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rrneck's Journal
rrneck's Journal
June 25, 2013

Surprising findings from a comprehensive report on gun violence. ****** Commentary Added******


2. Most indices of crime and gun violence are getting better, not worse.
“Overall crime rates have declined in the past decade, and violent crimes, including homicides specifically, have declined in the past 5 years,” the report notes. “Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of firearm-related violent victimizations remained generally stable.” Meanwhile, “firearm-related death rates for youth ages 15 to 19 declined from 1994 to 2009.” Accidents are down, too: “Unintentional firearm-related deaths have steadily declined during the past century. The number of unintentional deaths due to firearm-related incidents accounted for less than 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in 2010.”

Given current trends in crime, the political will to enact sweeping gun control laws is working against significant headwind in terms of public support. It appears that only those who stand to profit most from beating the ideological drum see any use in doing so. The irony is that if the crime rate spikes, or even perceptibly rises (as it surely must) perceptions by the public will likely prompt them to support increased access to personal firearms for the simple reason that the police can't jump through a rip in the fabric of time. People feel pretty safe now. When they feel less safe, they will buy more guns.

8. Carrying guns for self-defense is an arms race. The prevalence of firearm violence near “drug markets … could be a consequence of drug dealers carrying guns for self-defense against thieves or other adversaries who are likely to be armed,” says the report. In these communities, “individuals not involved in the drug markets have similar incentives for possessing guns.” According to a Pew Foundation report, “the vast majority of gun owners say that having a gun makes them feel safer. And far more today than in 1999 cite protection—rather than hunting or other activities—as the major reason for why they own guns.”

While homes and communities with more guns are certainly likely to have more gun related incidents, such statistics are useless when applied from the point of view of any given person who has to make an individual risk assessment rather than a broad evaluation of risk over a large geographic or demographic swaths of the population. Such dependence on ideologically based systems invariably turn those who will be harmed by such an approach into collateral damage in defense of ideology and invariably fall heaviest on those least able to bear the burden of support for such policies.

6. Gun suicide is a bigger killer than gun homicide.
From 2000 to 2010, “firearm-related suicides significantly outnumbered homicides for all age groups, annually accounting for 61 percent of the more than 335,600 people who died from firearm-related violence in the United States,” says the report. Firearm sales are often a warning: Two studies found that “a small but significant fraction of gun suicides are committed within days to weeks after the purchase of a handgun, and both also indicate that gun purchasers have an elevated risk of suicide for many years after the purchase of the gun.”

While “a small but significant fraction of gun suicides" seem to be poorly thought out, the circumstances that lead to that decision whether impetuous or carefully planned remain. Disarming people to keep them from committing suicide without adequate social support for the problems that cause the desire for suicide is more of a defense of ideology than the people it purports to help. Controlling people's behavior without guidance and support is an exercise in state sponsored negative reinforcement that creates an entire cadre of walking wounded that is much more likely to vote for someone who at least sounds like they actually care about them rather than a disassociated ideology.

7. Guns are used for self-defense often and effectively.
“Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year … in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008,” says the report. The three million figure is probably high, “based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken from more than 19 national surveys.” But a much lower estimate of 108,000 also seems fishy, “because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use.” Furthermore, “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was 'used' by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”

A firearm is dual use technology. And laws that regulate the function or availability of any firearm will impact it's use for both good and ill. Raise the bar on function or availability and people will be injured or killed as a result. Since the nature of any firearm regulation impacts people in the context of life and death, each and every negative outcome of such regulation carries significant personal, social, and political weight. Any argument that emphasizes regulation based on the impact of firearms on either side of the debate at the expense of the other becomes increasingly fraudulent the greater the degree of obsession. Such obsession only profits those groups whose business model is designed to profit from irrational fears and misconceptions surrounding the reality of firearms in favor of the creation of a doctrinaire ideology the purpose of which is to support that ideology and the profits generated from it.


More at link.
June 22, 2013

He was an artist.

A performance artist.

Tichý certainly preferred his subjects to be women, most of whom were completely unaware that they were being photographed. Some just didn’t realize that his camera made of plywood and tin cans was even real, and would smile simply to be kind to the crazy local man with the long beard and his toy camera.

The images are innocuous and merely a record of the actual art, which was the artist himself. A man who wanted to express his individuality in a repressive regime, he found a way to mock the system that stifled him. He made clumsy absurd cameras and used his seemingly insane appearance to spy on people who, if they noticed him, thought him too ridiculous to fear. He was a voyeur hiding in plain sight, and doing so under a political system that made voyeurism public policy.

