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.