Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Looking upward...and inward to your brain! Plus "the Bell Curve" is baaack. And science misc

A science potpourri today. 

== Looking in and looking up! ==

Overview: Stories in the Stratosphere is a collection of fiction, illustrations, and speculative timelines exploring the near future of near space. Very near space. It is available here to download, entirely free and available in EPUB and MOBI formats, and through the Apple iBooks store. (I collaborated on a little adventure story.)

Cosmic-ray muon radiography allows us to visualize the interiors of large, stony objects. Researchers report using it to study the known and potentially unknown voids in the Great Pyramid in a non-invasive way. They report the discovery of a large void (with a cross section similar to the Grand Gallery and a length of 30 m minimum) above the Grand Gallery, which constitutes the first major inner structure found in the Great Pyramid since the 19th century. 

At NASA NIAC we funded a study to use this method to map the interiors of asteroids. Wow. 

== The METI cult, at it again ==

Okay, until now, these “messaging to ET" stunts were mostly harmless. When Frank Drake sent the “Arecibo Message” in 1974 — a brief blip to the Hercules Cluster, decades ago, he chose an objective 24,000 light years away, in order not to commit humanity to a fait accompli it might regret.  But the “METI cult” has now declared open war upon us and on our children: The San Francisco-based METI Institute sent its message toward the red dwarf star GJ 273 (also known as Luyten's Star), 12 light-years away from Earth. The message was sent in October from the Eiscat transmitter in Tromsø.”

Now to be clear, I like Doug Vakoch, the METI-I head.  A nice fellow… and now a cultist, who has declared his intention to perform sneak attacks like this one, avoiding all proper scientific vetting, discussion or process, gambling our future based on questionable assumptions and assertions. Some of these nostgrums he repeats, despite knowing them to be utterly disproved.

== This is your brain on the spotlight ==

The idea of “brain hacking,” or using technology to augment brain function and human intelligence, is controversial, but is taking off, nevertheless. In 2017, Tesla CEO and founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, launched a venture called Neuralink. 

Facebook has also said it is developing technology that can read brain waves. In November, Microsoft founder Bill Gates committed $100 million of his own money to boost research and fund start-ups working on Alzheimer’s R&D. 

Peter Diamandis’s recent  “Visioneers Summit” gave its highest honors this year to the team tackling Alzheimer’s disease.

And yet… as research advances, we keep finding ways in which the problem is larger than we ever imagined. Twenty years ago, some thought we might model mentation (and thus maybe create AI) when our computers matched the number of “processors” in a human brain – about 100 billion neurons.  Despite its recent decay, Moore’s Law has surpassed that goal now, and quite then some.  

Okay then, folks cried: “Aha! The processor analog isn’t cells, but the ten to a thousand flashy synapses for every neuron, that trigger and flash like elements of a computer!” There are perhaps 100 trillion of those. Until recently, the dogma was that a compact box containing that many silicon flip flops would just have to come aware.

Only now we are learning ever-more about intracellular and intercellular computation. It happens that each neuron appears to have a great many sub-components that work together or against each other in murky, nonlinear ways, determining whether and when each synapse will flash! (I was among those predicting this, 20 years ago.) For example, each neuronal dendrite seems to feed into a chain of support structures, each of which plays some complex and poorly understood part in this decision-making cascade. 

And it goes on! The surrounding glial and astrocyte cells are no longer seen as just support units, but appear to interact with the neurons in sophisticated ways. 

So, Moore’s law might require us to make compact boxes with quadrillions or circuit elements. Nor does it stop there. Because now we get to… quantum.

Yes, there are the incredible speculations of Roger Penrose and his colleagues, who suggest that the tiny microtubule organelles within neurons engage in some degree of quantum entanglement -- (we've already seen there's some entanglement in chloroplasts) -- that helps to create consciousness in ways that go beyond just computation. Woof!

I had several opportunities, lately, to ask Sir Roger about these concepts and many others. Then lunch a couple of weeks ago with Freeman Dyson. And I hang with Larry Smarr and Vint Cerf. What, me brag and name drop? No. Not me.

== The “Bell Curve” rears its ugly head ==

Some members of our blog comment community raised the issue of “The Bell Curve” or whether there might be some systematic differences between races, genders etc. that it would be dishonest to suppress. Here's the assertion:

1. Population studies of various distinct social groups clearly do show there are differences in intelligence, and research shows that a significant fraction is nature.

2. If social policies are based on the assumption that differences in achievements between groups is all nurture, no nature, then these social policies are likely to be sub optimal.

Logically, true, so far. Alas, though, Bell Curve defenders utterly miss the point.

1. The “differences in averages” (DIA) that might be found in comparisons of bell curves have always diminished over time, with the application social resources to eliminate disadvantages, prejudices and discouragements.  Given that blatant history, the only useful policy application of comparison of bell curves is to call attention to a likely need for investment! 

(Yes, the rate of narrowing of DIAs may diminish, over time, settling on some “natural” DIA. So? Read on.)

2. It is clear that the top motive behind “The Bell Curve” and its zealots is racism, sexism and desperate need for confederate-style solace in symbolic superiority. Yes, let us admit that some are attracted to the topic out of intellectual orneriness. The latter group should make strenuous efforts to distinguish themselves from the racists… as I describe legitimate climate skeptics distinguishing themselves from members of the insane denialist cult.

3. What if there truly are some systematic differences in width or center of bell curves among groups? There's a clear example: while ending stupid assumptions shifted the distribution of women capable of military service -- and the military is ecstatic over the quality of its female service members -- it did not change the inherent difference in average physical height from the average for men. 

But even such residual, systematic differences do not mean what the racists and sexists think it means. Which brings us to our most important rebuttal point.

