Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Guns and You

  • It's actually impossible to learn anything about the effectiveness of gun control in the US. Everybody is so full of hyperbole and whatever that logic error where you jump from one easily proved conclusion to some other, much more squirrely, conclusion is just maddening. It's a world of confirmation bias out there and it makes it hard for this INTJ to think.
  • Here's Warren Ellis on gun control. The essay starts out somewhat reasonably but then devolves into hyperbole without really any reasoning. The fact is that it is exceedingly unlikely that any individual person will be killed by any guns anywhere in the United States. But, like being killed in an airplane, or eaten by sharks, we over-focus on "massacres" when in fact your kid is much more likely to be killed (if it's by a gun) on their way to school during a single homicide. Or, as they say, a Colombine happens every day in America. It just, er, happens as "gang-related" violence. (Go ahead, read that the way it's intended. "Gang-related" = what now? You go ahead and think about what that might be code for.)
  • Do you like fun facts? Nobody is allowed to use government money to study gun violence.  This generally helps explain the levels of malarky in the gun control debate. Nobody has any real facts. See point number one.

So here are some fun things. Did you know* that most people think that fully automatic weapons are used in most shootings? Yes. It's because the press and media do such a crap job of explaining anything and love to refer to "automatic weapons" all the time.** This confuses people into thinking of them as fully automatic weapons.
For all practical purposes fully automatic weapons are illegal in the US. Nobody has them. And they're not used in crimes. They just aren't.
And there's no practical difference between an "assault weapon" and a "hunting rifle". In military terms an assault weapon has selectable rates of fire. But none of the guns used in any of the recent murders were fully-automatic. As far as I can tell, an "assault weapon" is one with a pistol grip and maybe painted black rather than having a walnut stock.

So what is my conclusion with all this? That we cannot use emotions or whatever the most recent tragedy was to inform our decisions. If we want to cut down the murder rate we can't retreat into our own confirmation bias (whether that's the "give every schoolchild a gun!" or "take away all the black guns!")

Unfortunately, and this is the gun lobby's fault, we cannot get any real information in order to make rational decisions.



*This is the result of an incredibly scientific survey I did of my dad.
**Do not get the impression that this is the "liberal media's" bias. They don't explain anything well. Just think of something you know quite a bit about or are an expert in. Now think of how the media bungles it every time they mention it. See? It's just them being stupid, not them being ideological.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Zero Dark Malarky

I'm suddenly less interested in seeing Zero Dark Thirty knowing that (for dramatic reasons) it decided to be a propaganda mouthpiece for the pro-torture front.
"A Senate committee last week approved a report that concluded that water-boarding and other brutal CIA interrogation methods did not produce meaningful results."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Walking the Walk

Hey, do you remember how the Fast and Furious program of the ATF let firearms "walk"?
Would I surprise you if I told you it didn't happen?
The way it was advertised to me was that the ATF was actually buying these weapons. They weren't and they didn't.
No, instead what actually happened was that no prosecutors would touch the cases they were looking at where people were buying guns in Arizona and then selling them to Mexican drug cartels.
Guns were bought and walked by ATF agents acting almost entirely on their own. These were the agents who were later held up as heroes by Issa for being against gun walking.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Left to Work

You know, and this is going to sound strange coming from a guy who organized the largest theatrical shop in New York City (outside of the Metropolitan Opera) for a labor union, I'm actually fairly sympathetic to right-to-work.
Now, many people don't know what "right-to-work" actually means. If you ask a labor person they'll say "right to work for less", and if you ask an anti-labor person they'll just start ranting about socialism or some such.
Right to work means that there is a law in the state which says that the employer may not require you to join a labor union in order to be employed. It does not (and cannot) mean that you may not join a union (you have the right to collectively bargain in most industries as a matter of federal law, the states cannot void that.)
Note that I say the employer does not have the ability to force you to join a union. Most of the time people talk about this they say the union makes you join. You don't work for the union. You work for an employer. It's the employer which forces you to join*.
Union folks can get irritated that they organize a shop, they establish working conditions with an employer, and then some employees decide not to join the union, getting essentially a "free ride" off of the union.
That's true. And I say get over it. Make your union so awesome that people are willing to pay dues to be a member. If you can't do that, you don't deserve to be a union.
On the other hand it does indeed seem to be true that non right-to-work states have better wages. Whether that's a cause or effect of the states' not having anti-labor laws I don't know.
I suspect we're about to find out.

*You actually cannot be compelled to join a union. You can be forced to pay union dues but you can always be "core status" which means you pay the union for its collective bargaining but not any of its political activities.