Born in 1926, Tichý could have become one of the prominent painters of the modernist Communist regime. He was accepted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, but after the Communist takeover in 1948, he grew defiant of requirements to draw socialist workers in overalls rather than female nudes and quit the prestigious school. Tichý was quickly identified as a rebel by the oppressive regime who began making attempts at “normalizing” him (whatever that entailed). After his compulsory military service, Tichý became more eccentric.

I think that he decided that if the state wanted him to conform, he would. He became his image of the state. He became a deranged lunatic with clunky cobbled together technology put to use spying on others.
June 20, 2013

Heh. I was raised Southern Baptist.

Got dunked and everything. Nowadays friends and relatives in the south figure me for some sort of bound for hell commie. But in spite of all that, the christian message of "turn the other cheek" still holds true. And it ain't easy. If (generic) you hurt somebody, they will hate what you do. If you hurt them again they will hate you for what you do. If you hurt them enough they will hate you for who you are. Keep hurting them and they will hate everybody like you.

It's a funny thing about forcing people to admit something. Trying to force them to admit it usually makes them dig in their heels more. You can watch it happen right here all the time. Facts and figures are to no avail. Logic is useless. That's because people believe in something, and since politics is just another religion fundamentalism is going to happen. One can be a fundamentalist liberal just as much as a fundamentalist christian. And the results are about the same.

For all the high falutin' thinking that goes on here and everywhere else, I've found the best way to change people's minds is to work with them personally on a shared objective. And I don't mean discussing it over a distance of a thousand miles. I mean actually working shoulder to shoulder. There is still plenty of racism in the south just like everywhere else. But people of different races do actually work together, and they they do so happily if not joyfully. They are able to do so because the activity is not defined by ideology. They may believe any number of things, but they bring those beliefs to the task at hand and profit from it. And they profit in more ways than one.

There is a weird and ugly thing that happens when we begin to expect people to work for an ideology instead of expecting an ideology to work for people. Buying something means someone has invested in it and they will have a tendency to protect that investment. It seems we have become ideological consumers buying personalized ideologies from industries controlled by the 1%. I sometimes wonder if a "personal relationship with God" is really any different from personalized identity politics. How often are left leaning talking heads referred to by their first names and lionized as political celebrities for telling people what they want to hear?

I can appreciate your skepticism regarding a "federal solution". The actual work of helping people and getting along with them is best the closer to home it is. I think maybe that the money to do all those good things should run through Washington because it unites us as Americans and, in the words of Willie Sutton, "That's where the money is."

June 20, 2013

Regarding things from the south.

A lot of wonderful things come from the south. Country ham is one of my favorites. But it seems to me that we are missing one of the most important things in the south that should command our attention. Poor people.


Here on an unabashedly liberal website denigrating an entire region that has the largest number of poor people in the country smacks of some of the most blistering partisan hypocrisy imaginable. Liberals are supposed to champion the rights of the disadvantaged and oppressed. We are supposed to care about those who are ground to dust under the heel of powerful corporations owned by oligarchs. Well, here's the news. Those evil oligarchs are in blue states. If I'm not mistaken Wall Street is still in New York.

And before you start complaining that the people of the south are in this mess because they vote for Republicans, think on this. Blaming them for their poverty is a distinctly Libertarian strategy.

So rather than suggest the south leave the union, I suggest liberals get to work solving problems and more importantly, convincing the people of the south we have those solutions. I know, it's hard. Politics isn't easy. And whoever told you politics was a consumer product lied to you. And the he probably hailed from a blue state.

June 16, 2013

Fiction vs. fictitious

Well, that's a distinction without a difference.

If science is morally neutral, are scientists exempt from moral responsibility for the product of their research? That's a pretty nice place to be; the freedom to do your thing without having to consider the ramifications of your actions. Would the scientists who develop a better hair conditioner merit the same accolades as the scientists who develop clean energy? Do I really need to trot out questions about nuclear fission, herbicides, sarin gas, deep water drilling, and Olestra?

Maybe I'm not going far enough up the science food chain. If science, real actual honest to dog pure science, is the discovery of how the universe works apart from whatever applications that follow, what the hell is it good for? I'm as fascinated as the next guy about string theory, the size of the universe and dark matter, but I can't see any of that shit with my own two eyes. A meteor came within a million miles of the planet. Whoopie. A particle so small it takes a machine twenty miles long to detect it's existence. Hooray. If science only exists to produce "gosh facts" it's little more than entertainment itself. And if that's all scientists think they're doing they can buy their own fucking test tubes.

