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Nuclear Unicorn

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Member since: Wed Sep 16, 2009, 07:33 PM
Number of posts: 19,497

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Leonard Nimoy Appreciation Thread

Posted by Nuclear Unicorn | Fri Feb 27, 2015, 03:37 PM (95 replies)

Arming America

One of the reasons I enjoy this board so much is that so many of the discussions focus on substantive, evidence-based arguments.

Recently Michael Bellisiles became a topic of discussion and that prompted me to learn more about his "work."

The things one learns --

Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture is a discredited 2000 book by Michael A. Bellesiles on American gun culture. The book is an expansion of a 1996 Journal of American History article that uses falsified research to argue that guns were uncommon during peacetime in early United States and that a culture of gun ownership arose only much later.

It initially won the prestigious Bancroft Prize, but later became the first book in that prize's history to have its award rescinded. The revocation occurred after Columbia University's Board of Trustees decided that Bellesiles had "violated basic norms of scholarship and the high standards expected of Bancroft Prize winners."[1]


The central theme of Arming America is that United States' gun culture arose after the Civil War and that contrary to myth, it did not have its roots in United States's colonial and frontier eras. The book holds that guns were uncommon during peacetime in the United States during the colonial, early national, and antebellum periods, when guns were little used and the average American's proficiency in use of firearms was poor. Bellesiles maintains that more widespread use and ownership of guns dates to the Civil War following advances in manufacturing and a consequent reduction in price and improvement in accuracy.


The book garnered many enthusiastic professional reviews and won the prestigious Bancroft Prize in 2001. Because the book's thesis bore upon ongoing political controversies about gun control and the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, gun rights advocates immediately attacked it. Actor Charlton Heston, then-president of the National Rifle Association, called the book's argument "ludicrous".[2] Conversely, a review by Roger Lane in the Journal of American History called the book's research “meticulous and thorough,” and wrote that Bellesiles had "attacked the central myth behind the National Rifle Association's interpretation of the Second Amendment". Lane declared Bellesiles’s evidence so formidable that "if the subject were open to rational argument", the debate would be over.[3]

Clayton Cramer, a historian, software engineer, gun enthusiast and early critic of Bellesiles, later argued that the reason "why historians swallowed Arming America's preposterous claims so readily is that it fit into their political worldview so well... Arming America said things, and created a system of thought so comfortable for the vast majority of historians, that they didn’t even pause to consider the possibility that something wasn’t right."[4] Historian Peter Charles Hoffer, himself an advocate of gun control, lent support to Cramer's charge when, in a 2004 examination of the Bellesiles case, he noted that influential members of the historical profession had indeed "taken strong public stands on violence in our society and its relation to gun control."[5] For instance, the academics solicited for blurbs by Bellesiles’s publisher Alfred A. Knopf "were ecstatic in part because the book knocked the gun lobby."[6]

Bellesiles energized this professional consensus by attempting to play "the professors against the NRA in a high-wire act of arrogant bravado."[7] For instance, he replied to Heston’s criticism by telling the actor to earn a Ph.D. before criticizing the work of scholars.[8] He pointed out that Cramer was "a long time advocate of unrestricted gun ownership" while he himself was a simple scholar who had "certain obligations of accuracy that transcend current political benefit."[9] After Bellesiles claimed he had been flooded by hate mail, both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians endorsed a resolution condemning the alleged harassment.[10] As Hoffer later wrote, Bellesiles was convinced that whether the entire profession agreed with “his stance on gun ownership (and I suspect most did), surely academic historians would not let their expertise be impugned by a rank and partisan amateur like Cramer.” [11]

In the end, however, the politics of the issue mattered less to historians "than the possibility that Bellesiles might have engaged in faulty, fraudulent, and unethical research."[12] As critics subjected the historical claims of the book to close scrutiny, they demonstrated that much of Bellesiles' research, particularly his handling of probate records, was inaccurate and possibly fraudulent.[13] This criticism included noting several serious errors in the tables published in The Journal of American History article, namely, that they did not provide a total number of cases and gave percentages that "were clearly wrong."[14]

In two scholarly articles,[15][16] law professor James Lindgren of Northwestern University noted that in Arming America, Bellesiles had
##purported to count guns in about a hundred wills from 17th- and 18th-century Providence, Rhode Island, but these did not exist because the decedents had died intestate (i.e., without wills);
##purported to count nineteenth-century San Francisco County probate inventories, but these had been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire;
##reported a national mean for gun ownership in 18th-century probate inventories that was mathematically impossible;
##misreported the condition of guns described in probate records in a way that accommodated his thesis;
##miscited the counts of guns in nineteenth-century Massachusetts censuses and militia reports,
##had more than a 60% error rate in finding guns listed as part of estates in Vermont records; and
##had a 100% error rate in the cited gun-related homicide cases of seventeenth-century Plymouth, MA.

