A compromise on the “terrorist watch list”

A lot of the gun control talk in recent days following the Orlando attack has centered around the “terrorist watch list”, a covert list of individuals maintained by the Federal government that can be used to deny a person a number of privileges, including being able to board a plane.

So no surprise that the Federal government would want to expand it to include infringing the Second Amendment.

The biggest problem with the watch list is the fact it is full of mistakes. Names that shouldn’t be on there. The list has been used to deny children entry to a plane. And it’s likely damned near impossible to get your name removed, or at least an exception made so that a particular person happening to bear that name isn’t unjustly targeted. And yet they expect us to trust them with that list when it comes to navigating the waters known as the Constitution? Okay, if they want that power, we need a compromise.

Currently the FBI has the ability to place up to a 3 day hold on a firearm transfer when a background check is requested through NICS. Three days is plenty of time for the Department of Justice to file for an emergency injunction with the District Court that has jurisdiction over the area where the sale was to take place. As the person against whom the injunction is filed would have the opportunity to defend themselves against the injunction, the due process requirement would be satisfied provided the injunction is only temporary and includes the caveat that Federal or State charges against the person be filed within the provided window (30 days, for example) or the person’s rights will be restored.

The injunction should also require more than the Department of Justice or Department of Homeland Security merely saying “he’s on the terror watch list”, as they’d have to give more substantial reasons to deny the sale to satisfy the Fifth Amendment, basically providing all the evidence as to why that person was on the list. The Court could even require the evidence satisfy the burden of probable cause. This would also give the opportunity for a counter-motion to order the Department of Justice or Homeland Security to remove the person from the watch list if that burden is not satisfied, while also raising the burden of proof to the point where if the government is even going to attempt to deny a person their rights, there should be enough evidence to arrest them and put them on trial. But then if they had that kind of evidence, the only thing that would be stopping the DoJ from putting them on trial is not having enough evidence to satisfy the burden of beyond reasonable doubt.

This isn’t much different than what currently goes on with other criminal trials. For example pre-trial injunctions forbidding contact between a defendant and an alleged victim are common in cases of domestic assault. If the defendant is convicted, the injunction may become permanent, while it is lifted if the defendant is acquitted.

This brings the terror watch list out of the realm of secrecy while also giving Democrats what they want: the ability to use it to temporarily deny gun purchases. Anything more than this requires a criminal trial and conviction on felony charges.

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Seven minutes

In the current firearms political climate following the Orlando shootings — not just at Pulse, but also of Christina Grimmie — it seems almost expected that someone would try to replay Mark Kelly’s stunt from 2013. In this instance, it was Helen Ubiñas of the Philadelphia Enquirer:

Seven minutes. From the moment I handed the salesperson my driver’s license to the moment I passed my background check.

Yes, the NICS background check is actually quite… instant. It’s in the name.

It likely will take more time than that during the forthcoming round of vigils to respectfully read the names of the more than 100 people who were killed or injured.

It’s obscene.

Horrifying.

Actually it’s not. That’s the amount of time it would take to clear an instant background check for any firearm.

If you have a squeaky clean record, there’s no reason to not sail quickly through the background check process. Not everyone does. Mark Kelly sailed through the process quickly as well simply because he’s a retired commissioned officer from the United States Navy with a clean record. I’ve sailed through the NICS background check the… seven times, I think, I’ve been through it. My parents have sailed through it. Friends of mine have sailed through it. What exactly is the concern?

Oh yes, that’s right. We’re talking about an “assault rifle”. The famous AR-15 platform. In your instance it was the Smith & Wesson M&P-15. And the fact you were able to sail through the background check process means it’s “too easy” to buy a firearm. Am I right? Or at least too easy to buy an AR-15?

Bear in mind that there are over 2 million of them in private hands. Two Million. The number of people killed or injured each year by rifles is insignificant. The number of AR-15 rifles used in any shooting, mass or otherwise, is also insignificant. According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, between 2009 and 2013, there were only three mass homicides known to involve the AR-15, plus two more with an “assault rifle”. The other mass homicides were committed with pistols of various calibers and shotguns.

And yet you focus on the AR-15.

Functionally the AR-15 is no different from any other rifle that chambers the same caliber. The only difference is the body style, which is lightweight and modular, both of which make the rifle popular.

And unless you have a shady background, you should be able to walk into a gun seller and be able to walk out with any rifle, pistol, or shotgun of your choice and not be significantly delayed by the “instant” background check. Seriously there is nothing wrong with that idea.

There seems to be this point of view wherein a person being able to pass a background check means it’s too easy to get a firearm. You’ve demonstrated that with your article, and I’ve run into that mentality before. It’s as if the background check process should be able to read minds and predict the future.

Instead of exercising a political stunt that’ll generate a lot of clicks, why did you not instead just keep the firearm and learn how to use it? Take it to a range that allows centerfire rifles (not all do) and shoot a few magazines through it instead of almost immediately surrendering it to the police.

You’ve lost a golden opportunity here to actually learn about the rifle you are trying to demonize. But you never wanted to learn about the rifle, likely because you’re afraid you might no longer want to denigrate it. After all, it’s been said and demonstrated that the fastest way to turn someone from anti-gun to pro-gun is to take them to a gun range.

Out of two million AR-15 rifles that passed into private hands, the number that have actually been used in mass shootings is likely barely into the double-digits. More kids die from swimming pools than the total number of people killed by rifles in any given year, including the AR-15.

And somehow the AR-15 is some super special killer?

It sounds more like you have no idea what you’re talking about and was looking for a sensationalist hit piece. And you write and publish this sensationalist article before the bodies are even in the ground without, to borrow your own words, “even a moment to at least consider how gross all of this felt as relatives of the dead were still being notified.”

If it felt “gross”, why did you do it? Because you saw an opportunity to write an article that generates a lot of clicks. Congratulations.

And if you think that private sales mean that anyone can still get a rifle, I think you forget the fact that there is also a seller involved. The seller can, at any time before it’s completed, kill the sale. That actually happened here in Kansas City. A person who shot up random cars on I-470 near where I used to work attempted to acquire a firearm through a private sale that the seller aborted.

Interesting concept, don’t you think? Makes me wonder how many times that happens.

At the same time, sellers at gun shops will also abort sales if they feel something’s up. I’ve personally witnessed this. At a gun shop I frequent, a person walked in with the intent of buying a pistol. He was not exercising any kind of discipline over his movements and actions, though, and he was escorted out of the shop.

And a shop owner in Ohio acting on his wits intervened in preventing a potential shooting at Ohio University.

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Can they be any more predictable?

Predictably in the wake of the recent Orlando mass shooting, there are calls for gun control and reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban. Here is one such call that landed on my Facebook feed.

