Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book 'Em

Look. As a white, middle-class guy in America I'm pretty much at the higest bar of someone you can offend. I mean, if you've managed to offend me then it's pretty bad.
And Lonegan has managed to do exactly that.
I mean seriously. Are your tops aids attacking Cory Booker because he might be gay? Are you in the sixth grade? Do you want me to select my Senator based on what are essentially YouTube comments?
Am I supposed to be so stupid, obnoxious, and ignorant, that I would vote against Cory Booker because he wasn't a 100% sleeze bag to a woman in Oregon? I mean, is that really the demographic you're going for?

Because I'm not in that demo.
I mean look. Maybe I'm not perfect. Maybe I exude subtle bias all the time. Maybe I let my latent prejudices influence my decisions. But let's get one thing absolutely clear here: I'm not going to vote for your candidate because you think the other guy is "gay".
In fact, I'd go so far as to just say that I'm going to vote for Booker for one main reason:
1. He steadfastly refuses to say whether he's gay or straight.
As a firm supporter of gay rights he's gone and taken the stand that it's none of your damn business* whether he's gay or straight. And it's not. So hurrah for him and phthth to you.

*My words, not his.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Obama, Right Again

So, it's kind of strange to have a President with whom I can't even say "I agree with him on these issues and disagree on those issues" because he seems to be right almost 100% of the time.
Indeed I can only think of one thing where I disagreed with Obama and it still seems that I'm right, and that's the issue of banning "assault weapons".* And Obama seems to have dropped it.
Smartypants on Syria:
In a resolution to the issue of WMD, this new approach demonstrates how wrong the neocons have been that we have to invade other countries to engage productively. It also proves the President's cynical critics on the left wrong in suggesting that he is just another tool of the neocons. In the end, it is the blindness of those on the right who call this President "weak" and those on the left who suggest that he's just another "warmonger" that has been revealed.
Look, when the dude starts to be consistently wrong about something, I'll be more than happy to hit you up. But until then we can use the simple heuristic rule that if you disagree with Obama, you're wrong.

*Long version short: "assault weapons" although used in a few high-profile mass shootings, actually account for a miniscule number of deaths in the US. Now a ban on handguns... [Ha! Nobody in politics will seriously oppose handguns.] 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Smelly Noise

I do get tired of the noisome nonsense spewed about US foreign policy. Which is why it's so refreshing to read Smartypants on the Obama Administration's stance.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

No Such Amonition

Hey remember back in the olden days (two weeks ago) when the NSA was going right through back doors of big tech companies and pulling up their users' data directly without any warrants? And then remember when that wasn't true?

Good times.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Manufacturing Dissent

So. I'm getting a tad sick and tired of every single thing being a scandal of epic proportions. In fact, of late I've begun to use the heuristic analysis that if there's some big "scandal" in the Obama Administration it'll turn out to not actually be a scandal at all and will be so unimportant that whatever the next made-up scandal will just come and replace it in the news cycle.

Prism. I'm having a lot of trouble caring about Prism.  Supposedly the government is collecting my metadata. So what? Any random hacker gets all my metadata. In fact, any reasonably high level engineer at Google can take a look at everywhere I am and everywhere I've been. Why don't we care about that?

I do get the feeling we're being played by Glenn Greenwald. So far he, and his source, are controlling all the information we're getting about NSA wiretaps. And, like the AP case, there's evidence to support that some right-winger in government is "leaking" classified information solely for the purpose of hurting the Obama Administration and not in the public interest.