So if science is the practice of a specially trained individual engaged in the discovery of natural laws that require esoteric knowledge and equipment to verify, it starts to sound pretty shamany to me. I really don't need some dude in a white coat to tell me about all kinds of stuff I can't see myself for the sole purpose of inspiring me with the wonder of the universe. I can get that with a sunset. I mean, if that's his objective he's just trying to sell me something I've already got, which is what religion has been doing for thousands of years.

June 14, 2013

Such beliefs,

which are the suspension of disbelief, are what make fiction work. I can go to a movie and actually believe some dude with Donny Osmond teeth is actually a disgruntled super spy kicking the CIA's ass. If the movie (or book or whatever) actually work, they cause the same sort of response that any religion strives for every Sunday. Religion is fiction, just like any other fiction. Unfortunately, most of it is "Harlequin Romance" grade fiction. That kind of crap preys on people's weaknesses and profits from them.

People can believe in anything. Beliefs are just narratives and we can build them around the stuff inside or outside our heads. Granted, a few people build impossible narratives and exist wholly within them. They're delusional. But the vast majority of time people believe in science when they think it will do them any good.

Religions create narratives that reject science and lots of people buy into them much like they go to the movies. Religion is little more than entertainment nowadays. But then again, so is science isn't it? Ever watch some kid get wholly involved in mastering an electronic device or working on a car? Science is all about the physical world, and we build narratives around stuff all the time from brand loyalty to entire careers devoted to sub atomic particles. Science is just as susceptible to the foibles of the suspension of disbelief as religion.

So it seems to me that concerns about the rejection of science in favor of some comforting fiction are, generally speaking, rejections of one fiction for another. Science and the stuff of science are certainly real, but so are the way we feel about them. The common denominator of both is how people feel about them. And neither one would work without the suspension of disbelief.

June 14, 2013

Generally speaking

DU is anti gun. There is a protected group dedicated to gun control activism. I am not aware of a protected pro gun group. The "gunnies" asked for one and didn't get it. Gun control legislation is trumpeted by Democratic legislators and DU is dedicated to supporting them. There have been frequent calls for the elimination of the "gungeon" and pointed demands that certain members get banned because of their pro gun views. I am not aware of any corresponding demands from the pro gun side.

While the owner of the site has little sympathy for pro gun arguments he is aware that Democrats own guns and discussion on the topic should be allowed here. He believes, much to his credit, that people should be free to speak their minds. The owners have developed a jury system designed to distribute the power to control content across the membership. As a result anybody expressing pro gun views has to endure significantly more abuse than those expressing anti gun opinions. I've been on 319 juries so far, and if the post or poster in question is pro gun, at least one jury response is invariably a personal attack. That's one sixth of the membership. I have never seen a pro gun personal attack in a jury result.

Any fair viewing of any thread in the "gungeon" will reveal any number of inane, taunting, nonsensical posts from the anti gun side and very few if any from the pro gun side. Anti gun trolls have free reign there. How many flamewars occurred in Meta when one or two members were blocked from the gungeon? Do you recall any flamewars when a "gunnie" got banned? How many administration comments in the profiles of banned members refer to "anti gun troll"? "Gun Troll" bannings result in protracted grave dancing. I recall only one thread that reveled in the banning of an anti gun member and that was for views other than guns.

DU is simply not hostile to anyone posting anti gun opinions. Not at all. Not even a little bit. The hostility you perceive is the fact that your partisan fundamentalism is being challenged by a minority of members. Those members are able to do that because of the way the site is managed. The site is managed that way because the owners are aware that there are a lot of gun owning Democrats even if they don't care to indulge in the ongoing scrum in the gungeon.

I find it interesting that you feel more comfortable discussing the issue on sites sponsored by lobbyist organizations, and you characterize your position on the issue in the context of a mixed marriage. "Anti gunners" lose every debate because they aren't looking to actually debate the issue. They are looking for support for their partisan positions. That, in itself, is not a bad thing. Consensus through mutual support fosters group cohesion. Group cohesion wins elections. There will always be hangers on that seek to profit from unthinking partisanship and there are not a few here. They are the most cowardly of trolls that tell people what they want to hear for their own emotional aggrandizement. They, like the lobbyist websites you find more comfortable, are lamprey attached to the ass of American politics and damage our cause as Democrats.

June 12, 2013

Kick for alliteration.