Critics also identified problems with Bellesiles's methods of citation. Cramer noted that Bellesiles had misrepresented a passage by George Washington about the quality of three poorly prepared militia units as if his criticism applied to the militia in general. (Washington had noted that the three units were exceptions to the rule.)[17] Cramer wrote, "It took me twelve hours of hunting before I found a citation that was completely correct. In the intervening two years, I have spent thousands of hours chasing down Bellesiles’s citations, and I have found many hundreds of shockingly gross falsifications."[4]

Emory investigation and resignation[edit]

As criticism grew and charges of scholarly misconduct were made, Emory University conducted an internal inquiry into Bellesiles's integrity, appointing an independent investigative committee composed of three leading academic historians from outside Emory.[18] Bellesiles failed to provide investigators with his research notes, claiming the notes were destroyed in a flood.[19]

The scholarly investigation confirmed that Bellesiles's work had serious flaws, calling into question both its quality and veracity. The external report on Bellesiles concluded that "every aspect of his work in the probate records is deeply flawed" and called his statements in self-defense "prolix, confusing, evasive, and occasionally contradictory." It concluded that "his scholarly integrity is seriously in question."[20]

Bellesiles disputed these findings, claiming to have followed all scholarly standards and to have corrected all errors of fact known to him. Nevertheless, with his "reputation in tatters," Bellesiles issued a statement on October 25, 2002, announcing the resignation of his professorship at Emory by year's end.[21]

Aftermath of the scandal[edit]

In 2002, the trustees of Columbia University rescinded Arming America's Bancroft Prize, the first such action in the history of the prize. Alfred A. Knopf, publisher of Arming America, did not renew Bellesiles's contract, and the National Endowment for the Humanities withdrew its name from a fellowship that the Newberry Library had granted Bellesiles.[22] In 2003, Arming America was republished in a revised and amended edition by Soft Skull Press. Bellesiles continued to defend the book's credibility and thesis, arguing that roughly three-quarters of the original book remained unchallenged.[23]

Historians who initially admired Arming America ceased to defend Bellesiles. The nationally prominent historian Garry Wills, who had enthusiastically reviewed Arming America for the New York Times,[24] later said, in a 2005 interview on C-SPAN, "I was took. The book is a fraud." Wills noted that Bellesiles "claimed to have consulted archives he didn't and he misrepresented those archives," although "he didn't have to do that," since "he had a lot of good, solid evidence." Wills added, "People get taken by very good con men."[25]

Historian Roger Lane, who had reviewed the book positively in the Journal of American History,[26] offered a similar opinion: "It is entirely clear to me that he's made up a lot of these records. He's betrayed us. He's betrayed the cause. It's 100 percent clear that the guy is a liar and a disgrace to my profession. He's breached that trust."[27] Historian Pauline Maier reflected that it seemed historians had "ceased to read carefully and critically, even in the awarding of book prizes."[28]

As Hoffer concluded, "Bellesiles's condemnation by Emory University, the trustees of the Bancroft Prizes, and Knopf provided the gun lobby with information to blast the entire history profession....Even though H-Law, the Omohundro Institute, the OAH, and the AHA rushed to his side and stated principled objections to the politicization of history, they hesitated to ask the equally important question of whether he had manipulated them and betrayed their trust."[29]


Posted by Nuclear Unicorn | Wed Feb 25, 2015, 01:52 PM (22 replies)

Apparently Keith Olbermann has been suspended

Story here -- http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2015/02/24/espns-keith-olbermann-suspended-over-penn-state-thon-tweets/

Apparently, he got into a twitter fight and emerged triumphantly. However, he shall not be escorted around the studio in a golf cart pulled by white stallions while an intern holds aloft a laurel and whispers, "Remember, thou art contracted! Remember, thou art contracted!"

Instead, finding his comments unduly abrasive, ESPN has suspended Mr. Olbermann.