False Equivalence Highway
For the longest time people have asked "Why is there no Left in America?" I think the reason is because the American Left sucks. It's petulant, childish, and has the memory of a goldfish. The biggest sin the American Left commits is false equivalence. Remember when Gore was just as bad as Bush? No? I remember being told that over and over again and even members of the soft left were all like "Oh Bush won't be that bad, he's running as a moderate." And we know how that worked out.
So what have we got? Mother Jones:
Obama voted for the 2008 FISA amendments, a position that outraged liberals at the time. He continued the Bush-era surveillance of communications networks. He ramped up the war in Afghanistan. He vastly increased drone use overseas. He's declared a war on leakers. He participated in the assault on Libya. He's approved the assassination of American citizens abroad. His DOJ has aggressively made use of the state secrets privilege. He's fought relentlessly to block lawsuits challenging privacy violations and presidential abuses.
Hmm... what are they missing here? Wasn't there another war? Oh right, Iraq. No mention of Obama's record on Iraq. And the fact is that the Administration has drawn down the war in Afghanistan. Apparently "participated in the assault on Libya" is exactly as bad as the Second Gulf War. And Obama's repeated attempts to close down Guantanamo Bay over Republican obstruction are somehow irrelevant.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bury the Lede

I've been getting irritated with NPR lately. I mean their news. They seem very smug and self-congratulatory (maybe I shouldn't listen during pledge drives) but their actual news is like 1980's context-less news.
So a big deal is going on in national security news. And it doesn't require the pointy-head tin-foil hat crowd to pretend it's actually important.

Friday, April 5, 2013


I really like the Smartypants blog.  It's a good antidote to the whiny liberal left in America.

"For years now we've been hearing about how President Obama hasn't done enough to combat poverty. And yet here we have him proposing what might be one of the most effective anti-poverty initiatives in decades, and its being met with near total silence on the left."
The things which drives me nuts are the constant false-equivalents arguments. Remember how Bill Clinton was "just as bad" as the Republicans because of that milk-factory bombing? Yeah, then we got GW Bush and saw how bad things could really be. But those mistakes are all forgotten by now.
"Perhaps it has to do with some liberal's addiction to howling about the negative rather than pushing for the positive."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Because I find guns amusing

In the long run the NRA is simply the worst thing for gun owners ever. By taking as absurd an absolutist stance on every gun issue it becomes impossible to have a reasonable national conversation about weapons.
The result of this is that the anti-gun-crowd are constantly accused by the far out gun nuts of deliberately misunderstanding everything, while the nuts are out there in Statehouses heckling — freakin' heckling — parents who lost children at Newton.
So even where the bulk of gun-owners and non-owners agree (like on universal background checks) we still have to yell back and forth. This makes the anti-gun-crowd presume that the gun nuts will just say anything ("more guns in elementary schools!") and we can't come to a reasonable accomodation.

So even when we're talking about straight-up facts (assault weapons kill fewer people than hammers) it just sounds like a continuation of the gun nuts' crazytalk. So nobody will bother to listen.
And hey, when Biden tells people that the shotgun is the better home defense weapon and all the pro-gun people go nuts about it — the fact is that if some cop or former Navy Seal said the same thing you'd be all like "right, a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun is the way to go for home defense." But because Biden says it he must somehow inherently be wrong tactically.
Me? I want a State (state?) to say "Look, you need this kind of background check to purchase or transport this kind of weapon. These are the very specific and clear rules about how to transport said weapon(s). Here are the clear rules about how they must be stored and secured. We'll take your fingerprints and you'll sign here."
Then I know my Daewoo K11 is safe -- safe from the Law, safe from misuse, safe from some dang kid shooting himself with it.
Please, quit the noise and everybody get behind the common-sense notions that we all agree with anyway.
And please, for the love of all that's holy, let the CDC continue to research murder and violence.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Guns and Law

I really wish I could agree with Fareed Zakaria. I can't. He thinks that the "solution" to gun violence is "clear". And it's just not. Indeed, his argument is filled with the sorts of statistical issues and quasi nonsense at the heart of the arguments either wise on the issue of gun violence.
Here's a sample of the problematic argument:
In Australia, after a 1996 ban on all automatic and semiautomatic weapons — a real ban, not like the one we enacted in 1994 with 600-plus exceptions — gun-related homicides dropped 59 percent over the next decade. The rate of suicide by firearm plummeted 65 percent. (Almost 20,000 Americans die each year using guns to commit suicide — a method that is much more successful than other forms of suicide.)
Whoa whoa whoa. Slow down there, son. Let's parse this out.
First of all, for all practical purposes automatic weapons are banned in the United States. Yes, it is possible to get a permit for an automatic weapon. But there have been something on the order of two homicides by machine-gun since 1935. You have a much greater chance of being eaten by a shark while swimming in a lake in New Jersey than shot with a fully-automatic weapon. So let's eliminate full-auto weapons from the argument because for all intents and purposes they do not exist.