4. The blatant fact of human individual diversity - plus 250 years of the American Experiment - show that it is both immoral and impractical to apply group stereotypes upon individuals in ways that restrict any individual’s right or ability to say “I am different from that average.”

It is #4 that proves the despicable core of the Bell Curve zealots.  Even if some remnant of observed differences in averages (DIA) did not decline with the application of resources and justice, there would be no justification for the racist-sexist-bigoted application of DIA upon any individual who is seeking to prove herself or himself.

Even if a person cannot parse the intellectual arguments I have made here, there is a basic conclusion: if that person seeks to restrict another person’s individual ambition, based upon membership in an involuntary classification like race or gender, then that bigot is a nasty, degraded person who did voluntarily join a classification group! One we should all treat with great contempt.

== Surprises of science ==

This Alaskan city is warming so fast, algorithms removed the data because it seemed unreal. And yes, freakishly strong snow in the U.S. southeast is a symptom of warming! Attend a community college science class.

Amazing. Greenland sharks reach maturity at about 150 years of age and some have been measured (by pulsing Carbon 14 in their eye lenses) at 400+ years old.

And while we’re in the Arctic: Want cognitive dissonance?  Trump's newly signed National Defense Authorization Act includes a significant discussion of the effects of climate change -- going so far as to call it a “direct threat to the national security of the United States.”

We’ve know this for years. The U.S. military is a fact-centered profession, and thus unable to screech denialist incantations, while the Russians build 12 new major naval and marine bases on the Arctic Ocean. Of course, this is one reason why the War on Science and All Fact-using Professions has now expanded to include the FBI, Intel Agencies and the US military officer corpse… now denounced by confederate loonies as “deep state” traitors.

Oh, BTW... we'll be in the Arctic in one month.... brrrr....

== Miscellaneous items ==

There’s serious talk of wild polio (not caused by the Sabin vaccine itself) being wiped out by June. Wow.

Ford employees are using exoskeletons, and they may change manual labor forever. Ford’s exoskeletons protect employees from repetitive motion injuries and decrease fatigue. Watch the video!

Under the category of Things We Should Be Doing Anyway – or TWODA. “In Africa, Geneticists Are Hunting Poachers.” 


Lloyd Flack said...

METI supporters seem to be ignoring the possibility that an extra-terrestrial intelligent species might not feel empathy for any species other than its own. Such a species might be very dangerous to others and hence best avoided.

locumranch said...

David's attack on METI amounts to a moral (and, therefore, an 'anti-science') argument because it addresses what we 'should, ought & are supposed to be' (and do) rather than the science of HOW to do something, so much so that it amounts to bla-bla-bla opinion & bla-bla-bla personal preference.

Likewise, his objections to empiric 'Bell Curve' observations are also moral rather than scientific as he argues that any perceived empiric differences 'should, ought & are supposed to be' used to determine the "need for investment (in order to) eliminate disadvantages, prejudices and discouragements" so that our scientifically measured objective reality can be forced conform to his personal & pseudo-religious moral preference for the Equality Delusion (which celebrates human DIVERSITY under the misapprehension that the term 'diversity' signifies human interchangeabililty, identicality & equality, once we correct for 'unfair' nurture & nature).

This is Orwellian double-speak at its worst, allowing the progressive to celebrate our empiric racial, ethnic & gender differences while simultaneously insisting that all of our celebrated empiric differences 'should, ought & are supposed to be' considered imaginary & unreal so we can ELIMINATE them, so we may adopt (post-haste) this clownishly absurd equivocation between Diversity & Equality.

To make matters worse, David then doubles-down on this progressive moral delusion by arguing that it is 'any individual’s right or ability to say “I am different from that average"' as if the very act of proudly proclaiming any imaginary difference and/or equivalence repudiates actual empiric measurement, insomuch as such pronouncements do NOT magically transform an individual into a fish, bicycle, intellectual, film star, woman, or licensed professional.

Real scientists demand PROOF in regard to 'differences in averages (DIA)' and, by extension, the meritocratic burden of PROOF falls upon any individual who is seeking to prove herself or himself, not upon some preposterously absurd verbal proclamation of either individual uniqueness or universal equality.

For, if truth be told, we all know that this Equality Delusion is a sham, as demonstrated by our Winter Olympic competitions that separates all competitors by GENDER because (??) equality.

Similarly, the US military officer corpse (sic) has renounced its claim to being a 'fact-centered profession' in favour of pseudo-religious 'ecstasy' as it holds its female recruits to a much lower physical standard than its male recruits because EQUALITY.


The Blue Urban geographical minority are Fair-Weather Federalists who don pro-Union Blue Kepis when they wish to force their moralisms on the geographic Red Rural majority, but are quick to demand State's Rights & threaten secession (by another name) when they take exception to Constitutional Federalism & the Second Amendment. Waaa!! We don't like Federalism under Trump, we want unrestricted immigration & Sanctuary Cities, we want reality to be whatever we proclaim it to be, and we want to eliminate assault rifles, infringe upon the Right to Bear Arms, and disregard Constitutional Federalism when we feel like it.

There it is again, the Blue Urban preference for proclaiming a new reality (when it suits their fancy) because Up = Down, Freedom = Slavery and Diversity = Uniformity.

Lloyd Flack said...

Locum, back on your medications.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451 | OST stuff

It would have been fun to have you in the room those years ago. We essentially had a panel discussion involving lawyers, possible project funders, and those of us who were starry eyed adventurers. It happened more than once at different conventions and the conclusions always came out about the same. Yes to chattel property. No to real property. Without real property, collateralization wasn’t going to happen. Without collateralization, certain funding options available to projects everywhere else in the world were completely closed to us.