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And in 2013, they tried to get the Assault Weapons Ban back through the Senate as well, and it was knocked down 60 to 40. Think about that. 60 Senators voted against it in a Democrat-controlled Senate. 15 Democrats plus Angus King joined Republicans to vote down the AWB.

Most people who want to ban the AR-15 don’t even know what it is, only what it looks like. They can’t describe the firearm properly. They continuously label it as an “automatic” rifle. One friend of mine called it a “machine gun”. The AR-15 is no different from any other .223/5.56mm rifle on the market except for its body style, and the AR-15 isn’t the only rifle on the market that shoots the .223/5.56mm round. There are variants of the AR-15 that shoot the .22LR as well, which are functionally not any different from any other rifle that shoots .22LR.

Banning “assault weapons” won’t do jack for violence in this country. In fact, as Australia, the Middle East, and the United States have all demonstrated, those wanting to kill a large number of people will find alternate means of doing so. Arson, bombings, and suicide bombings to be specific.

Here’s a question. In 2009 and 2010, the Democrats had their trifecta — the House, the Senate, and the White House. They could’ve passed any gun control bill they wanted, but didn’t touch gun control at all. They didn’t introduce any gun control bills that made it out of committee, and Feinstein didn’t even consider reintroducing her assault weapon’s ban. It should’ve been a slam dunk in the 111th Congress, but they didn’t do jack. Why is that? Why did they wait until they had a divided Congress?

Two reasons. First, plenty of Democrats won’t touch gun control because it’ll end their political careers. Plenty of Democrat voters favor gun rights, and plenty of Democrat voters demonstrated to Democrats just how unfavorably they view gun control by handing the Senate and House back to Republicans in 1994. Even Feinstein barely held on to her Senate seat that year.

Second, they don’t care about protecting people or children. Only playing politics. And they can play politics left, right, and fucking center all day by playing up gun rights as meaning gun rights activists prefer to see dead kids, and that if we “only cared about the children”, or in the case of Orlando the gays, then we’d just see how morally superior the Democrats are and just give into their demands and turn in all our guns. That’s how this whole thing has played out since Aurora.

When even Democrats are voting against gun control, perhaps a rethink is in order.

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Regarding the Brock Turner case…

Defending principles is extremely difficult. But necessary.

On this blog and in other venues, I’ve defended the outcomes of the Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman trials. I’ve defended the grand jury decision with regard to Darren Wilson. I defended the right to a trial for James Holmes and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I defended the acquittals of Jian Ghomeshi and Gregory Alan Elliot.

And by defending all of that, I’ve been portrayed as defending the people involved and their alleged crimes.

I’ve been called racist. White supremacist. Sexist. Terrorist sympathizer. I’ve already been called a rape apologist before, along with a misogynist, for my views on feminism. And now this article will probably get me branded a rape “sympathizer”, if not an out-and-out rapist. No, wait, I’ve already been branded as both for my staunch defense of due process with no wavering even when the accusation is that of rape.

After all, only a rapist would possibly defend the outcome of a rape trial, right? Only a rapist would defend due process for suspected rapists, right? After all, the world would be better if it were easier to convict rapists. So goes the rhetoric that’s been pushed at me.

People don’t know what defending principles looks like anymore.

Given the details of the assault upon “Emily Doe”, I join the majority who are outraged at the lenient sentence Brock Turner received for his three felony convictions. Six months in prison (though he’ll likely actually serve an additional three months on top of whatever he already has served) plus three years on probation. Seems kind of light. It would likely outrage people more to learn that the Santa Clara County Probation Department recommended only one (1) year in prison along with probation. And I would agree that would be considered lenient as well.

Except my opinion on the matter is irrelevant. Every person’s opinion on the matter is irrelevant.

It sickens me that the public response to cases like that of Brock Turner force me to defend outcomes I also do not like. I do not do this to defend Brock Turner. Or any specific person. I do it to defend the process that is employed.

I do this to defend due process itself. To defend the trial process. To defend the rights entitled to all persons who become subject to the jurisdiction of a criminal court.

I do this because it seems no one else will.

It’s exhausting.

And it’s heartbreaking to watch supposedly civilized people be “reduced into pesky, pestilent, squandering, argumentative and belligerent mobs”, to quote an article I wrote over five (5) years ago. Few seem to realize that the more often this occurs, the easier it becomes for our rights to be violated, if not out right stolen from us.

In the wake of cases like Brock Turner, Casey Anthony, George Zimmerman, and Darren Wilson, mob justice reigns. One man versus a mob. But if that is what I must do to defend the basic rights of a civilized society when that society goes patently uncivilized, then so be it.

Currently there is a campaign to recall the judge who presided over the case and declared the sentence. This strikes me as similar to the recall campaigns against other judges who make unpopular decisions. Most notably the three justices of the Iowa Supreme Court who declared Iowa’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

One of my friends commented on Facebook, “Stupid ass fucked up piece of shit some one shoot him between the eyes and leave him for the buzzards.”

I still have a lot of work ahead of me, it seems. But I’m only one man.

 

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Burned by the sun

I think we’ve all been burned by the sun at least once in our lives. Being fair-skinned (though thankfully not nearly as bad as this poor woman), I’ve also been unlucky enough to receive severe sunburns. Twice.

The first time was during the summer following 3rd grade during a summer camp trip to the beach in San Diego, CA. Despite putting on sunscreen initially, I didn’t follow the directions properly, never reapplied it, and ended up with moderate to severe sunburns over my arms, legs, and neck. The second time was during a parade in 8th grade in which I put sunscreen on my arms and legs, but failed to do so on my neck, face, and ears. Those burns blistered and were painful for, if I recall correctly, close to two weeks, and took almost three weeks to completely go away.

And I’ve been heavily burned by the sun on other occasions. Let’s just say that now, in my mid-30s, I keep a very close eye on anything on my skin for early signs of skin cancer.

So I can certainly relate to the story of a 3 year-old boy who suffered severe sunburns even despite his mother applying and reapplying sunscreen. The sunscreen in question, based on the news report, is Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free Sting-Free Continuous Lotion Spray Sunscreen, SPF 50+.

Now there’s something else about this story that needs to be pointed out. The child was at the beach off Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Eastern Shore is at the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula surrounded on the west by the Chesapeake Bay, and the east by the Atlantic Ocean. That means the child was playing in surf and salt water.

Yes, that little detail is extremely important.

It has, for as long as I can remember, been recommended that you reapply sunscreen at least twice as often as recommended if you’re in salt water and surf unless you are using a sunscreen specifically formulated for salt water. This means if you have a sunscreen that is “water resistant up to 80 minutes”, which is what the Banana Boat sunscreen in question states, you reapply it every 40 to 45 minutes when playing in salt water, and no less frequently than every hour regardless of whether you’re in salt or fresh water.

Sweat-resistant sunscreens (typically labeled as “sport” sunscreens, but it should say “sweat-resistant” on the label) can withstand salt water a little better, but you should still reapply it more frequently than the label states — about every hour if not more often, every 45 minutes to be safe.

