Archive for December, 2012

How’s that again?

“Washington’s ideological blinders too often prevent anything approaching a rational discussion of issues. The battle lines are drawn and most everybody assumes without thinking that any suggestion emanating from “enemy” lines must be dangerous, wrong or even crazy.”

David Keene points out that Armed security is common sense but notes a comparison and contrast.

“In response to Columbine, then-President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress enacted a program called Cops in Schools. Today, 23,000 public and private U.S. schools provide armed security for our children. Yet when National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre suggested that armed security officers in our nation’s schools would help prevent the next Newtown, he was greeted immediately and unthinkingly with derision and hostility.”

It certainly does not seem that things like consistency and integrity are much on the minds of some folks. Perhaps they really don’t know what it is that irks them?

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Extrapolation, reduce the absurd – but what if it has already happened?

“Because thoughtless Americans do not discern the commonality of interest — because they have been conditioned to never think in terms of concepts. They have been reduced to a state of bipedal animalism — because they have lost (or never developed) the distinctly human capacity to focus on principles rather than particulars. This, in turn, makes it easy to convince them that a given particular, invariably something of no great interest to them (such as a gun), is “bad” — based on childish arguments that would be washed away in an instant if their brains operated on the conceptual rather than the animal level.”

“The only thing preventing the wholesale banning of literally everything (because almost anything could, in the hands of a malignant person, be used to cause harm) is the subjective feelings of the majority — or rather, whomever controls the levers of organized force and can plausibly claim to be acting in the name of the majority.

The concept of rights disappears as the concept of principles slips beneath the waves. Human existence devolves into a high school popularity contest — with all the nasty outcomes of such a contest.”

The car guy at The American Spectator extrapolates from the current gun control brouhaha (it isn’t a debate, really) and then notes that some of the absurd extrapolation has already happened or is in the sights of ‘activists.’

Walter Russell Mead gets into the same core issue in his look at the fourth day of Christmas, Holy Innocents’ Day, and considers concepts of Christianity and the question of why God let’s bad things happen. See Yule Blog 2012-13: The Hinge of Fate. On Christianity:

“Compared to other world religions, Christianity is much less wedded to a set of cultural practices or ritual observances defined by its holy books; the “imitation of Christ” has almost always been understood as an imitation of his moral qualities rather than as a call to eat what he ate or wear what he wore.”

The Holy Innocents were the infants slaughtered by King Herod when hearing that a new King was born.

“The holiday isn’t just about a red-nosed reindeer’s quest for social acceptance; it is about streets red with the blood of slaughtered innocents while the Holy Family flees into exile.” …

“What kind of a God would get his own kid out of harm’s way while leaving so many other children so exposed? … On reflection, that turns out to be a new and very sharp way of asking one of the most basic questions that people quite justifiably ask about God: what kind of God could allow such evil and catastrophic things to happen? Why are innocents slaughtered and oppressed anywhere? If God is so powerful and he loves us so much, why are the historical records, and our daily newspapers, so full of violence, evil and oppression?” …

“God is serious. When he made us, he meant it. We are real, and what we do counts. He has given us the freedom to be co-creators with him of the world we live in. But having given us real freedom, he and we are stuck with the consequences. “

We have rights and with those we also have responsibilities. The focus in many of today’s political issues is on the trivial, the concrete, the easily visible. It is not on the rights, responsibilities, and concepts such as the nature of evil and the role of the individual.

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Dueling data? What to make of conflicting measures

Both sides of the gun control debate are throwing studies that purport to show the validity of their position. David Sherfinski takes note of how Dueling data on gun crimes put new laws in crossfire at the Washington Times.

“gun-control advocates point to figures that seem to show a correlation between stricter laws and lower crime and homicide rates. Pro-gun groups, though, say the data show just the opposite — that violence and crime drops where concealed-carry laws are allowed.

The press and the public are caught in the middle, searching for concrete conclusions that are tough to come by.”

This, like climate, is tough to measure because there are so many variables to influence outcomes and they cannot be isolated in such a way as to get an independent measure of each variable. For instance, the ban on assault rifles was based on a firearm having two or more characteristics defined in a list. Most of the characteristics in the list were cosmetic and none had an established link to gun violence. Then, when statistics are cited, the trend is to use overall rates of selected crimes rather than those that can be traced to assault rifles much less to one of the characteristics listed as belonging to an assault rifle.