There was also disagreement on how OST would be interpreted when it finally landed in court with a testable case. Everyone agreed that there was a significant risk that investors would not have certain exit strategies available to them that would enable them to recover partially from failed projects. That altered the probabilities in the expected net present value calculations and sank many otherwise good ideas.

(Today, some of those adventuring types HAVE found money. Hurrah!)

I assure you chattel property defense is NOT good enough for libertarians. When everyone else has court systems available to them and standard property rights regimes are enforced through them, we need to meet the rest of the world’s expectations as much as possible. That means we need a definition for ‘real’ property out there and the OST makes it difficult.

I like most of the OST, but there is a portion of it I would willingly spend money to challenge in court. At the time of our discussions, this wasn’t going to happen because no one was out there, thus no one could present a good argument for having standing in a case. Ideally, the feds will stay out of the way and let folks work it out, but something will land in court one day when a project fails or someone is harmed or feels their IP is intruded upon. Our consensus was that it isn’t clear how OST will be interpreted, so there are reasonable people who might challenge your ‘misreading’ interpretation.

Regarding the gift the Soviets gave to Eisenhower, I get it. All he had to do after that was play the part of a leader playing catch up. The Soviets handed us the legal regime we needed for ballistic missile flights on a silver platter. No doubt someone whispered ‘thank you very much’ in ’57 while everyone else came unglued.

Treebeard said...

This METI/SETI stuff strikes me as the modern equivalent of medieval debates about angels, demons, the afterlife, etc. You're talking about things for which there is no evidence, but which, based on your present (obviously flawed) cosmology, are convinced must exist. Then it turns into a form of gnosticism when you posit that this non-evidence suggests there could be some powerful, scary intelligence out there that want us dead. It's pretty bizarre stuff to get worked up about imo, either to the point of beaming messages at the stars or calling it “open war upon us and our children”. But this is the nature of religion: irrational longings meet rational thinking and priests fight among themselves about arcane, impractical matters. Fun stuff.

TCB said...

Re: bell curve silliness. It has occurred to me that while racists like to think there are 'inferior' races, this is not true. Today.

But tens and hundreds of thousands of years ago, there were other species of the genus Homo who, from a practical standpoint, were 'inferior' in being less smart with tools, maybe, or just too small to compete, the poor hobbity bastards. We killed them all, directly or not.

What remains is a buzzing, dynamic, devouring hive of modern humans, all terrifyingly competent masters of the world. Hell, if we kidnapped those folks on North Sentinel Island and sent their kids to school, I'm confident they'd turn out to be just as slick as the rest of us.

Re: assault rifles. Everybody in Unistat is in a lather lately about the AR-15 and its variants, and talk of banning them. In the case of the AR-15 this is especially problematic. An AR-15/M16/M4 can be built from parts, all of which you can buy from mail order with no license, no waiting, etc. Legally only the receiver is considered the rifle. That's the metal chassis where the stock, barrel, grip and magazine all meet. And you can use CNC machinery to make a receiver that, on paper, does not exist, and finish the weapon from parts. Viola!

So a real ban on these would have to include a ban on replacement barrels, at least. Notgonnahappen, I think.

But a ban on large magazines, stricter licensing, and the destruction of the Moscow-money-pipeline NRA, that would do nicely.

Incidentally, assault rifles are so named 'cause they were designed as light full-auto weapons for laying down a wall of covering fire when assaulting a fixed position in combat. When actually used for killing, soldiers tend to go with the semi-auto option (which is available to every civilian owner of an AR-15) as it is effective without wasting heavy scarce ammo. The receiver is slightly different in the full-auto military version, and quite illegal unless you have a federal firearms license.

P.S. gun nuts love to mock people for not knowing the diff between a clip and a magazine, for instance: "You don't know guns and therefore are not entitled to an opinion about guns" is the idea. But the same people generally don't apply that principle to global warming, evolution, etc. "I'm not a scientist, but these scientists are full of hooey, and they ought not to talk down to the rest of us."

Tony Fisk said...

Exoskeletons would be a boon to the aged as well, if they can support the entire body (we've just had to put my mother in an aged care home due to restricted mobility issues.)

LarryHart said...

Jim Wright again:


Ever watch Elon Musk describing his plans for the future of humankind? This guy is so many steps ahead of the human race that there is legitimate reason to wonder if he's maybe an alien in disguise, sent here from some advanced civilization out there beyond the stars. Musk can describe the most complex machines – like his Falcon Heavy – the most complex ideas, and why they are so very important for our future, in terms that anyone can understand. All while cracking sly jokes and sending his own car into orbit around the sun.

As compared to...


Trump claims similar genius, yet he can never describe his plans in even the vaguest of terms.

David Brin said...

“METI supporters seem to be ignoring the possibility that an extra-terrestrial intelligent species might not feel empathy for any species other than its own.”

Niven’s rule. A sapient race may choose to change its mores, but these will start from values inherited from non-sapient ancestors, largely based on what those ancestors ate. Descendants of pack carnivores will have high empathy within the group and very little outside. Stalking carnivores will have very high empathy with prey and little sympathy. Herbivores will likely be ferociously paranoid.

“Locum, back on your medications.” Really Lloyd? Or are you urging him to? Because this is pure Old Locum. Not a single paragraph wasn’t a strawman, making up out of pure fantasy what he thinks I said and meant, without a scintilla of curiosity about the ACTUAL things I said and meant. His salvoes went so far from me that it’s impossible to see the splashed, just a few shallow pops.

Likewise the ent ignores the practical sense of scientific colleagues engaging is reciprocally critical risk assessment. He has no comprehension of the concept, and so raves about angels and pins.

TCB “Re: bell curve silliness. It has occurred to me that while racists like to think there are 'inferior' races, this is not true. Today.”