So, what is a "gun goon" anyway? Terrorists are pretty clearly defined but "gun goon" isn't even in the Urban Dictionary yet. May be a glitch though, the Google entry for "gun goon" in UD says, Someone who sneaks gun talk politics into most any topic of discussion. And it's the first entry, so there's that.

I heard on Diane Rehm this morning how they were only tracking "metadata", which is public knowledge and quite benign. So what is "metadata" and what does it tell the NSA? Well, it's a record of who you call, text, or email. There is no evidence they have collected the content of those communications that I know of. The NSA obviously thinks this information is useful or they wouldn't be collecting it. But what information are they actually collecting? They are collecting a record of your relationships with others. They know who you know. And the last I heard they will keep that data forever. Now, that information is useless to counter an immanent threat unless it is used immediately, so why keep it? And if you're trying to solve a crime since relationships are transient and they are ostensibly not collecting content, the older the data gets the less useful it will become. It seems to me that collecting and keeping metadata would be most useful when someone wanted to ask you questions like, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of...?" That's pretty scary.

Now, it's pretty obvious that gun registration won't work without chain of custody documentation. If you transfer a gun you have to be required to document it or they won't be able to prosecute anybody for improper transfer. And your average gun lasts about a hundred years, so any record of chain of custody is forever. So now you have an object with a unique serial number that is associated, through documentation of transfer, to everyone that has owned it. It's a tag, just like a phone bill or an IP address. It's a record of a relationship. Only much more personal and specific. You can loan a cell phone or a laptop, but loaning guns is a no no.

So, when we look at the term "gun goon" again, it starts to look like the term "terrorist". I said "pretty clearly defined" above because even the ubiquitous term "terrorist" is fungible.

The use of the label "terrorist" is often controversial or subjective, since one person's terrorist may be another's "freedom fighter", and vice versa depending on somebody's personal ideology of beliefs.

See how easily the issue flips depending on ideology? You're a right wing fascist loon if you defend NSA spying, but every good liberal supports firearms registration OR you're a left wing gun grabber if you support firearm registration, but collecting metadata is perfectly legal and keeps our country safe. And the talking heads, bloggers, and other assorted bloviaters clamber up another rung on the ladder to onepercentdom by telling you what you want to hear in exchange for your right to privacy. And they are able to do that because the one percent owns the bulk of that communications network, and ain't nobody tracking that.
June 11, 2013

Relationships are transient.

Why would any agency or organization want to keep a record of your electronic contacts with people permanently? If they don't have the content of the communications all they can prove is that two people made some sort of contact, and conspiracy is hard enough to prove without knowing what people talked about. And if the information isn't acted upon immediately, it becomes useless to thwart an immanent threat. But that kind of information would be especially helpful in asking questions like, "Are you now or have you ever been...?". Now, maybe they aren't keeping the information permanently, but don't bet on it.

So, is a Facebook or Twitter account an "assembly"? They are associations of people created through electronic contacts. Such associations have been instrumental in group responses to coercive power by governments. The only thing better than knowing who knows who when it comes to governmental repression is having people restrict their associations to avoid that repression. And of course, this would work just as well for corporate interests too. While the ability of government and corporate interests to exploit third party data have been able to outrun the language of the fourth amendment I suspect violations of the freedom of assembly clause in the First Amendment may be of more concern.

June 9, 2013

As I understand the controversy...

the NSA is collecting third party information without collecting content. They are tracking who you contact via phone email etc. without knowing what you say or write. Unfortunately, this sort of data mining can reveal a wealth of information about you even if they don't have access to the content of the communications. Plus, merely maintaining data on the movements and communications of people without probable cause is an outrage against a citizen's right to privacy.

So for a firearms registry to work, you would have to document chain of custody. That means an item with a unique serial number is attached to you and whoever you transfer that item to or from. Now, that data says nothing about why the transfer was made or what those involved intend to with the item being transferred but it does tell the NSA (ATF) a great deal about the people making the transfer nevertheless. In fact, it reveals much more about them than data mining simple communications since the subject of the transfer is an object with a particular function. That function is the content of the communication.

I find it fascinating that so much outrage is expressed about NSA data mining but a gun registry, and the required chain of custody documentation, is a good idea. They're the same thing. The only difference to some is that guns are transferred by other people. You know, NRA Teabagger right wing conservative Republican crazy militia assholes that need to be watched because they're untrustworthy.

When it comes to questions of a citizens constitutional rights we should always remember that they are us.

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