Traffic crash causes provide another example. The appealing adage is “speed kills” as an appeal to obey posted speed limits. The problem is that the studies of automobile crash statistics indicates that driving over posted speed is very seldom cited as a contributing factor.

There is also the problem of diverting the issue. Gun control issues involve much more than just an attempt to prevent their use in horrific crimes. It also involves matters such as self defense and property rights. An honest debate is going to be weighing these issues as well as making proper use of measures rather than culling them to pick and choose what is convenient for one point of view or other.

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25 questions: Gingrich on the election lessons

Newt Gingrich sends his regards to Reince Priebus, Chairman of the RNC in response to a request to present an analysis of the current challenges Republicans face. The professor shows his trade. The paper is a good rundown on the differences between the parties in the run-up to the election.

Anyone interested in organization development, whether political or otherwise, could use Gingrich’s analysis as a topic and discussion stimulus as many issues are described to stimulate thought.

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When it stimulates introspection: a standard for crisis reaction

“I’ll know when we’ve learned. When a mass shooting becomes a moment of real trepidation in the entertainment industry and the media, as they brace for the full-throated attack on the river of poison they pump into the culture. As they brace for the endless exhortations and sermons to people to get rid of their TVs, which end up having a visible affect on viewership. As they mobilize to fight the bills headed to the legislative floor, forcing cable and entertainment operators to offer per-channel subscriptions at comparable pro-rata costs to their package deals. As they wait for cries and organized efforts to change the ratings system for films, so that repeated killings that don’t involve depictions of war get mandatory NC-17 ratings, or worse. As they’re forced to listen for an outcry that forces them to cover the cruel treatment of our mentally ill and their families, because “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” becomes a mainstream rallying cry and accusation in defense of our fellow citizens. Etcetera, etcetera.”

Joe Katzman provides a banquet for thought discussing The Art of the Left Hook: Guns, Humanity, and Politics.

In turn, it is the human factor, policy, and politics that are in his cross hairs. What has changed?

What he overlooks is what has not changed in considering why it has been ‘released’ to much tragedy. Consider how Russia is celebrating Stalin’s birthday right now and think of the Biblical advise on idols. But, yes, Joe does start with religion.

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Reasoned gun control opinion

“I didn’t want to post about this, because frankly, it is exhausting. I’ve been having this exact same argument for my entire adult life. It is not an exaggeration when I say that I know pretty much exactly every single thing an anti-gun person can say. I’ve heard it over and over, the same old tired stuff, trotted out every single time there is a tragedy on the news that can be milked. Yet, I got sucked in, and I’ve spent the last few days arguing with people who either mean well but are uninformed about gun laws and how guns actually work (who I don’t mind at all), or the willfully ignorant (who I do mind), or the obnoxiously stupid who are completely incapable of any critical thinking deeper than a Facebook meme (them, I can’t stand).”

Larry Correia’s An opinion on gun control is getting good reviews. He starts with a description of the base problem: “willfully ignorant” or “obnoxiously stupid who are completely incapable of any critical thinking” and decides that he needed to address instead those “people who either mean well but are uninformed about gun laws and how guns actually work”. That last group is rather difficult to find, at least as far as one can see in the surface media. The first two are all too evident.

The is indeed a conversation about violence in society, the role of guns, and related issues. The current flare-up does seem to be a bit broader in scope than in the past as it is not so one sided. In this, there is hope.

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What about the family of violent young men

It’s not PC, especially with the attempts to expand the definitions of marriage and family, but it does seem relevant. Where Was Dad In All Of This? The Question Not Being Asked In Newtown Mass Murder takes a look at an idea that probes the issue of a troubled youth.

“We don’t hear about the effects of fatherlessness, especially on young men. We don’t hear that the most reliable predictor of crime is neither poverty nor race but growing up fatherless. We don’t hear that a large majority of violent criminals were fatherless. We don’t even hear that young male elephants go on violent rampages unless they are kept in line by the old bulls.”

“The fatherhood narrative is absent from our society and from this terrible story.

It was also absent from the awful stories of mass shooters Jared Loughner, James Holmes, Seung-Hui Cho and Jacob Tyler Roberts. Of this group, only Roberts was without a father, but we still need to understand what it is about fathers that inhibits violence in young men.”

The first level for social behavior is always the family. Ned Holstein from Fathers And Families is trying to sell the idea that both parents are best for society’s interests in raising children who can contribute rather than destroy.