For 10,000 years aristos would flatter themselves they were superior, because they had weapons and had grown up always having enough food to grow up big and fully myelinated. They then claimed this was because their family was superior inherently. The irony is that such stratification might BECOME true, if hierarchy gets entrenched with technology, and especially if oligarchs breed-in the best meritocratic children of the lower orders and monopolize genetic arts.

Think Brave New World, but with the alphas as old fashioned racialists.

Alas, for the lickspittle as-licking servants of confed plantation lords, they are viewed as kibble. If we enlightenmenters lose this civil war, some of us will be invited to serve (like Machivelli) near the top or even to breed-in. No way the kibble guys will get much reward, alas. Why? How would the lords possibly benefit? And why breed-in fools?

locumranch said...

Exactly, Treebeard. There is nothing 'scientific' about the METI vs SETI argument as it amounts to personal preference, much like that notorious scene from the film 'Spartacus' which discusses the relative merits of edible homosex snails versus heterosex oysters. Like any pro or anti-gun legislation. Like D_Trump vs H_Clinton.

Federalism is & has always been about the legislation of Personal Preference -- which made sense in the way that 'fasces' makes weak sticks strong by bundling them together -- assuming a sufficient level of cultural congruency (and/or homogeneity) to ensure that the bundled personal preferences were compatible, yet it is exactly this preferential homogeneity that the West has lost by emphasizing irreconcilable diversity.

The West is doomed because qualitative terms like Different, not-Same & Diversity are incompatible with their mutually-exclusive paired opposites of Equal, Same & not-Different, and all the proclamations, prayers & wit cannot reconcile these irreducible opposites, even though this is exactly what various progressive cultists hope to do.

As with snails & oysters, I am not arguing that one side is right or the other wrong, I merely pointing out that our current attempt to legislate over incompatible personal preference is doomed to fail, so much so that David should see the progressive pusch towards further gun legislation for what it is: An escalation of the US Civil War part deux.

Why do you believe it acceptable to force-feed conservatives diversity when you believe it anathema to force-feed Muslims pork? Here's some BACON for you, little piggies. Eat it with enthusiasm because we revile your personal pork-free preference or we'll put on our Blue Union kepis & blow you all to smithereens.

Oh we're not gonna take it. No, we ain't gonna take it. Oh we're not gonna take it anymore. Oh you're so condescending. Your gall is never ending. We don't want nothin', not a thing from you.


Alfred Differ said...

@TCB | Regarding authoritarians, I’m with David in that there is a solution. It’s just that it is a classic horror solution. We get to do it again and again and again…

The standard horror movie formula has many good people butchered by Evil, Good wins the battle (often the last attractive person left alive), and then at the very end one sees that it was one battle in a longer war. Evil wasn’t fully vanquished and Good might not realize it. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

His chapter notes make the ‘Repeat’ element of the formula unavoidably obvious. Someone reading it in 2006 might have dismissed it, but after 2016 and the return to power of those supported by our hardest RWA’s… and the way they did it… it is obvious there are many more sequels yet to be penned.

Why I still agree with David, though, is how the author discussed the trends in his numbers. He sees the tide come in and out with each new batch of students, but his view isn’t long enough to catch a potential multi-century trend in the sea level. There is no way it could be, right? Is there a way we might work it out indirectly, though? I think there is, so I’m going to retract my advance apology for suggesting McCloskey to you. You’ll need books #1 and #3 I think. (The second one hammers down all the alternative explanations economists put forward over the decades for explaining what she wants to address.) The first and third books explain the solution AND the way to detect it AND the impact it is having.

(I’m going to have a look through McCloskey’s books and see if she references Altemeyer anywhere.)

Lloyd Flack said...

David, urging him.

Paul SB said...

Paul 451 said, in the previous thread;

"Heh. Mandela Effect. It helps determine which universe you are from."

Which universe? Most people have trouble figuring out which planet I am from.

Paul SB said...

A quick note on bell curves: they sure look empirical, but if you don't understand statistics it's real easy for people to pull the wool over your eyes. That's why Gould was able to shoot "The Bell Curve" to Hell 12 years before it was written. The liars have been using the same tactics since the 1920s, on the assumption that no one will understand the math well enough to see through them.

To be specific, if you take two groups of humans, measure some variable characteristic, and place the two distribution curves on the same graph, it is rather unlikely that they will turn out to be exactly the same. Nearly anything you measure will come out with one having a higher mean than the other. However, if the difference between the two means is less than one standard deviation, then what you have done is separated a single, natural population into two artificial populations based on arbitrary (meaningless) criteria. Americans have been collecting IQ statistics for a century and it never happens that the differences between the means for "racial" categories is more than one standard deviation. So much for empirical racism. Regardless of anyone's moral values, the actual data do not support it.

Alfred Differ said...

Another note on bell curves from someone who was talking about a broader subject...

{Hayek addressing an issue concerning 'individualism' and the perception that some have that it is 'selfish'. (Individualism and Economic Order – Individualism: True and False – Section 4) }
Another misleading phrase, used to stress an important point, is the famous presumption that each man knows his interests best. In this form the contention is neither plausible nor necessary for the individualists conclusions. The true basis of his argument is that nobody can know who knows best and that the only way by which we can find out is through a social process in which everybody is allowed to try and see what he can do. The fundamental assumption, here as elsewhere, is the unlimited variety of human gifts and skills and the consequent ignorance of any single individual of most of what is known to all the other members of society taken together. Or, to put this fundamental contention differently, human Reason, with a capital R, does not exist in the singular, as given or available to any particular person, as the rationalist approach seems to assume, but must be conceived as an interpersonal process in which anyone's contribution is tested and corrected by others. This argument does not assume that all men are equal in their natural endowments and capacities but only that no man is qualified to pass final judgement on the capacities which another possesses or is to be allowed to exercise.