When the Phil Robertson kerfuffle was all the rage I said it was as bad a policy to have private entities censor people as much as it is a bad idea to have government entities censor people. I was excoriated for picking the wrong side of the issue and anyway private entities cannot censor people.

And I'm a hater, or something.

Well, now the unchecked corporatist power has once again reared its ugly head and now it has devoured one of our own. The turn of events was wholly predictable. In the process of trying to silence one voice we have provided the very same gag that will be used to silence our own voices and we have asked -- nay -- DEMANDED! that this power be exercised against us at the first hint of controversy.

I'm not sure how to stuff this corporatist djinni back into its bottle but it needs to be done -- and fast. I get it, Robertson et al are repugnant but the tree of Liberty must sometimes be fertilized with the droppings of BS'ers but it is the only tree that will bear the true fruit of liberalism.
Posted by Nuclear Unicorn | Tue Feb 24, 2015, 04:18 PM (43 replies)

ISIS Burns 8000 Rare Books and Manuscripts in Mosul

ISIS Burns 8000 Rare Books and Manuscripts in Mosul

While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, the people of Mosul were watching a different show. They were horrified to see ISIS members burn the Mosul public library. Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned.

“ISIS militants bombed the Mosul Public Library. They used improvised explosive devices,” said Ghanim al-Ta'an, the director of the library. Notables in Mosul tried to persuade ISIS members to spare the library, but they failed.

Posted by Nuclear Unicorn | Tue Feb 24, 2015, 12:04 PM (24 replies)

Why this can't be openly debated is beyond me.

Maybe the proponents don't want to debate in an open and free society and would, instead, prefer to dictate terms.

How the right-wing gun lobby attempts to frame arguments, or "How the NRA/ALEC gun-pushers use lies and half-truths to sell guns."

The number one argument the gun nuts use to counter calls for gun control is: "there are too many guns in the hands of Americans to ban or confiscate, so nothing can be done." What they are actually saying is: "The Democrats want to take away your guns, and we will protect your rights to keep them." Clever ad campaign, and a clever play on emotions on the part of the right-wingers, and those who apologize for them.

The correct answer to this lie is: "We don't want to take away your guns, or ban and confiscate them. We want to regulate your use of guns, and get them off of our streets and back into your homes and safely stored, where they belong." You want to go to a range or go hunting? Fine, you can do that provided you follow the laws and rules governing target shooting and hunting, and the transport of weapons to and from those venues. You want to carry a concealed weapon? The answer is no, unless you can show good cause and a judge agrees, and then only for a specified period.

Stand-your-ground laws should be repealed in the public venue, and the "duty to retreat" common sense principle of law should be reinstated. A universal background check system should be implemented, and all gun sales and transfers should be subject to the UBC system. Existing gun control regulations should be strictly enforced, and in most cases the penalties increased.

These are the root problems which need to be addressed in order to reduce our gun violence epidemic. No, we don't want to confiscate your legally purchased guns because it is neither feasible nor practical. We do, however, want to make gun owners more responsible for their guns, and regulate their use in the public venue.

Support a gun control organization and those Democratic politicians who will stand up to the right-wing gun lobby in any way that you can.

OK, let's suss this out.

You want to carry a concealed weapon? The answer is no, unless you can show good cause and a judge agrees, and then only for a specified period.

Why? Who are you, or anyone else for that matter, to tell me when I am to make myself vulnerable to violent criminals?

Stand-your-ground laws should be repealed in the public venue, and the "duty to retreat" common sense principle of law should be reinstated.

DTR has never been universal, so the premise is incorrect on its face. Even then, peaceable people do not have a duty to retreat, criminals do. How many steps backwards must a woman take before she is lawfully allowed to defend herself?

"Sorry Mrs. Henderson. You shot that serial rapist after taking 2 steps backwards when the law specifically says you had to take three. I'm afraid we must sentence you to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years before you are eligible for parole and your children will be remanded to the state."

A universal background check system should be implemented, and all gun sales and transfers should be subject to the UBC system.

OK. Make it available to private sellers as well.

Existing gun control regulations should be strictly enforced, and in most cases the penalties increased.

Why? Unless a gun is being used criminally why feed the PIC? Glad you admit, though, that the laws you do want aren't being enforced. Maybe you should start there before passing more useless laws that probably won't be enforced.

These are the root problems which need to be addressed in order to reduce our gun violence epidemic.