Bear in mind, as well, that no sunscreen is perfect. And even if you follow the directions, there may still be some variables that mean you still get burned. For example, if you don’t reapply the sunscreen properly or often enough (it’s easy to forget or misjudge when you last reapplied), or get adequate coverage on the areas that will be exposed to the sun.

So just pay attention to when and how you apply and how often you reapply the sunscreen, and you should be fine, and any sunburns you do get should be mild and infrequent. Avoid spray sunscreens and stick with lotions, since it is easier to get adequate coverage with lotions.

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It doesn’t matter

And once again the people have another bone onto which to latch with regard to Casey Anthony…

In the 15-page affidavit obtained by PEOPLE, Dominic Casey alleges that Anthony had a sexual relationship with her attorney before the case went to trial. He claims that he witnessed “a naked Casey” when he arrived at Baez’s office unexpectedly.

In the documents, he also alleges that Baez “told me that Casey had murdered Caylee and dumped the body somewhere and, he needed all the help he could get to find the body before anyone else did.”

It’s simply amazing what people will say, even in what is supposed to be a sworn statement given under penalty of perjury. Especially a sworn statement that carries with it some very, very serious allegations.

But all of this is completely immaterial anyway, of absolutely no value whatsoever. Well the allegations of a sexual relationship isn’t entirely immaterial, as, if there is actually evidence that occurred, it can get Jose Baez, Casey Anthony’s attorney, disbarred. Needless to say, Baez has pushed back, calling the claim “libelous” and saying that legal action is “forthcoming”.

But the one thing that no one seems to want to settle in their mind is the simple fact that Casey Anthony was acquitted. This means that she cannot be touched. That is why this statement by the private investigator, whether true or not, ultimately doesn’t matter.

Not one bit.

It won’t convene a new trial that would again subject her to jeopardy because it isn’t evidence of guilt. At minimum, it’s hearsay, meaning it’s completely unreliable as evidence, provided it’s truthful. If it isn’t, as Baez has already said, it’s libel.

And don’t bring up the idea of a Federal prosecution either. I’ve already tackled that idea. Twice. Isn’t it time she just fade away into obscurity?

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Revisiting bottlenecking, or why most don’t use the term correctly

Previously I wrote a long rant-ish article about the term bottlenecks, particularly with regard to AMD vs Intel. In that article I tried to demonstrate, among other things, how the term “bottleneck” is misused and, frankly, overused. I didn’t exactly do the greatest job in that article, so I’ll revisit the term here, especially in light of some things I’ve learned over the last year.

Working on the Colony West project modified my perspective on the topic, or rather informed it significantly more. The project’s ultimate goal was a rack hosting three systems. One of the systems was a Minecraft server built on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+. The other two systems would be distributed computing systems, one running an AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+, and the other running an AMD FX-8320E.

In terms of computing, the word “bottleneck” is very disproportionately levied against the AMD FX processor, and typically with regard to higher-end graphics cards. This became especially true after the GTX 900 series was introduced. Anyone who posts anywhere that they are building a system with an AMD FX processor and a GTX 900 series graphics card will likely get the term “bottlenecking” thrown at them — typically by someone who doesn’t understand the term, which seems to be practically everyone who uses it.

The ready assumption is easy to paraphrase: the AMD FX processor is always a bottleneck, period, end of story, no discussion. And the adjacent assumption is this: Intel processors are never a bottleneck, period, end of story, no discussion. The number of people who say in threads regarding the AMD FX processor “Stop defending AMD” is telling on that mark.

The more accurate statement is simply this: all components in a computer can be a bottleneck. The Intel i7-5960X can be a bottleneck. The Xeon processor can be a bottleneck. The AMD FX-9590 can be a bottleneck. The Titan X can be a bottleneck. The almost 300,000 cores (16-core Opteron processors) and 18,688 GK110 Tesla GPUs that comprise the Titan supercomputer can be bottlenecks.

The speed of light can be a bottleneck.

This was recognized and demonstrated by the late Grace Hopper, RADM, USN (ret.). One of Adm. Hopper’s many contributions to computing was simply to recognize that computers must become smaller to become faster — something that today seems so obvious. She was famous for carrying around “nanosecond wires” — strands of wire that were about 30cm long, the distance that light can travel in one nanosecond. Initially they were used to demonstrate why the speed of light is a limitation to satellite communication, but it served to also demonstrate why all components will have a ceiling with regard to bandwidth and processing power.

It is one of the reasons multi-core processors have been the norm and why multi-processor mainboards have been the norm in high-performance servers: when you can’t expand performance linearly, you expand it laterally through parallel processing.

So now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about how the term is typically applied: CPUs and graphics cards. I will also explain why my Athlon 64 X2 processor is not “bottlenecking” the GTX 680.

What is a bottleneck?

So what exactly is a bottleneck, in the proper sense of the term? In short, it is an inefficiency in a process.

An optimal process is one wherein no part of the process must wait to do work. So if you have three steps to make a widget, and one person for each step, you would want to make sure that persons 1, 2, and 3 all take about the same amount of time to perform their steps. The goal is to minimize idle time.

If person 1 takes significantly longer than person 2, then person 1 is said to be an inefficiency — a “bottleneck” — in the process. Now if person 2 takes significantly longer than person 1 to do their task, then person 2 is even worse of an inefficiency. Not only is he holding up person 3, but he’ll actually force person 1 to slow down to prevent a backlog of work.

A complementary question, however, is whether that happens to be the nature of the process being performed. Will that task always take longer? If so, the process may need to be redesigned or re-implemented by bringing on additional personnel. If person 1’s task takes only 5 minutes, but person 2’s task requires 10 minutes, then you’ll want two workers on step 2 of the process for every person on step 1.

The primary focus of managing the process and the workers at each step is minimizing idle time and ensuring the process can move smoothly. Some idle time may be desirable, especially when you’re talking about people, but too much is detrimental.

In alleviating inefficiencies or improving the process, the manager (and typically involving consultants) will look at each step. To determine if the inefficiency is ultimately unacceptable, the process manager will evaluate their options to determine if correcting the inefficiency could be more costly than just living with it.

Typically significant improvements are needed to justify making them so as to avoid a situation where correcting inefficiencies provides an overall loss or barely any gain.

Bottlenecks and computers

It should be quite easy to see how this applies to a computer. The “people” is the hardware, and the task they are trying to perform is the application or game you are trying to run. But it’s not a clean analogy. In most processes, the manager is not a part of the process. Instead the manager delegates tasks and oversees the operation.

In a computer, on the other hand, the task manager is not only overseeing the process, but doing a significant amount of the work. This is why it is not proper to apply the term “bottleneck” to a computer, especially the central processing unit (CPU), since the central processing unit is the process. At the least it is not proper to say that a CPU will bottleneck a graphics card, or any other hardware for that matter, but instead to say that all the other hardware will “bottleneck” a CPU. Sit back and relax, we’re about to get very, very technical, so do try to keep up.