Here I may perhaps mention that only because men are in fact unequal can we treat them equally. If all men were completely equal in their gifts and inclinations, we should have to treat them differently in order to achieve any sort of social organization. Fortunately, they are not equal; and it is only owing to this that the differentiation of functions need not be determined by the arbitrary decision of some organizing will but that, after creating formal equality of the rules applying in the same manner to all, we can leave each individual to find his own level.

There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal. While the first is the condition of a free society, the second means, as De Tocqueville described it, “a new form of servitude.”

The way I read that is even if there were some differences that had meaning, it's still best not to create rules that differentiate us. One might create policies intended to shrink the differences, but great care is needed in their construction. Removing policies that create those differences is likely FAR safer.

Anonymous said...

Tony Fisk:
I think that the elderly and people with bone damage in the hips and legs could have a healthier life in zero gravity or in a gravity similar to that of the dwarf planet Ceres. But sending elders into space would be expensive. (But a nursing home in orbit could be viable if it is financed by the government)


Lloyd Flack said...

Consider the possibility that we might never be able to create consciousness in fixed hardware. What I mean is the the brain continually modifies itself and this might be essential for consciousness. Algorithms in hardware might not be enough. Something living or life-like might be the route we have to go.

Paul SB said...


The idea of creating policies that shrink differences is kind of what progressives have been doing for the last century, no? The whole idea of creating "equal outcomes" strikes me as nothing but a canard created by the kleptocrats. Start at the base of what equality could possibly mean in any sexually-reproducing species. Obviously humans are not the same. Even identical twins develop individual differences over time. This used to be really mysterious, because the idea most humans had about genetics was one of utter determinism. The people in the field - and interested non-specialists who pay attention to up-to-date science rather than clinging to ideas that are centuries old - now know that genes themselves change. We can toss the old-fashioned genetic determinism that has always girded racism and sexism out the window - or we could if this were more widely known. It has also been proven that most normal people have pretty similar capacities to learn and develop, but there are still some genetic differences that account for individual differences at the macro level.

But these are not the differences that progressives - or anyone else, for that matter - are trying to change, except in the medical sense of helping people who have diseases or injuries. When progressives talk about equality they are talking about treating all citizens equally under the law. That means an end to enforcing laws to the hilt on minorities and allowing the wealthiest members of society to pay their way out of legal consequences. Theoretically this is already supposed to be true, but where it comes down to actual enforcement of the law the inequality can get pretty glaring. The only people who are actually suggesting what is termed "equality of outcomes" are the right-wingers who claim this is what the left-wingers are saying. Since this is literally impossible, the idea is ludicrous. It should be obvious enough that this is just another example of that right-wing tendency to make straw men so they can convince uncritical fools that their opponents are stupid.

The other area that people talk about with regard to equality is income equality. Even there I have never heard anyone propose that everyone in the world should be paid exactly the same salary regardless of the work they do. What people want to see is an end to people who struggle just to put food on the table, pay rent, get their electricity, water and sewer cut off because while working their anatomy off they still can't pay the bills. Here again the right wing uses a straw man to make progress sound ridiculous/impossible. Actually they are using two straw men. One is the 100% level argument, which no one is actually making. The other is the free rider argument. They presume that all people are so naturally lazy that if they didn't have to work their anatomy off to survive they would sit around the house watching TV all day and sponge off of everyone else's tax money. It's an argument that has huge emotional gravitas. No one wants to work hard only to see some lazy bum getting by doing Jacques Merde and living happily. But these leech arguments are exaggerated so far beyond reality they stretch the credibility of those making that argument like warm taffy. A couple years back someone mentioned having a neighbor who went on unemployment and basically sat around watching Conan movies all day long. Eventually the neighbor was so bored he went back to looking for work. Not very many people would be able to live with such mind-numbing tedium for long, but the reality of overwork and excessive stress makes people feel like they would want to be leeches if they could. Even Ronnie Ray-Gun's "welfare queen" was a carefully-crafted fiction designed specifically to tap into that nature human sense of justice - shocking and angering people into supporting his kleptocratic policies.

After that, it is straw all the way down.

Jon S. said...

We didn't kill all of the competing Homo species (or subspecies - as far as I can tell, the jury is still out on that). Sure, H. sapiens sapiens outcompeted the Neanderthals and Denisovans - but DNA analysis indicates that we also managed to preserve them, in a manner of speaking. Apparently most people of European descent carry up to 3% Neanderthal DNA, with the average running on the order of 2%. Denisovan DNA can make up as much as 5% of Far Eastern human DNA!

Turns out the only "pure" humans, the only ones without Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA, are those whose ancestors never left Africa (or interbred with outsiders). This fact amuses me, when the folks we see screaming loudest about "genetic purity" tend to be pale Cro Magnon-Neanderthal crossbreed mutts like me. :)

TCB said...

@Alfred Differ, yep, I see the Lather, Rinse, Repeat effect. I once wrote an essay (think I mentioned it here) called A Systems View of Eternal Vigilance, coming at the same idea from Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach. There's a dialogue in that book where a guy with a perfect stereo gets it broken by record designed to break it. So he gets a record player that analyzes the record and reassembles itself, but the new record attacks the reassembly mechanism.

In the same vein, none other than Steven Pinker replied to an edge.org question of the year (I highly recommend the edge.org annual questions!) The 2017 question was WHAT SCIENTIFIC TERM OR CONCEPT OUGHT TO BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN? and (among a horde of other thoughtful respondents) he replied The Second Law of Thermodynamics.

He writes: "Not only does the universe not care about our desires, but in the natural course of events it will appear to thwart them, because there are so many more ways for things to go wrong than to go right. Houses burn down, ships sink, battles are lost for the want of a horseshoe nail."