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Problems in modern discourse

“For many it is bewildering that someone of reasonable intelligence, good will, and good faith could reach diametrically opposing conclusions. Thus arises a need to ascribe contrary views to idiocy or bad faith.”

It’s dissonance on display. Can We Talk (about Guns)? takes a look at the recent brouhaha about gun control and tries to figure out “why so many of his ideological compatriots are driven to fits of rage” and why a reasoned debate seems so far away.

“It seems increasingly rare in political discourse for either side to consider that the other may be arguing in good faith. Why is this?”

“Ideological cocooning” and “a decline in the understanding and appreciation of tolerance as a virtue” and internet forcing and differing world views are posited but basic human nature seems off the table. What are the driving emotions that instigate such behaviors? What do we know about how people deal with ideas that they do not like or want?

What to do? Perhaps first on the list is to get a grip on reality. So many of the points at debate fail on agreement about the ‘fact check.’ The gun control arguments illustrate just how statistics can be distorted to promote a false reality fitting with ideological fantasies. Mann’s hockey stick shows the same phenomena in climatology. What that is saying is that one needs to look at the manner of the measure. For instance, Hoffman is quoted with a ‘both sides do it’ argument and there is no question raised about the validity of this presumption. In making that presumption, Hoffman also gets into the ad hominem. That is a double dose of logical fallacy on parade yet it passes without comment.

When the debate gets honest and reflects intellectual integrity without obvious logical fallacies and distorted definitions and other well known and objectively observable phenomena, then perhaps the debate will be more productive and constructive.

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What you are up against if seeking rational and honest debate

John Hinderaker says The Times Embarrasses Itself on Guns–Again! and takes apart an editorial that makes many suspicious claims about gun control.

“So if the Times really cared about crime, as opposed to making a political point about guns, it wouldn’t be hard to figure out where to focus. But at the Times, the paper’s political agenda always takes priority over the facts.”

What is on the table is a collection of claims that are not quite the ‘whole truth’ but rather nice, quick, comfortable sound bites. Putting them down usually requires getting below the surface and takes a bit of work. Why is the U.S. homicide rate rather high? A proper answer has to look at the ethnic distribution of homicide. That raises ugly questions of race as well as the question of why homicide is more prevalent where gun controls are more strict.

The goal in such debates does not appear to be that of trying to learn and find solutions. Rather, it is a matter of supporting preconceived desires in any way, honest or no, possible.

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Fund’s facts about mass shootings

“Until the Newtown horror, the three worst K–12 school shootings ever had taken place in either Britain or Germany.

Almost all of the public-policy discussion about Newtown has focused on a debate over the need for more gun control. In reality, gun control in a country that already has 200 million privately owned firearms is likely to do little to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. We would be better off debating two taboo subjects — the laws that make it difficult to control people with mental illness and the growing body of evidence that “gun-free” zones, which ban the carrying of firearms by law-abiding individuals, don’t work.”

At NRO The Facts about Mass Shootings “It’s time to address mental health and gun free zones.”

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Fact checking or propaganda? Defining reality by forcing it into desired fantasies.

“The problem is that some of the judgments being applied here are dead wrong, others verging on silly. What they all have in common is an appalling lack of understanding of the true character of political debate.”

Homnick takes a look at PolitiFact‘s ten finalists for Lie of the Year and suggests there are more pants than fire.

“Some of the other lies they cite fall into the category of truly scurrilous distortion. In that respect, fact-checking could play a worthy role. But by clucking their tongues over every hyperbolic or overly dramatic presentation (such as their earlier conniption fit over Sarah Palin calling a committee determining what treatments will be paid for a “death panel”), they are not bringing greater honesty to politics, merely greater banality and timidity.”

The lesson is that anyone claiming to be fact checking needs to have his claims rigorously examined.

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It’s just words: Vietnam, Obama, Kerry

“One of the curious—and admirable—things about President Obama is how he has sought to correct the narrative of Vietnam. The way Vietnam veterans were blamed for the “misdeeds of a few” GIs when “the honorable service of the many should have been praised,” the president said on the 50th anniversary of the start of the war, was “a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened.”

So why in the world is Mr. Obama floating the name of John Kerry for secretary of either state or defense? It is hard to think of anyone who did more to besmirch the name of the GIs who fought in Vietnam than Sen. Kerry.”

Seth Lipsky puzzles over the phenomena at the WSJ: John Kerry, Secretary of What? A vilifier of Vietnam vets taking over the Pentagon or the State Department would be astonishing.