Congratulations. You just invalidated your credibility. You're obviously not up on current events and since gun violence is on a multi-decade decline the stated reason for your diktats has been invalidated.

We do, however, want to make gun owners more responsible for their guns, and regulate their use in the public venue.

People are facing decades in jail for trivial offenses, i.e. having an unloaded antique flintlock pistol in the glove box of their car. If your regimes are so absolutely devoid of common sense and basic decency why should you be trusted with yet more power especially since you refuse to affirm the basic human right of self-defense?
Posted by Nuclear Unicorn | Wed Feb 18, 2015, 10:51 PM (61 replies)

Ron Paul: US didn't really want to catch Bin Laden

Ron Paul: U.S. Didn’t Really Want To Catch Bin Laden Because They Needed An Excuse To Invade The Middle East

Former Republican presidential candidate and congressman Ron Paul says he doesn’t believe the United States government wanted to catch Osama Bin Laden because they needed him as an excuse to build up the military and invade Middle Eastern countries.

“Matter of fact, can’t you just see the difference that might have occurred. Ya know, they knew where Bin Laden was. I don’t think they really wanted to catch him because he was used as the excuse for us, you know, invading various countries and building up the military,” Paul said on Scott Horton’s radio program.


Posted by Nuclear Unicorn | Wed Feb 18, 2015, 04:25 PM (15 replies)

Police: Muslim man stabs two after discussion about religious beliefs

Police: Muslim man stabs two after discussion about religious beliefs

A Detroit man stabbed two people at a suburban bus stop after asking his victims whether or not they were Muslim, according to police. Federal authorities are now looking at the case as a potential hate crime, police said on Tuesday.

Both of the victims were standing at the bus stop outside of Detroit with the suspect on Saturday, Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins said. Several people there “engaged in conversation” until the suspect, identified by Hawkins as 39-year-old Terrence Lavaron Thomas, “asked some of the folks there if they were Muslims.”

Two of them answered, the chief told The Post on Tuesday: They were not Muslims.

“(Thomas) was not not (sic) happy with that answer,” Hawkins said. Shortly after, “without provocation,” Thomas pulled out a 3-inch folding knife “and attacked one of them,” Hawkins said.

Posted by Nuclear Unicorn | Tue Feb 17, 2015, 07:52 PM (2 replies)

I'm totally in agreement ISIS does not represent Islam. So, what name/label would fit?

I don't even want to use the current alternative, "jihadist."

Let's come up with another way of referring to these murderous bastards that denies them the association with Islam that they would prefer -- and if it's a mocking name, so much the better.

Acronyms are always good.
Posted by Nuclear Unicorn | Mon Feb 16, 2015, 06:14 PM (73 replies)

Shirley MacLaine asks: Were Holocaust victims paying for sins in past lives?

Outrage as Shirley MacLaine asks: Were Holocaust victims paying for sins in past lives? (and did 'her friend' Stephen Hawking bring his devastating disease on himself?)

Her bizarre New Age views on topics such as reincarnation and UFOs have often left the public baffled.

Now Shirley MacLaine has provoked widespread fury by claiming the victims of the Holocaust may have brought their fate upon themselves.

The veteran Hollywood actress suggests the six million Jews and millions of others systematically murdered in Hitler’s death camps in the 1940s were ‘balancing their karma’ for crimes committed in past lives.

She also suggests that cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking may have subconsciously given himself his debilitating motor neurone disease.

Posted by Nuclear Unicorn | Fri Feb 13, 2015, 07:32 PM (108 replies)

ISIS hacker targets military spouses

ISIS hacker targets military spouses

Hackers claiming to be part of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) apparently hacked into the Twitter account of a military spouse Tuesday, threatening military spouses and their children.

The hackers, calling themselves the "Cyber Caliphate," say they are waging a "Cyber Jihad."

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, #CyberCaliphate continues its CyberJihad #cyb3rc.com
— MSoS (@MSoStrength) February 10, 2015

"While your president and your husband are killing our brothers in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan we're coming for you," said one message that was posted to the account.

"You think you're safe but the IS is already here, CyberCaliphate got into your PC and smartphone," it continues, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

"We know everything about you, your husband and your children and we're much closer than you can even imagine. You'll see no mercy infidel!"

Posted by Nuclear Unicorn | Wed Feb 11, 2015, 07:09 PM (1 replies)
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