A sound government, like so many other human creations, begins to fall apart the second it is built, and so must be rebuilt every second of every day. Our leaders, like ourselves, have some natural tendency to be lazy, shortsighted, selfish and ignorant simply because it is so much less work! And as we have learned, lazy voters elect lazy leaders.

P.S. McCloskey book hasn't arrived yet. I am interested to read what she has to say about the early modern era.

Darrell E said...

Jon S.,

I can't be 100% of course, but I've never heard of any group for which relevant data exists that doesn't have some Neanderthal DNA, even African groups. Though African groups do have significantly less Neanderthal DNA. Not sure off hand about Denisovan DNA in African groups.

What is really fascinating to me is the evidence that gene flow from extinct human subspecies that has had beneficial consequences for modern human groups. Of course given NS you would expect to find just such evidence even after the relatively short time, in evolutionary terms, since the gene flows occurred. But the actual finding of such genes is exciting stuff.

For example, one of the genes, among a group of several, that confers high altitude tolerance among Tibetan peoples is a Denisovan gene.

Paul451 said...

From the last thread,
David Brin,
"But that's the point of the Enlightenment! It's got a cure! A difficult one that needs perpetual maintenance."

A better analogy then is that it's not a "cure", but an ongoing "treatment".

(More like diet and exercise. Which for some of us, is an annoyance, a chore, and oh how we hate being hectored by those for whom it comes naturally.)

Paul451 said...

From this thread from the last thread,
Re: OST.

I've talked (and argued) with "space lawyers" (lawyers who've set themselves up as specialists in the field) and over the years I've found that they use fear of OST as a marketing tool. Turning the OST into a bogey-man to ensure steady work from satellite vendors and the like.

One I used to bicker with online over OST wrote an op-ed after the US asteroid resources legislation, claiming that it violated the OST because it (in effect) claimed sovereignty over asteroids by regulating the activities of US flagged asteroid miners. Anyone who gave the OST even a quick read knows that it requires signatories to regulate the actions of non-government parties flagged to them. But fear of OST is his business, and "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

However, I am curious, what did the OST specifically do that undermined your business venture? What were you trying to do that it prevented?

Hayek, quoted,
"There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal."

There's also a difference between true differences in ability and that caused by culture/environment/opportunity. The Flynn effect alone should warn anyone away from assuming that what you see at a particular time is someone's "true level". And it's been way, way too easy to use words like Hayek's to prevent action to address avoidable inequality. It's a pretty standard trope used today by defenders of the oligarchs.

"The way I read that is even if there were some differences that had meaning, it's still best not to create rules that differentiate us. One might create policies intended to shrink the differences, but great care is needed in their construction. Removing policies that create those differences is likely FAR safer."

On the contrary, it's been vastly more effective to assume that inequality is treatable until proven otherwise, rather than to ever assume that current inequality reflects a "true" difference simply because you've removed the formal discrimination that created it.

We seem to be really, really bad at determining true differences. Enormous care must be taken when claiming you've truly levelled the playing field. We are incredibly blind to entrenched discrimination. Our default state is to assume that differences in ability are "true" or "natural". It's hard for us to recognise unequal opportunity.

Paul451 said...

Re: Nursing homes in space.

Microgravity causes damage in healthy people that resembles age-related bone disease and muscle wasting. So I hardly thing that putting people with those problems into that environment is going to help them.

AIUI, strength training is one of the most effective non-drug treatments.

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davser said...

But is inequality treatable? The US hasn't budged the white-black achievement gap more than an inch in 50 years of trying everything. Even the Flinn effect raised all the boats, but the gap remained. And in the presence of disparate impact and quotas it can't be said that people are simply treated equally and "let the chips fall where they may".

TCB said...

Walter: "One of our space dealers got arrested with a bag of our blue space rocks. We need to get him a criminal space lawyer."

Jesse: "Mr. White, you don't want a criminal space lawyer, you want a criminal space lawyer."


Tim H. said...

I read "The Bell Curve" years ago, Jerry Pournelle spoke well of it. What I got out of it was genius could be found anywhere at all. The idea that genius is more common in some varieties than others has little meaning for me, even if it was real, assuming stupid in a given variety of human would give very good odds of an embarrassing encounter.

TCB said...

Davser said: "The US hasn't budged the white-black achievement gap more than an inch in 50 years of trying everything."

Oh dang son we certainly for a fact did not try everything!

Have we tried not tying so much of educational funding of public schools to property taxes? Have we tried getting rid of that Jim Crow sucks-to-be-you-born-in-the-wrong-neighborhood bullshit? No. We have not tried that.

(To the degree it has been tried, we get white flight to to suburban schools, charter schools, private/parochial schools, race to the bottom if you can't afford to chase the "good schools"... Argh.)

Zepp Jamieson said...

Best typo of the month, from someone calling himself Paul Wildeyed on the Guardian's CIF, arguing that the "Russian Collusion" was a load of hooey:

It'snot about beating the Republicans or that they think Pence is a better alternative. it's about giving the banker wing of the Democrats an excuse to run Hilary type candidates in иovember.

David Brin said...

davser's assertion is bollocks. Countless ghetto neighborhoods have swung toward middle class (while others remain pits of despair). Countless minority families are now in the middle class, who weren't before (while enduring "wince-racism" nearly every day, often from over-eager liberals.)

I've heard one black radical denounce this as a "plan to rob minorities of their smartest people by co-opting them and thus depriving the revolution of its natural leaders." Huh.

locumranch said...

I erred by tuning in to NPR (public US radio) at an odd hour today & missed the hard fact news, but I did hear something even more informative:

A 20 min segment about exempting a certain privileged group of individuals from the Rule of Law (aka 'DACA'), followed by another 20 min segment that argued that law-abiding gun owners were de facto sociopaths & criminals in need of extralegal restrictions and punishments.