There are two types of operations a CPU performs: blocking and non-blocking.

The colloquial for a “non-blocking” operation is “fire and forget”. The CPU tells the hardware to do something and then the CPU goes off and does something else immediately. It doesn’t care about the result and won’t wait for one, so the hardware is not blocking the CPU.

Then there are “blocking” operations — which comprise the vast, vast majority of tasks and instructions a CPU carries out. If “non-blocking” means the CPU won’t wait for a result, “blocking” means the CPU will wait however long is necessary for that result. Some processes will have a “timeout” value associated to them, meaning there is a ceiling to how long the CPU will wait. But it is quite easy to see how these work, and readily explains why the single most restrictive “bottleneck” in your system will always be storage and network devices.

So again, the CPU is the process. This is why you will almost always see performance improvements in your system by going with a better processor.

Central processing units work through an instruction set, a set of instructions that have been hard-wired into the CPU. Here’s the interesting part: the CPU does not have any instructions for talking to any device. Instead CPUs talk to memory addresses, and every instruction the CPU carries out is about manipulating memory addresses. If you don’t believe me, look up the AMD64 and Intel x86 instruction sets and you’ll see that there isn’t even an instruction for writing text to the screen. Instead everything happens by manipulating data at memory addresses.

That is at the instruction set level — i.e. the actual instructions the CPU is running. If you’ve never studied assembly language, consider yourself lucky to have remained insulated away from the granularity of all of that.

So then, why is it improper to say that a CPU bottlenecks a graphics card?

What’s often omitted from the discussion is simply that the CPU and other hardware work in tandem, never in isolation. It is rare that upgrading either the processor or graphics card, or going with multiple graphics cards, will result in no performance improvement. On LinusTechTips, I said this:

Upgrading the CPU or GPU will always improve performance in a gaming system. I don’t know of a situation where this won’t be true. You could have a GTX 480 with a Skylake CPU and, provided you don’t run into any incompatibility concerns, I’d wager it’ll outperform a Sandy Bridge with that same graphics card, and likely quite significantly. Sure we can argue there’s a ceiling, but I’d wager that you’ll run into incompatibilities before that ceiling becomes a concern.

Same with graphics cards. Pair a Titan X with a Sandy Bridge and it’ll outperform a GTX 480 with a Sandy Bridge. And if you have two Titan Xs in SLI with a Sandy Bridge — again, assuming no compatibility concerns — it’ll likely outperform a single Titan X with a Sandy Bridge, though the performance certainly won’t cleanly scale. But take those two Titan Xs and put them with a Skylake and you’ll see significantly better performance compared to the same on a Sandy Bridge. Knowing this makes the question on “bottlenecking” not an easy one to answer, and also shows the massive misuse of the term, because the question of whether there is a bottleneck still comes down to the process you’re trying to perform since.

Specifically, the question is to the output and requirements of the process. Will the hardware combination deliver an adequate level of performance? That depends on how that is defined, and comes down to other variables involved — monitor, resolution, refresh rate of the monitor, and the FPS and response level the combination can deliver. If the answer is no, then figure out what to upgrade.

And that brings me to the main point, that the question is more of optimal level of performance.

Optimal level of performance means meeting or exceeding a desired level of output. For any process, that should be the focus. Not how well any one part of the process performs, though it does matter, or whether there is something better out there (because there will always or eventually be something better), but whether it is meeting or exceeding your expectations.

In the case of an application, the desired result is typically defined as completing a particular task within a particular period of time — the lower the better. This will often be defined in requirements when determining what equipment to purchase. For a game, the desired result is typically defined by the frame rate, refresh rate of the monitor, resolution, and visual quality settings for the game.

Whether a system achieves the desired result is up to its owner. And if the system does not achieve the desired result, whether the deviation is acceptable or needs to be corrected, and the evaluation on correcting it is also up to its owner.

The AMD FX processor

But whether a system can achieve a particular level of performance seems to be cause for confusion. For one, there are a lot of AMD FX naysayers who seem willing to just make shit up. Numerous times I’ve seen a lot of statements about the AMD FX processor that make me wonder whether the individuals making the statements have ever actually had an FX processor and under what kind of configuration. I’ve seen written several times that the FX processor shouldn’t be used for MMOs or online play. Another commenter said that the FX processor cannot deliver anything more than 25 or 30 frames per second at 1080p in AAA titles.

My only thought seeing statements like that is “where the hell are they getting that information?” As I said in the previous article, if you believe what some of these people say, the level of performance I can get from my system and my wife from her previous system is impossible.

As such, the question of the level of performance a system, in particular an AMD FX system, can provide has been subject to the “shifting of the goalposts” fallacy — “well the FX is fine up to [insert graphics chip here], but bottlenecks everything beyond that”… And all the while it is presumed that no Intel processor “bottlenecks” high-end graphics cards (setting aside for a moment the incorrect use of the word). And the definition of whether a graphics card is “bottlenecked” is whether it runs at 100% or not during a game, with it being declared “bottlenecked” if it never does.

Whether the overall system achieves a desired level of performance — the true definition of whether a system has any undesirable inefficiencies (i.e. bottlenecks) — seems to never be part of the discussion.

The Athlon 64 X2 and the GTX 680

I said that the GTX 680 is not being “bottlenecked” by the processor, going on the incorrect usage. Many would certainly dispute that, mainly because many likely won’t ask what I’m doing with this setup, or understand how this setup could possibly work. The PCI-Express 1.0a lane is fast enough that it isn’t constricting the card for the tasks being performed, so having a newer PCI-Express standard won’t provide any improvement. A faster processor will only provide for a faster transition between tasks, and the difference is likely to be largely insignificant.

As such because the demand on the PCI-Express system bus is relatively small, the CPU is able to transfer the data to the GTX 680 without breaking a sweat. And the system is able to run through the Berkeley tasks without any problem with minimal CPU usage — the Linux GeForce driver doesn’t provide any GPU usage statistics, unfortunately.

For the requirements and demands that are placed on this system, the only system bottleneck is the GTX 680. I could alleviate that bottleneck by purchasing a GTX 980, 980Ti, or Titan X, even an nVidia Tesla — provided such cards won’t be limited by the PCI-Express 1.0 lane. But the gains to me — a quicker accumulation of BOINC credits — are not worth that expense (especially the Titan X and Tesla). Again, CPU usage is minimal, so a faster processor won’t help. The Ethernet connection is faster than my Internet connection, so there is no improvement to be made on that front, and only 1GB of RAM is being used, and switching to faster RAM likely won’t improve anything either.

