are not from the town, are not culturally linked to the town, and could arguably care less about whether everyone there lived or died. This is the same for the democratically elected civilian governors who are in and out of office in a matter of years rather than lifetimes.

Out of the many businesses burned to the ground in Ferguson, MO over the last two days, it seems that the official military organizations have been both unwilling and unable to retaliate or act pre-emptively in such a way as to discourage future destruction.

Republican government is a joke-concept if there is no militia made up of citizens, if the rights of citizenry aren’t directly connected with the people who actually need to enforce the law directly. To the extent that citizens cede law enforcement to standing armies, they cede their governing ability. To say that citizens ‘govern’ and are ‘sovereign’ when outside parties actually implement governance without any authority higher than they are is to say something false, or at the very least to water down the word ‘citizen’ to the point to which it is meaningless.

It’s certain that, given that the most influential national press organs are supporting riots, excusing the destruction of property, that those riots will continue to spread until they are met with real physical resistance. Given that the law is an insufficient tool for progressives to achieve their goals, they are using their influence to suppress the state’s own fighting-forces, and instead relying on mobs of thugs to intimidate what remains of their scattered opposition into submission.

It’s a demonstration of power, to be able to destroy a town with impunity, at any time, using nothing but incitement to the mob, and entangling competing security forces with absurd rules of engagement which prevent them from providing an effective defense.

This is likely to continue and become worse, because to the extent that looting goes unpunished with the appropriately lethal severity, it begins a positive feedback loop. Even an auto parts shop like the one in your home town might be holding hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory that can be easily re-sold on the internet to buyers indifferent to where they came from. There’s real plunder to be had from the American middle class, and not all of it can be seized directly from a 401(k) account at the press of a button.

Author Photograph

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

While researching The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch, Lewis Dartnell tried to get first-hand experience with many of the skills he discussed, like silver chemistry:

The mugshot included on the inside flap of the hardback book jacket was created using a primitive single-lens camera and this rudimentary silver chemistry, resurrecting techniques that date right back to the 1850s and the earliest years of photography.

Richard Jones helped enormously with this process. He’s the curator at the Fox Talbot Museum, in Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, where the first photographic negative was created in 1835.

There are a few interesting things to note with this rudimentary photograph. Firstly, the primitive silver chemistry we used is very slow to react to light — it is hugely less photosensitive than modern ISO 400 films — and so correspondingly long exposures are needed. The image here is a 16 second exposure (hardly a snapshot!) and the slightest, imperceptible movement during that time results in a horribly blurred photo. To help solve this, hidden conveniently out of sight behind me is a wrought-iron stand and skull brace for holding my head perfectly stationary.

Lewis Dartnell Silver Chemistry Author Portrait

Such long exposures also mean that it is exceedingly hard to smile naturally, and hold the expression perfectly still for a good fraction of a minute without it looking like a rigour mortis snarl. This goes a long way to explaining the ridiculously-stern look common in early Victorian portraits of gentlemen and ladies. Believe it or not, this photo here is the most relaxed and natural-looking one we captured in a whole day of trying.

Also, the simple photochemical system used here is more sensitive to ultraviolet light than visible, as UV rays deliver more energy to drive the silver conversion reactions. This means that these photographs aren’t quite recording the world as the human eye sees it. As you can see, primitive photos make the lips look unusually pale (because they reflect more UV) and the skin appears more textured and blotchy in the UV.

When Confidence Trumps Competence

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Another study shows that people prefer confidence to accuracy when choosing an expert to trust:

Researchers at Washington State University did an exhaustive analysis of non-celebrity “pundits” who made predictions about the outcomes of sporting events. They rated each social media post that involved a prediction for its confidence level. For example, a prediction that one team would “crush” another is more confident than merely projecting a “win.” They checked predictions against actual game results to gauge accuracy, and also analyzed the number of followers each built over time.

The results were surprising. While accuracy of predictions did lead to a small but statistically significant increase in the number of followers, confidence was nearly three times as powerful.

The potent effects of confidence on trust aren’t new. As I described in Convince With Confidence, Carnegie Mellon researchers had subjects participate in a weight-guessing game in which they could purchase the assistance of “advisers.” They tended to choose those advisers who were more confident, even when after multiple rounds those advisers were less accurate than others.


Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

I’m reminded that Col. Jeff Cooper once suggested a system that “would make sure, first, that a riot would stop; and second, that only the leaders would feel the weight of social disapproval.”

Also, reading someone the Riot Act used to have a literal meaning that seems apropos.

Civilian Demand for Firearm Improvements

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

The American frontier provided a huge civilian market for cutting-edge guns — but there was no market for certain kinds of cutting-edge guns:

The Colt revolver and similar weapons enjoyed the confidence of the public as it began to push westward and demanded the best in weapons that money could buy. All the New England gun makers were operating at peak capacity. The war with Mexico had come to a conclusion, Texas was being settled, and gold had been discovered at Sutter’s Mill. Colt’s name was a household byword, but fine weapons were also being produced by many others. Among them were the Wesson brothers, Oliver Winchester, Elihu Remington, Henry Deringer, James Cooper, Edmund Savage and Christian Sharps. Their factories began to attract the finest mechanical skill. They invited competition, feeling it presented a means of showing their ability, and prided themselves on being able to present a mechanical solution to any firearms problem brought to their attention.

The industry was built on strict competition to meet public demand. There was practically no encouragement from the government by military orders for improved weapons.

After 36 years of civilian use had proved the reliability of the percussion cap, the army finally gave up the time-honored flintlock, but seemed content to advance no further. Many predicted that even this modern step was too extreme and the army would rue the day it had discarded the flintlock. General Winfield Scott is credited with outfitting a regiment of his own with flintlocks, after the adoption of the percussion system was approved over his strenuous objection.

Fortunately, civilian demand made up for the lack of military orders for the various firearms improvements. The market was practically equal to the adult population; for each male citizen, physically able to do so, usually owned and often carried some form of firearm.

During this period, the military ordered little more than the conventional small arms. For this reason guns like the Ripley were of little or no interest to firearm factories. The military would not consider such guns, and the civilians had no use for them.

Had there been an incentive, and a ready market, no doubt the head engineers of the big companies would have produced a reliable manually operated machine gun at this time.

The Power of High-Leverage Practice

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Daniel Coyle discusses the power of high-leverage practice:

Here is Odell Beckham Jr. last night, making what might be the greatest catch in NFL history.

That video is beautiful, but there’s something that’s even more beautiful: Beckham Jr. before games, practicing exactly this type of catch.

This reveals the deeper truth behind his great catch: it was no accident. Watch how Beckham keeps one hand at his side, as if pinned by a defender; how he controls the nose of the ball with his index finger; how his eyes follow the ball into his palm. We normally think of this kind of catch as a feat of athleticism. This shows that it’s really a feat of preparation.

This is a very particular kind of preparation, systematically pre-creating the most difficult situations. You might call it High-Leverage Practice, because it shows how focusing relentlessly on pre-creating pressure conditions can set a performer apart from their peers.