In the pursuit of imaginary 'equality', our culture has become increasingly schizophrenic, exempting many from the Rule of Law while demanding others suffer disproportionate penalties for law obedience, all in the name 'Equality'.

What we are left with is what David rails against on a regular basis: Cheating on a Massive Scale.

I have spent my life attempting to obey both the letter & the spirit of the law, only to have the propaganda arm of the Federal Government tell me (day-in/day-out) that I have been a massive sucker, abiding by a defunct social contract that exempts many others from the same incentives & punishments that are ruthlessly enforced upon people like myself.

Like the DACA, I too desire the freedom to acquire legal ID, food stamps & FREE education under fraudulent circumstances, to be beyond the reach of our predatory family court system, to slaughter someone on a San Francisco pier while I (the so-called 'victim') avoid all legal punishment, to be invisible to the IRS, to operate an automobile without either license or motor vehicle insurance & to obtain protected status so I can be lionised (rather than being punished) for multiple legal infractions.

Without uniform law enforcement for both the Goose & the Gander, our Collective Goose is cooked, and I (for one) will savour the delectable odor of roasted flesch & drippings.


Darrell E said...


Even if everything had been tried, as TCB points out is woefully wrong, how reasonable is it to expect things to get fixed in such a short period of time? Class is a very hard barrier to get around, no matter what "race" you are. Blacks have been the lowest class in the US from the very beginning and little effort was made to try and change that until the 2nd half of the 20th century. Well, the Civil War was a first step (come one now, let's not pretend it wasn't all about slavery) but precious little more was done by our society until the 2nd half of the 20th century.

So, how do you get people that have nothing behind them except generation after generation of being the lowest class in their society to take advantage of efforts to help them break out of that rut? And how long should it take for them to overcome that history at rates that bring them up to parity with whites? Especially when you consider that racism is still a significant factor today despite laws and programs to reduce it? When the actual execution of those laws and programs are biased because of the still wide spread racial biases of the people implementing them (if you want to argue against that claim start by explaining POTUS Trump), regardless of the written words or intents of those laws and programs? When you consider that even whites with a history of generations of low class find it similarly difficult to break out of that rut and raise themselves to a higher class?

Nope. We haven't even come close to addressing this problem effectively.

David Brin said...

One problem with whiners yowling "You are forcing us to be tolerant and cramming diversity down our throats!" -- other than the fact that it translates as "You are persecuting me my preventing me from my traditional persecution of others!"

That problem is the whining, itself. In their traditional cultures, they would either stand up and crush their enemies (meaning us) or else be crushed. Since they are clearly unable to crush us... and early confederate victories would be useless, because they have driven off every single profession of folks who actually know how to build and do stuff... their complaint actually comes down to:

"You could crush us into dust at any point. We are humiliated by your tolerance. Crush us now! According to YOUR values, that would be a crime. But according to OURS, it is the proper fate for us, because we're to weak to crush you! So do it! Do it now! Crush us! Or you prove your hypocritical intolerance of our value system."

Is there even remotely any other possible interpretation that makes the slightest sense?

Well there's another.

"We're a pack of sniveling whiners and these sniveling whines -- and ingrate attacks on a civilization that's good to us and let us rise above kibble -- get our personal rocks off."

locumranch said...

Darrell E weren't whistling Dixie when he admitted that the social progressives "haven't even come close to addressing this problem effectively". Instead, these social progressives have attempted to commit a massive fraud in order to justify their current plans of action into the indefinite future:


In their haste to 'promote equality', these delusional progs have done a massive disservice to those they tried to 'help' and caused irreparable harm to those who tried to help themselves (through individual effort), by reducing the value of the average US secondary school education to nil, with a ripple effect that largely invalidates the utility of the average US university level education.

But, no worries, social progressives like Nancy Pelosi feel EMPATHY for these impoverished failures and the other empathetic kleptocrats like her will FIX this problem by doubling-down on the same tired old solutions that have failed so miserably in the past, all while swimming laps in their money vaults like Scrooge McDuck.

Especially in government, the Koch Brothers are the rule rather than the exception:

First, they enact rules to enrich themselves (*Action*);
Second, they enrich various protected minorities (*Misdirection*);
Third, they impoverish the unprotected majority in covert fashion (*Illusion*); and,
Fourth, they call it Social Progress (*Mental Forcing*) .

How goes it in the EU? Are you all feeling suitably enriched yet? Or, are those whinging nationalists sounding more reasonable to you with every passing moment?

You can read more about the *Psychology of Magic* (Misdirection, Illusion & Forcing) here:

Darrell E said...

Guess I'm one of the gang now.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451 | it's been vastly more effective to assume that inequality is treatable until proven otherwise

I might quibble with you regarding unforeseen consequences in certain cases (women have NOT flocked to the labor force and demanded equal wages as I expected in my younger years), but that’s a small thing. I’ll mostly agree that attempts to treat inequality have worked well enough to justify the turmoil. I have no desire to live in a world where women are treated as chattel or even one where they are treated as though they belong on pedestals. The old social norms would likely have resulted in me being persecuted at best.

What I ask is that you all consider FIRST the removal of policies/customs that likely create the inequality in the first place. Simple things can help make the case for more complicated, intrusive policies later. Lifting the old ban on women acquiring college degrees or acquiring ANY kind of education helps remove an artificial inequality. It’s not a fast solution, but that is pretty close to how we actually did it, no? Look at how Emmy Noether acquired an education and you’ll find people removing restrictions as best they can. (There are many examples like her.) Treatment on a larger scale can follow shortly afterward.

I won’t argue for taking no coordinated action. I will be wary of coordinated action that involves government because our opponents can do that too. Giving them that tool is a dangerous thing. IF we can coordinate without government help, I’d much prefer that.