Compared to a GTX 770 connected to an FX board (the GTX 770 is a re-branded GTX 680), the X2 won out because of the operating system setup (Linux on the X2 versus Windows 8.1 Pro on the FX), finishing a similar task about 25 seconds faster (265 seconds compared to 290 seconds, about 8.6% difference) than the FX/GTX 770 combination.

So for the tasks in question, a faster CPU or even a newer platform would be a waste of money since there would likely be no significant gain in performance.

Inefficiencies in your system

So when it comes to your system, again the question to ask is whether you are getting a desired level of performance. If you are not, evaluate what to upgrade. Would more memory be better? Would a newer graphics card be better, or would you be better off replacing the mainboard and processor with a newer platform?

Unfortunately you are largely not going to find a good answer to these questions in any online forum. As soon as you post the specifications to your system, they will be cherry-picked, and you will be told to upgrade a certain way. Not suggested, told. Don’t even consider anything else. Buy only what they tell you to. Think I’m joking on that? I’ve seen what happens when someone mentions they have an AMD processor. They are told to buy Intel.

This problem is especially evident on the Linus Tech Tips forum. One person who talked about water cooling an AMD system was met with the “have you considered upgrading?” response twice before a more reasonable person chimed in with “how about not just shooting people down, but also offering to help…that way they don’t feel like you’re insulting them”.

Another person was told “Instead of wasting money on water cooling, spend money on a real processor that is capable of pushing two R9 290Xs.” Yet another person who wanted a custom loop for an FX-6300 was also met with “Don’t waste your money” and “Your money will be much better spent buying an Intel CPU”. Apparently people forget that water cooling a budget system can be more about learning than the benefit the custom loop will provide. I learned a ton water cooling mine and my wife’s systems, and that knowledge was poured into building a high-end system for a friend.

And more recently another person who asked about putting an AIO on an FX-8320 was basically given the treatment of “that money is better spent switching to Intel”, a response I called “more condescending than helpful” by comparing it to “pushing someone to buy a new car when all they need is to have their HVAC or cooling system repaired”. I guess everyone forgot that virtually every AIO on the market includes mounting hardware for both AMD and Intel sockets.

With any potential upgrade path, there is, obviously, going to be a ceiling — a point beyond which you won’t see any significant improvements to performance — and a point of diminishing returns, wherein the benefit starts to decline dramatically the higher up you go. And if what you’re attempting to run is very poorly implemented software, the point of diminishing returns is hit much, much sooner. As I said in the previous article, you’ll need significantly faster hardware to overcome poorly implemented software — something we are seeing with DirectX 12 benchmarks.

When it comes to gaming performance, the important question is actually the frame rate versus your monitor’s refresh rate. If you have a 60Hz monitor (or television) and your frame rates are consistently over 60 frames per second for what you currently play, it’s pointless to upgrade because you won’t actually see the performance improvement. Go too high on the frame rate and you’ll start to observe a phenomenon called “tearing“.

Gaming performance, and improvements thereto, is also not a straightforward topic to address because the CPU and graphics systems work in tandem. Improving either will improve your gaming performance. If you have an SLI or Crossfire capable graphics card, you will see performance improvements by going from one card to two, even if you’re running an FX processor.

Instead, again, what to look for is idle time, as that points out inefficiencies depending on your expectations for the system. For example if you’re running a program that is very CPU intensive but not very GPU intensive, then you’d be focusing only on the CPU. If you’re running a program that is heavily GPU intensive, such as a game or 3D modeler, you’d look at both, but the GPU would be more important, and you’d likely want to see GPU usage higher than CPU usage depending on what you’re doing — I realize there are applications that will tax both the CPU and GPU to pretty significant degrees.

In the X2 graphics host, I would expect CPU usage to remain minimal because I don’t have any Berkeley CPU tasks running on that system, only OpenCL tasks. In a game, however, I would expect the graphics usage to be significantly higher than the CPU. I should not expect the CPU usage to ever max out.

This isn’t to say there is no benefit to upgrading. It just may not be nearly as pronounced as one might expect — unless it’s been at least 5 years since your last upgrade. In terms of gaming, I’ve posited before that there is no point to switching from an AMD FX processor to any Intel processor if your system is already delivering frame rates that exceed your monitor’s refresh rate for the games you play with all quality settings maxed out — or at quality settings with which you are satisfied.

In the case of the X2 graphics host, again, I’ve already demonstrated there won’t be any gains going with a faster processor or newer platform. For what it does, the X2 and single PCI-Express 1.0a lane suffice, and there actually will not be any gain going with a faster mainboard/processor combination.

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Beta Orionis – Part XXV

Build log:

How to begin on this…

Beta Orionis (β Ori.) was reduced to little more than parts due to the work on Desert Sapphire. The reason was to move β Ori. into a 4U rack chassis — specifically the Logisys 4802.

motherboard

power_cables

The intent was to externally water cool the system, much like I did with Desert Sapphire, but only without building a cabinet just for that purpose. Instead I would build a setup virtually identical to Colony West: rack mount the system and use custom rack panels to mount radiators, a pump and reservoir. With the temperatures I observed with Desert Sapphire and Colony West, I was eager to get that moving.

Only that project never really came to fruition the way I intended. I blame my wife. No, seriously. But let me explain.

Not long after Desert Sapphire was delivered, I ordered a 4U aluminum enclosure. The intent here was to create a rack mount radiator box. While I said the original intent was to mount the radiators on panels identical to how I built Colony West, I ultimately decided against that idea with the intent of some more experimentation. Building the cabinet in Desert Sapphire is what gave me that idea and I started brainstorming.

While I was in the middle of building that up, though, I decided against using the radiator box for β Ori. and instead decided to see how well it’d work as a proof of concept. If it worked, then I’d actually transition Colony West to use the radiator box instead of having the radiator panels. This would take the water cooling in the rack from two 3U panels with a 2U panel between (8U total for those bad at math) to a 4U enclosure, giving room for mounting another system (or two) into the rack.

So what, then, for B Ori.?

Back to the Zalman chassis

Way back in the early phases of this build log, I noted that I mounted the system into a mid-tower chassis: the Zalman Z12 Plus. The intent then was just to be temporary and open up the Corsair 750D for test fits on a new water cooling loop. This time, the move may be permanent.

One of the reasons for that move is the water-cooling grommets on the back of the chassis. While these are intended for tubing to pass through, I discovered that the holes into which the grommets were set are just large enough for an AlphaCool bulkhead fitting. It’s almost like they planned them that way. Initially the 4U chassis was to be modified to mount pass-through fittings on the back panel and everything tubed up doing that. For the Zalman chassis, I was prepared to buy another set of Koolance QD3s to ensure that quick disconnects could still be used while having the tubing pass-through the grommets rather than removing them. But this made that unnecessary, and I could carry on as initially planned.