Gun-related homicides have dropped precipitously in the United States since 1996 also. And this is without any sort of "ban" (especially not the Australian ban).  Interestingly, gun nuts have made the opposite claim -- that gun violence in Australia has risen since the ban -- but that is also hogwash.
Are there Western societies which have massive numbers of assault weapons in homes? Yes, of course. So the fact is you can cherry-pick your data to show Western nations with lower levels of violence, where there aren't many guns. But you can also cherry-pick in the opposite direction. In either case, you're cherry picking your data. Just stop that.
Getting back to gun-violence solutions it's important to break down the effects into:
1. Homicides
2. Suicides
3. Accidents
And then it's a matter of looking at what kinds of guns cause these three things. And oh, look. What causes most deaths?
Well, I'll tell ya. It's not "assault rifles".
It's handguns.
Handguns are used in by far the majority of suicides (which outnumber homicides).
Handguns are used in by far the majority of homicides (versus long guns of any type).
[I don't know about accidents.]
Now, you might ask yourself (because I sure did), if handguns are involved in vastly more murders than rifles and "assault weapons", why isn't anyone trying to ban handguns? I mean seriously, there's nothing out there.
Assault weapons seem to be the choice in mass shootings. But mass shootings are rare. Very rare. Perhaps not quite as rare as being eaten by a shark in New Jersey, but you're certainly more likely to be killed with a hammer than an assault weapon.
Perhaps it's because assault weapons are more likely to kill white people, and that mass shootings frequently involve middle-class whites?
Or perhaps the zeitgeist of handguns for "personal protection" is so prevalent that even the most Liberal of congresspeople have given up on trying to ban them? I seriously have no idea.
Now, a universal background check on weapon sales -- that might actually mean something. Oddly, most people agree on the notion of having universal background checks. That doesn't mean they'll become law though. We shall see.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Iraq and You

Is this Iraq War apologia/apology week?
Ezra Klein on the war. (tl; dr he says he's sorry he supported it.)
I'm digging the political blog Smartypants. Why? Because I'm getting a bit tired of the false equivalence of Obama = Bush.
More about false equivalence drones.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

No October Surprise for Humphrey

You're asking yourself "Why isn't Anna Chennault in jail"?
Well, the Logan Act only provides for three years of hard time even if she were prosecuted.
About 30,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese died after she acted as an intermediary between Nixon and the South Vietnamese government, persuading the South Vietnamese to abandon the 1968 Paris peace talks in order to make sure Nixon would win the election.
Arguably the killing fields of Cambodia were an indirect result of her treason. So add a couple million lives to her tally.
She might not be going to jail, but she's certainly going to Hell.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Droning it In

I think that it's a big mistake for the VFW to get into a pissing match with the Pentagon about the new drone "Distinguished Warfare" medal.
“The VFW just adamantly believes that medals that can only be earned in combat must rank higher than new medals awarded in the rear.”
That is, of course, complete hogwash. The fact is that a Bronze Star, which ranks higher than a Purple Heart, can be awarded for completely non-combat acts.
And the notion of "combat" is entirely what the issue is here. The VFW (not exactly known for their progressive stance on... well... anything) is opposing the new medal because 1. women will get it and 2. they're kind of jerks about drone crews.

The VFW, of course, dislikes the Air Force. This is just some internecine nonsense and someone should just smack them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Notes About Guns


Although vastly more people are murdered, and murdered with guns, in the United States than in other equivalently wealthy countries, the murder rate is vastly outpaced by other ways to die. This doesn't mean we can't do anything about murder. We probably can. But what we can do might be counter-intuitive and we won't know until we can do more studies.

  • So-called "assault weapons" kill relatively few people in the United States. A reduction of legal magazine sizes might reduce the number of casualties in mass killings but will not affect the murder rate overall.