If this sort of ‘just words, not actions’ dissonance is apparent to you, you do indeed have a lot to puzzle over. It is one of the means by which to measure intellectual integrity. The problem with that measure is that so few people seem to pay any attention to it.

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Gun culture? or perhaps a hate culture?

“there was gratuitous, vicious hatred, a kind of group festival of contempt for him. Remember, it was said that Obama had “contempt” for Romney? Stuff like this filters down even to people who are relatively politically uninvolved. When my friends parrot talking points like that, you know the message has been effective. And although I haven’t talked to these particular people about it since the election, I’d be very surprised if their hatred has dissipated—or ever will.

“That seems to be the price of running for president on the Republican ticket these days. How many decent people would be willing to pay it? It’s the flip side of the unhealthy veneration of Obama, by the way. From the start, one of the “tells” that something was very very wrong with Obama was not just the near-worship of the man, but his not-so-subtle encouragement of what you might call a cult of personality.

“An ominous sign, both psychologically and politically.”

The Romney Derangement Syndrome lives on. You’d think that once a Bush or a Romney left the scene, the focus of hate would be quelled or maybe a new target found. It does not appear to be so.

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More on ignorance

US News is a good source for the sort of ignorance that seems to be driving politics. Susan Milligan provides an example in It’s Business Execs—Not Obama—Who Don’t Get the Rules of Capitalism.

“We saw this with the arrogant Wall Street financiers who brought the national economy to the brink of collapse because they played a little too carelessly with their investments. What made it worse is that the cash in question was other people’s money—not just big investors, but people with 401Ks and smaller investments. Letting the banking industry and the financial sector fall apart would have been hard on those industries, but devastating for people who had nothing to do with the bad decisions that got the sectors in such trouble to begin with.”

Note the use of words such as “arrogant” which are judgements rather than descriptions.

The fact is that those executives and financiers and many others are entrusted with handling other people’s money. As with any leader, they make convenient targets. For the Milligan crowd, they also serve as a source of envy due to their income. What Milligan doesn’t get, which the Teamsters appears to understand in the Hostess controversy, is that the amounts involved in executive compensation are small peanuts in the overall scheme of things.

“Obama isn’t socializing any part of the economy. But it appears a lot of executives actually want it that way.”

The socialism aspect is that of taking control of an enterprise away from the entrepreneurs and trying to take what they have earned to give it to some other class. Government is given the role of deciding who shall have control over money rather than an individual investor. The individual investor is allowed to bypass his responsibilities and risks in deciding what to do with his money. Socialism is second guessing the system to determine whose income is ‘fair’ and whose isn’t.

The sad part of such ignorance is that the outcomes have been rather clear whenever it is tried in governmental systems. Some people do not seem able to learn from history.

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Costas vs OJ

“Costas’ remarks constitute exploitation of a tragedy in order to push a political point that Whitlock, Costas, and NBC no doubt already believed, and only used the moment to forward. They all should be ashamed of themselves. But our current media culture is one in which shame does not exist. Neither does the truth.

“What Costas and Whitlock and NBC offered is not “perspective.” It is a lie. It is also a broadside attack on the rights of responsible citizens to equip ourselves to defend ourselves and our loved ones. Will Bob Costas, NBC, and Jason Whitlock assume personal responsibility for every American who would be alive today if they had possessed the means to defend themselves from violent criminals? Of course not. To them, such victims do not even exist.”

Bryan Preston lays it out about Bob Costas, NBC Exploit Kansas City Chiefs Tragedy to Attack Americans’ Constitutional Right of Self-Defense.

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But justice or fairness always beat utility

“Republicans won’t begin to turn the tax debate around until they begin to develop the argument that it isn’t fair to place the burden of paying for the government on just a portion of the population. What exactly is fair about taking half of someone’s income to pay for out of control government? In other words, at some point Republicans need to develop an argument that challenges the idea of tax progressivity itself. That will be the ground of moving to a flat tax through fundamental tax reform.”

Steven Hayward offers his take on Why Are Republicans Losing the Tax Debate?. It’s the old feelin’ vs reason thing that Limbaugh keeps noting.

“When you see the data, several things become clear. First, the liberal “tax the rich even more” theme represents a purely punitive expression of envy”

See the charts Hayes provides from IRS data. The issue is about all of those who won’t look, won’t see, or even actively deny and certainly won’t discuss. It is very difficult to get past a buried envy.

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