On the inside, that meant the tubing could run to Swiftech compression fittings in the way I initially intended for the 4U chassis. The tubing is Tygon clear 3/8″x1/2″.

zalman_bulkheads

zalman_tubed

So if the pump, reservoir, and radiators aren’t going inside the chassis — since there’s absolutely no room for it, even if I wasn’t using full-length graphics cards — how will this system be cooled? Well, externally as originally intended. Only somewhat different.

Radiator box

What initially got me interested in externally water-cooling a system is this video:

Full disclosure: I am a contributor to Singularity Computers via their Patreon.

While Danger Den went out of business in late 2012 (though their website is still active, for some reason, and they’ve also posted to their Facebook), the idea of doing something like this had not left me. Note that the video above was published in July 2011, but I didn’t see it until last year, if I remember correctly. Then came AntVenom’s video that I’ve mentioned a few times as well:

This is what really got me interested in the idea, though being in an apartment meant I couldn’t mimic his setup. But the idea of taking the bulk of a system’s heat out of the system via a coolant line to dissipate it through external radiators stuck with me. If you’re subscribed to Linus Tech Tips on YouTube, you might also know of their whole-room water-cooling project, which works on a similar concept.

I wanted to do something similar to the Danger Den radiator box. I wanted an external solution but I didn’t want to go rack mount. That is why I ultimately moved the system back into the Zalman chassis. I knew it had water-cooling grommets on the back and where they were, so I knew it would be a lot more conducive to such a project without having to drill holes or buy/use anything else. But then came the question of what to build and how.

The major problem here is that, with Danger Den out of business, it seemed no one was selling anything similar. Koolance has a fully-enclosed external solution, but it’s over 980 USD for the option with an aluminum radiator, over 1100 USD for the option with a copper radiator. Phobya makes a radiator box similar to Danger Den, but it’s not quite what I’m looking for. With the Danger Den radiator box, everything could be self-contained within the box. The Phobya radiator box is too thin to allow for that.

Off the shelf, kind of

I opted against just buying an aluminum box and using hole saws, jig saws, or what have you to build something, as I wanted to do as little modification and tooling as possible. Designing something in Protocase’s designer software for a quote led to a cost higher than I wanted to spend. So to land somewhere in between, I needed to go with something off the shelf, or about as off-the-shelf as I could get.

The closest I came to finding something similar was Mountain Mods and their “water barrel” products. While I didn’t want something near what those could provide — I’m not going to use eight (8) triple-120mm or seven (7) quad-120mm radiators — it gave me an idea.

I’ve written all about it here: Radiator Box. Temperature results are also in that article, but I’ll relay them here again. How long until Mountain Mods starts distributing one of their own?

For the CPU testing I ran AIDA64 until the CPU temperatures leveled out. With the GPU testing, I ran Heaven Benchmark until the GPU temperatures leveled out. The CPU temperatures aren’t spectacular, but given the FX-8350 is a 125W processor, I can’t really have high expectations for it — perhaps the temperatures would be better with an FX-8320E. But the GPU temperatures are phenomenal.

aida64

heaven

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Radiator box

I’ve demonstrated in two projects how you can build an external water cooling solution, first with a cabinet with mounted radiators, and second with radiator panels. Time to show something a bit simpler.

Mountain Mods is a custom case and modding company based in Eugene, Oregon. I’ve gone to them before for some of their custom parts. They have a wide variety of custom chassis as well, which can be customized in multiple ways. And if you buy a custom chassis and decide to change something about it later, you can buy the panels individually to change it up however you want.

They also offer two products called “water barrels“: the Water Barrel 18, and Water Barrel 24. They are built to hold a massive amount of radiator capacity. The former is built for up to eight (8) triple-120mm radiators (24x120mm of radiator capacity), while the latter is built for up to seven (7) quad-120mm radiators (28x120mm of radiator capacity). Currently they don’t make one for 140mm radiators, likely due to inconsistencies in fan spacing on some models.

They also sell pedestals. They are 18″ wide and either 18″ or 24″ long, and 9″ tall. They also have “tower pedestals”, which are 9″x9″ and either 18″ or 24″ long. For this project, I selected the 18″x18″ pedestal. To hold the radiators, I selected a “Triple 360” panel. This panel isn’t (as of when I write this) available as an option for the 18×18 Hyper Modular panels. So I wrote in and they said to order the “Big Window” option and mention in the order comments that I want the “Triple 360”.

PEDESTAL

These two options will come to about 205 USD plus shipping, but it’ll give you almost everything you need for the radiator box. All that’s left is just some mods and the components that’ll be going into it.

If you want to use quad-120mm radiators, you will be building an 18″x24″ radiator box. For that, you’ll want the 18″x24″ pedestal option and the “Triple Quad” panel, which can be ordered without having to make a special request. Perhaps I’ll show that in a different project. Everything else will be the same.

In its default configuration, shown above, this pedestal comes with two triple-120mm side panels opposite each other (quad-120mm side panels with the 24″ long pedestal”). This is a perfect setup for creating airflow across the chassis.

Before getting into that, let’s talk about the rest of what was involved here. I’ll go over the hardware I used in this and why I selected those parts. Your selections may vary. Full parts list will be at the bottom.

Water cooling hardware

Radiators: I went with XS-PC EX360 radiators. I already had two of them, pulled from the rack water cooling setup I had previously. These radiators are one of the least expensive triple-120mm radiators available and are a great value. While they don’t perform nearly as well as Hardware Labs and AlphaCool radiators, don’t overlook them if you’re wanting to save some money. They typically go for 60 USD each, which is a great price for a triple-120mm radiator.

Radiator fans: I selected Cougar CF-V12HB fans for the radiators. They’re relatively quiet, virtually silent when undervolted, and inexpensive. They also compare well with Noctua fans in that they’re focus flow with about the same static pressure while costing less. Nine of them went into this build.

Case fans: Along with the radiator fans, I had three (3) Bitfenix Spectre Pro 120mm fans for airflow. Why only three? I’ll get to that in a little bit.

Pump/reservoir: I initially decided on a pump/reservoir combination for this: the PrimoChill CTR Phase 2, D5 enabled. And for the pump I went with the Koolance PMP-450S, which is a re-branded D5T Strong pump. But I couldn’t really mount this in any acceptable fashion, and the result was a persistent rattle that I couldn’t get rid of. So in the end I went with a separate reservoir, the Phobya Balance 150, and had the pump in an AlphaCool HF D5 pump top.

Accessorizing!

Okay so now that we’ve got those basics out of the way, let’s talk accessories!

Fittings: 90-degree fittings are necessary for connecting the radiators together. With the XS-PC radiators, I needed to use SLI fittings to connect them together due to how close the inlets and outlets are to the adjacent radiators. Even if the inlets and outlets were further apart, telescopic/SLI fittings are still a good, inexpensive option for this.