  • That being said, a handgun ban would be both constitutional and effective. 
  • Alternatively, or in addition to, a restriction on males under the age of 25 possessing a handgun, would also be effective.

It's my contention though that the Executive Order mandating that the CDC be able to do actual research into gun violence is the single most important thing we need.

From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the CDC conducted original, peer-reviewed research into gun violence, including questions such as whether people who had guns in their homes gained protection from the weapons. (The answer, researchers found, was no. Homes with guns had a nearly three times greater risk of homicide and a nearly five times greater risk of suicide than those without, according to a 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.)
But in 1996, the NRA, with the help of Congressional leaders, moved to suppress such information and to block future federal research into gun violence, [Dr. Mark Rosenberg, president of the Task Force for Global Health and director of the CDC's Center for Injury Prevention and Control from 1994 to 1999] said.

I can't say why the NRA is against research. I can guess, but I can't say for sure. I ain't got a lot of truck with those who are against research. I'm a big fan of research.

Ways to die.

Heart disease is the #1 killer in America. By an order of magnitude. Half a million people rather than about 30,000 from firearms (including suicides). Also more dangerous than firearms is cancer and automobiles.
The problem is with the way that people judge risk. We feel we're safer when we drive because we have some amount of control over driving. We feel either that we're less safe because of some crazed shooter, than by being killed in our automobile.
Or, conversely, we feel we're safer because we own a gun. That feels like we have some degree of control and we might fend off an attack. Statistically that's dead wrong, of course (see above).
We saw the same think occur after 9/11. More people were killed on roads due to the increased numbers of people driving, than died in terrorist attacks in the US. Still they felt they'd be safer driving. They weren't.

Do we need guns to protect ourselves from our own government?
It's an article of faith among the gunerencia that guns are the only thing standing between us and a tyrannical government. Now much of that is Turner Diaries racist fantasy. But let's take a look to see if there's any merit. And wish us luck because the data sets are so squirrely.
The first thing we can say is that we don't need firearms to affect a revolution in and of itself. There are plenty of examples of revolutions without civilian-owned firearms.
Tunisia has one of the lowest civilian ownership ratios of firearms in the world and they just threw out a dictator, sparking the Arab Spring.
The Velvet Revolution was bloodless.
And civilian ownership of assault rifles wouldn't have helped the Prague Spring as Brezhnev's tanks were ¡mostly¡ bullet-proof.
I'd go so far as to suggest that really to have a revolution 'gainst a tyrannous foe you're going to need the army on your side. If you've got a Seven Days in May situation you're really going to have to rely on the fact that the officer corps are simply not going to go along with it. Because if they do, I'm not so sure what a 30-round magazine of .223 ammo is going to accomplish.
All presently-legal firearms will have no effect against the combined might of the United States armed forces. I'm just going to go ahead and say that. You're going to need drones and stealth bombers. Or, like in actual revolutions you'll take to the street and the army will go along with you because your demands are just.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

You know how people love to make that "I'm completely neutral on gun control but I just wanted to tell you the facts" and then they're all up in one side or the other on gun control?

You're lookin' at the guy who is actually neutral on gun control. I'm just interested in the facts. And you know what? Facts are really hard to find.

Let's take a look, shall we?

Gun control. It's almost as easy to get facts on gun control effectiveness as it is to get facts on education.

About 13,000 people are murdered each year in the US. Mass murders are much more sensational and everyone wants to talk about them but they are statistically irrelevant.

As it turns out, assault rifles are used in a few hundred murders each year in the US. Perhaps under 200 murders (statistics are hard to come by).

Remember how 13,000 are murdered? A lot more people are killed by guns. That's right, a gun is more likely to be used in a suicide than a homicide. And, of course, a huge number more than that are people who are injured by guns.

Still, a relatively insignificant number of these crimes are done with any sort of long guns. These crimes are mostly done with handguns.

My conclusion here is that a ban on assault weapons is almost irrelevant to violent crime reduction. Such a ban might preclude some of the more emotionally affecting mass murders like Columbine or such. But as it is it may be that a simple reduction in maximum magazine size would do the same thing.