Tubing: The tubing is Tygon 3/8″x1/2″ flexible tubing. This means that I also used compression fittings, specifically Swiftech compression fittings. If you’re really up for it, you could use rigid tubing, but it’s gonna take some work if you want it to look good.

Bulkhead fittings: Because of supplier availability, I used EK bulkhead fittings on the radiator box and AlphaCool bulkhead fittings on the computer chassis. JayzTwoCents recently did a video where he discusses bulkhead fittings:

Quick Disconnects: In my opinion, there is really only one brand for this: Koolance. Specifically I used the QD3-MSG4 male fittings on the computer chassis, and QD3-FS10X13 female fittings for connecting to the tubing.

I need more power!

With all these fans comes a need to power everything. For the fans, I went with an NZXT Grid (not the Grid+ or Grid+ V2). It has ten (10) 3-pin connections and supports up to 30W (about 2.5A current at 12V). I used Phobya 3-way 3-pin fan splitters for each group of 3 fans, then plugged each of the splitters into the Grid.

It also allowed me to set up the fans to be undervolted down to ~9V using a Drok LM2596 step down voltage regulator, making all the fans virtually inaudible while not sacrificing temperatures due to the radiator capacity. Additionally I used a Drok 090030 voltage boost adapter to get above 12V for the pump. How high did I take it? I’ll cover that detail later.

Figuring out how to power this whole thing was interesting, to say the least. I went with a 5A OKGEAR power brick with a 4-pin Molex connector. There are other options available, but this seemed the most convenient for the power requirements.

For the “on-off”, I am using a vandal-resistant switch from the EAO series 82, which is also rated at 5A. And to connect that switch up to the power brick, I’m using a switch adapter cable from Performance-PCs. If you use that combination, here’s how to wire it up since I’ve never received a wiring diagram with mine. Luckily I had a multimeter I could use to figure it out.

  • cable marked + goes to NO or NC
  • cable marked – goes to the – pin for the button’s LED
  • one of the unmarked cables goes to the common (C) pin, and the other goes to the + pin for the LED.

Verify this with a multimeter before connecting everything just to be sure.

* * * * *

Building the chassis

Assembling the frame is pretty straightforward. I left the side panels off initially. And there’s one thing to point out about the supports: I didn’t install them in the same way shown on the product page (picture above), but instead like this:

frame

If installed like shown on the product page, it’ll interfere with the radiators and make it impossible to install the radiator panel.

Push or pull comes down to personal preference. There’s not much difference between either, especially when you’re talking low FPI radiators like the XS-PC EX360. I chose push for this build since the fans are focus flow. Initially I went without fan filters as well because I was considering several options, and as of the time I published this, I still haven’t installed any.

fans_push

The radiators are also set to be aligned horizontal instead of vertical. This will make things a lot easier to bleed since the pump isn’t having to fight gravity to nearly the same degree, and it’ll give all the air a place to go. This means the flow through the radiators is moving from the lowest radiator to the top radiator back to the reservoir.

The fittings on the radiators will also be toward the back. Unfortunately there isn’t enough room to have case fans in the front and back, only the front or back depending on how the radiators are oriented. The front fans are more for ensuring the hot air from the radiators goes somewhere somewhat efficiently and aren’t necessary for cooling.

Here’s also where I really needed to focus on cable management. I actually made a couple passes at this, mainly because initially I wanted to cable manage the fans without having to buy anything else. Unfortunately it didn’t happen and I ended up ordering the Phobya 3-way 3-pin fan splitters I mentioned earlier.

And I believe I’ve found the best way to manage the fan cables to keep them out of the way. I lined up the power connectors on three fans and tied that with a zip tie. Then I went up the line and zip-tied the cables together until I had a small bundle I could tuck between the radiators.

cables1

cables2

cables3

The 3-way splitters connected to the fans basically made it so it was one cable coming from each radiator. And as the cables for the fans were tucked between the radiators, they’re completely out of the way of any airflow and virtually out of sight.

Since the reservoir is bottom-fill, I needed to mount the reservoir on the top-most radiator to ensure the shortest run between the radiator and reservoir. I mounted the pump to the lowest radiator on a UN Z2 bracket with 00 (that’s double-ought) rubber washers for vibration isolation. I’ve used this isolation technique before with D5 pumps and it works very well.

pump

The panel that would be the back panel were the only mods this chassis needed. Specifically I needed to drill two holes, 13/16″ diameter, to accommodate the bulkhead fittings. I also needed another 7/8″ hole to accommodate the vandal switch, along with a 40mmx23mm rectangular hole to accommodate a panel-mount AC power extension cable I was able to order from NCASE for about 10 USD (on their accessories category, select Power Cable and either “Left Angle or Right Angle”).

Now unfortunately the female connector on this cable is just a hair too short to remain firmly seated in the power brick I used, so I ended up having to also add a 12″ Tripp-Lite C13 to C14 extension cable.

Tubing routing and power

I would say the optimal flow direction would be from the pump to the outlet so the pump pushes the coolant to your system. On the return from the system, it should go into the bottom radiator (I have the radiators horizontal as mentioned earlier), and out the top radiator back to the reservoir.

Since I’m using an AC to 4-pin Molex power brick, I used a 4-pin Molex Y-splitter to push power to the voltage regulators, then from those to the pump and fans. Basically just snip each branch of the splitter somewhere in the middle, then strip the ends and attach to the regulators. Use a tool to remove the 5V connectors and its corresponding ground.

The regulators are attached to the side panel via 3M VHB double-sided tape. As the voltage converters have heatsinks over their regulators, I wanted these to be positioned so they’ll get airflow from the radiators. Plus it ensures the potentiometers on the regulators are easily accessible (requires a small flat-head screwdriver).

regulators

The AC power brick is also taped to the side panel with 3M VHB double-sided tape. Not because I needed airflow on it, but just so it’ll be out of the way.

Noise and Performance

The anti-vibration setup keeps the pump relatively silent despite being run at greater than 12V. The fans are barely audible sitting mere feet from the unit. The pump, I’m sure, is the only source of noise with this unit. And I don’t think there’s really anything I could’ve done differently to dampen the noise on this, and I don’t think there’s anything more I can do either, at least not without going outside the bounds of reason.

The system to which this was initially connected has these specifications:

  • CPU: AMD FX-8350 at 4.0GHz with EK Supremacy EVO block
  • Graphics cards: PNY GTX 770 4GB OC (x2 in SLI) with Watercool Heatkiller GTX 680 blocks
  • Memory: 16GB DDR3-1600
  • Mainboard: ASRock 990FX Extreme6
  • Power supply: EVGA 1050 GS
  • Storage: Samsung 850 EVO 500 GB M.2
  • Case: Zalman Z12 Plus

For initial testing, I used just plain distilled water to run the test. The pump was set to run at 17V and the fans were at 9V. I ran the System Stability Test in AIDA64 Extreme 5.70.3800 until the CPU temperature leveled out (about 15 minutes):

aida64

For the GPU test, I ran Heaven Benchmark with everything maxed out until the temperatures on the GPUs leveled out.

heaven

For the hell of it, I decided to take the cooling passive, just to see how well it’d work — plus I wanted to confirm that the pump was the source of noise in this setup.