If you're opposed to gun control you're probably thinking to yourself "Oh, Drew gets it. He understands."

You couldn't be more wrong. Because here's the other side of that.

A ban on handguns might be vastly more meaningful. Or perhaps a ban on males under the age of 25 having in their possession any weapon. If you could actually enforce such a ban, it could be widely successful in reducing gun violence.

Now, actually making an enforceable ban, that actually works, is another issue entirely.

I'll go ahead and posit that there are three main arguments in the pro-gun camp.

  1. The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms so that we can overthrow a tyrannical government.
  2. I like shooting/hunting. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean I should have to stop.
  3. I have the right to self-defense.

So let's look at how a ban on handguns and no further restrictions on assault weapons* or other long guns would affect the above three points.

Second Amendment: A ban on handguns, or a ban on men under the age of 25 having guns, would not affect the first point. If (and that's a big "if") you need to have some sort of armed revolution against a tyrannical government (note that freakin' Algeria had revolution and they have almost no civilian-owned weapons) a handgun ban would be meaningless. So your right to bear arms is in-tact even if you can't own handguns.

Hunting and Shooting: I suppose that there are hunters who like handguns. Most hunters use long guns. And there are pistol target shooters. And a restriction on handguns and/or a restriction on the age of those who may possess such guns would interfere with their hunting and shooting handguns.

Self Defense: If you enjoy reading crazy people on the Internet, see what people have to say about the use of handguns for self-defense. The long and the short of it is that 1) a shotgun is better and 2) your "self defense" weapon is much more likely to be used to kill a family member.

Soon we will look at Executive Orders relating to gun violence and have a 2nd Amendment party.

*Don't argue with me about the term "assault weapon". We're using "assault-weapon ban" language, I'm perfectly cognizant that the differences between an "assault weapon" and other long semi-automatic guns is purely cosmetic.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Just the Worst

Kathryn Bigelow is just the worst.
My new theory is that she's actually too stupid to realize that the non-historical events she added to her movie make the movie justify torture. That's a real possibility.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Known Unknowns and Unknown Knowns

So. Bans on things. Like guns.
What works? What's up with that? What's the purpose? How can it be achieved? What other fallout is there?
Nobody really has any actual data. The Right has fantasies about guns in every hand preventing violence, the soft-Left/liberals have notions that banning certain kinds of guns would have some sort of effect on the murder rate.
Why does my man card need to be reissued? Did it expire? 
The NRA is basically the soft-hearted liberals fantasy of a gun's rights organization. I mean, they're nuts. But in my opinion the biggest damage they've done is to prevent any research at the Federal level on gun violence. Which is why nobody can get any real numbers. About anything.
And that may indeed change.
If it does we might discover some unfortunate things. Like that black assault-y-looking guns actually do attract people who want to shoot up a school. Or that stop-and-frisk saves lives. Or that neither do. Or that one or the other. Or something else.
But until we're allowed to have some non-nonsense analysis it's very hard to tell what will work.
In the meantime the NRA likes to pretend it does a great job for gun rights. Right now it's doing a great job at frightening moderates. And that's not good for gun rights.
For the longest time the NRA blamed "diversity" in American society for the outsized amount of violence in the US compared to other similar countries. In Bowling For Columbine Charlton Heston even starts to say that, and then he makes a face and corrects himself. Luckily for us even he realized what kind of dopiness that was.
The comparison between the US and Canada is very interesting. Just as Michael Moore began exploring that comparison he bailed out. It was a very interesting disconnect in the movie. Why does Canada have so many fewer murders per capita?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Guns and Money

So, apparently money does buy happiness. Unfortunately it's on a log scale.
Do you like things which are difficult to parse? Try this Washington Post table on gun violence. The column that's obviously missing is the total homicides per capita. Plus, to my eye (which does not automatically apply any sort of standard deviation analysis) there's no correlation that can be drawn. The numbers are just all over the place.
Why O! Why can't we get real statistics with, you know, actual analysis?
(Also, is Puerto Rico in the United States or not?)
Here, then, is a squirrel.