Let’s just say that it’s not a good idea to leave this like that for long. After just one pass through of Heaven Benchmark’s scenes, the graphics cards topped out at 53C. I didn’t even try a CPU test. Plus the tubing, fittings, and radiators became noticeably warm to the touch.

* * * * *

Parts list:

Chassis: Mountain-Mods Pedestal with 18×18 “Triple 360” HyperModular side panel
Radiators: XS-PC EX360 (x 3)
Fans: Cougar CF-V12HB (x 9)
Bitfenix Spectre Pro 120mm (x 3)
Pump: Koolance PMP-450S, AlphaCool HF D5 clear acrylic top
Fittings: EK 90-degree rotary fittings (x 6)
EK 45-degree rotary fitting (x 1)
Swiftech 3/8″x1/2″ compression fittings (x 8)
Swiftech 20mm to 33mm SLI fittings (x 2)
Tubing: Tygon 3/8″x1/2″
Power: OKGEAR PA-AD-UL-12V5A
4-pin Molex Y-split
Phobya 3-pin to 3×3-pin fan splitter
EAO series 82 vandal-resistant switch
Performance-PCs pre-wired vandal switch cable assembly (with spades)
NZXT Grid
Voltage regulators: Drok LM2596 voltage step-down
Drok 090030 voltage step-up

box_and_tower

switch2

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Campus carry and academic discourse

If there is one area where I can give anti-gun advocates credit, it’s their ingenuity in devising arguments to use against the expanded recognition of firearm rights. One aspect of that expansion is “campus carry” — laws allowing those who possess a valid concealed carry permit to carry their firearms onto college and university campuses. A lot of people are skeptical of these laws for much the same reason they’re skeptical of concealed and open carry period. Not much new has been said against these laws.

And then there’s Sonja West over at Slate:

The debate over these laws typically centers on whether guns make schools more or less safe. But those arguments overlook the real threat of campus carry laws: the evisceration of academic freedom.

If you’re wondering what this means, let her next statement provide the clarification (emphasis mine):

For colleges and universities to be effective, educators must be free to teach and discuss ideas—even controversial or unpopular ones—without fear of government censorship or retribution.

Yes, retribution. Basically Ms West seems to be expressing a concern here that students will use their firearms as a show of force to push curricula decisions and academic discussions a particular direction:

Guns on campus might not, at first blush, appear related to a school’s academic mission. Yet they are integrally connected. University administrators and faculty members have argued that guns would discourage the teaching of sensitive issues and possibly lead to certain topics being dropped from the curriculum altogether. Students and faculty also might be chilled from expressing potentially controversial ideas and arguments, which is in direct conflict with higher education’s tradition of uninhibited academic debate.

If only there actually was uninhibited academic debate on college campuses. The erosion of academic discourse has already been occurring absent firearms on campus. And it’s been occurring for quite a while, but has only recently become more acute due to some high profile incidents when “social justice warriors” have been shaping and warping policies and discourse on college and university campuses.

For example, at the University of Missouri, recently-dismissed assistant professor Melissa Click is on video doing just that during a campus protest under the label “Concerned Student 1950”. After telling a student journalist they needed to leave a particular area of the university campus, which is public property, Click said: “Hey I need some muscle over here. Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here?” Those actions cost Click her job as well as subjected her to misdemeanor assault charges. Would a firearm have made that protest more volatile? Actually it would’ve given the student journalist an edge to protect his rights, even though the attempt would have been feeble if the mob was courageous enough.

And then there is the case of another student journalist on the Missouri campus during the same protest:

The crowd decided to basically plow over a student journalist trying to document what was going on. And somehow Ms West thinks firearms on campus will deter the discussion of controversial topics? There already has been a chilling effect on college campuses. The question is whether West can see it, or whether she is blind to it simply for being ideologically aligned with it.

Another great example occurred at Yale, as documented in another article on Slate by Katy Waldman:

“It is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students that live in Silliman … Do you understand that?” one student shouts at Master Nicholas Christakis, after yelling at him to “be quiet” when he tries to speak. “Why the fuck did you accept the position? Who the fuck hired you?” When Christakis begins to argue, she interrupts: “Then step down! If that is what you think about being a Master, then you should step down. It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here! You are not doing that. You’re going against that.”

Later revealed is that the student who is shouting this was on the committee that hired Dr Christakis, and that she also comes from a very privileged background.

So will firearms on campuses only make campus tensions worse? I’m doubtful on that mark for several reasons, starting with the fact that those students who would be legally able to carry firearms will be in an overwhelming minority purely due to age limits.

For long guns you must be 18 to purchase and possess, but you really don’t have to worry about students carrying those around campus. No, seriously, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s completely impractical to carry a long gun around with you all day purely due to the weight of the firearm and the ammunition. And with pistols, the age of ownership is 21. And getting a concealed carry permit isn’t something most college students can afford.

So campus carry laws would be permissive to only a small minority of students called the “non-trads” — non-traditional students — and some juniors and seniors, along with those who are in the military reserves, provided all of the above have a concealed carry permit.

Further, the only students who would be able to carry concealed on campus would be those not living in campus residence halls. There is no indication that these laws would extend to requiring allowing students to keep firearms in on-campus residence halls. And even if they did, it’d still be only a minority of students able to do that.

Beyond that, though, the threat to discourse and free speech on campus won’t come from conservatives. I mean if you think that creationist students in a biology course are going to show up packing pistols to push biology professors to teach creationism, you’re worries are severely overblown. Indeed if firearms will do anything with regard to free speech on campus, it’ll open it up by giving students who would otherwise be suppressed a means of defending their own rights or assisting in the defense of others’ rights, especially against mobs who would seek to dissuade dissenters from speaking up.

Plus if a student really wanted to use a firearm on campus to effect a curricular change, there isn’t much stopping them currently. In fact it’s in response to students using firearms on campus — such as at the University of Virginia — that legislatures are considering allowing other students to carry as a means of providing an immediate response.

Threats to discourse and free speech already are, and have for a while been coming from neo-liberals, the regressive left, and social justice warriors. Some rather potent examples of recent attempts to shut down free speech on campus have already been presented above, and there’s plenty more where that came from. Those who want to play identity politics have already taken over, and free speech on university campuses has suffered for it, including at the campus where the 1960s Free Speech Movement began: UC Berkeley.

If firearms on campus will do anything, it’ll seek to preserve what discourse remains by defending those who wish to speak, regardless of their political persuasion, while also giving students a means of responding immediately should another situation like UVA erupt.

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