… and yes. We are terrible at determining true differences. We are also terrible at predicting the consequences of our actions. Viva la markets. Viva la science. 8)

(Let me give the OST stuff a bit more attention than I can at work. We might have meaningful disagreements on it that could be useful to hammer out.)

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | nothing but a canard

I don’t know about that. Most of the time, I agree with you. There are times, however, when this here old school liberal wonders about you progressives trying to create equal outcomes. Most of the time I wonder like that involves topics on which you all are involved in a vicious fight with the traditionalists. The story from my perspective goes a bit like this.

“We want liberalization of social policy X!” you say.
“We’d rather DIE! You may not have it!” they say.
“How about part of what we want for now?” you say.
“NEVER! SLIPPERY SLOPE! We know you for the devil you are! You are trying to lead us to Hell!” they say.
“Well… @$%^ YOU! Next time we are in power we will force it!” you say.
“We will undermine you in every way. Then when we are back in power we will undo other ideas of yours!” they say.

Once the emotions ratchet that high, I’m not convinced some of you are good at spotting the difference between equality of starting positions and equality of outcomes. I look at ‘busing’ for instance. That was a force, pure and simple. It was the result of decades of opposition from some vile people who did serious harm to our fellow citizens. It LOOKS like equality of starting positions, but it isn’t.

There is a school policy in place, however, that could be removed as a start. Consider what would happen if we prevented public schools from using zoning maps to determine who got to enroll. Mayhem would ensue, right? I have no doubt of it. Removing that policy, though, is exactly the kind of ‘get out of the way’ thing I suggest we start with first. Getting out of the way CAN’T attempt to create equal outcomes. Getting out of the way might have oodles of unintended consequences, but no one would mistake any of them as attempts by progressives to engineer a particular social solution. A solution might emerge over the coming years, but it won’t be engineered by ANYONE. Along the way we might learn something useful about what the social policy should have been in the first place. Maybe then we can craft a wise one to treat a terrible form of segregation that still exists in the US. [We both know it is still there after many generations.]

All I’m asking is that you all think carefully about removing rules before creating more. We old-school liberals might offer up a few you hadn’t considered as possibly in need of retirement. We can debate them and have fun doing it. Removing them might not fix things as quickly as you wish, but it might help in ways you could never imagine.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Hmm... Let's see if I can actually hammer this one out tonight.

This is bringing up a subject that was only secondary to the last topic, but it's a big subject, and the opinions voiced (and that I usually see voiced here) tended to be pretty one-sided: Gun control.

First, a disclaimer: I usually put great effort and emphasis on civility and courtesy in these sorts of things, but in the interests of brevity, I'll be curtailing some of the polish on that, so this will probably be a fair bit crass and snarky. Bear with me through it, and understand that I'm not throwing insult at anyone, but rather being blunt to save on time. (And character count!)

So, gun control. Hmm... Perhaps another disclaimer: All of this is my own opinion, and doesn't reflect anything beyond that or beyond me, or my source of employment. Usually, I don't feel the need to throw that out there, but I need to reference my employment to establish some of my own expertise on this matter.

So I sit squarely on the fence that divides this issue. While registered Independent (I despise the political party system as a whole), and I have many issues with the notions/policy suggestions put forward by the further edges of the "left," I tend to vote Democrat almost exclusively, and while I prefer to categorize myself as a Pragmatic Centrist, in today's political climate I wouldn't be inaccurately labeled as a Moderate Liberal/Progressive. I'm also a gun-owner, I grew up with guns, possess a PA CCW, and unless I'm going out somewhere that I am not allowed to carry a firearm, I'm almost always armed (and such was the case even before I enlisted). I'm also a torpedoman on a submarine, which means that Small Arms and Force Protection is a large part of my day job, and I'm also a certified Small Arms Marksmanship Instructor (SAMI) in the Navy (which requires a special school, and adds an NEC, or job code, to my record, which determines the billets, or jobs that I can be assigned to). I even recently got a medal for it, for my small arms instruction and the management of my command's small arms training and qualification program.

So I have a pretty solid view of both sides of this issue, and a fair bit of career training and experience on the subject and related matters.

And I can say with absolute certainty that both sides are FUCKING STUPID.

90% of policies that are seriously supported or acceptable to both sides ARE THE SAME. They word them differently, the couch them in different terms or contexts, but 90% of policies EVERYONE ALREADY AGREES ON. They just disagree on the language surrounding them, or misinterpret the meaning of that language.

The rest is quibbles, largely inconsequential, or pie-in-the-sky notions that will never happen.

But neither side will actually sit down and have a conversation like adults and actually achieve any meaningful action, because they scream at each other in this stupid, my-side-your-side partisan squabble that feeds an INSANE (and from certain perspectives, TERRIFYING) feedback loop that just keeps spinning both sides up to greater and greater stupidity.

I'm not going to delve into the roots of that, on either side (I tried to last time this subject came up and I tried to make a mega post, but it ran waaaay too long, and I never finished), but continuing that cycle of "MY WAY! - NO, MY WAY!" bickering isn't going to solve any problems, and is really only going to ultimately play out one way.

The Reps are going to continue to stonewall and obfuscate, and while they will actually point out some of the real, underlying causes of the problem, they won't actually DO anything about those problems (because doing so conflicts with too many of their other key policies). This stonewalling will backfire on them in the short term and long term, but in different ways, but the anti-gun-control crowd will ultimately come out on top (at least in that specific area), and the Dems will lose hard.

Ilithi Dragon said...

In the (relative) short-term, the Dems are eventually going to build up enough resentment and political capital to push through some BIG restrictions and bans (not a constitutional amendment, that will never happen), but it will be BIG, much along the lines of the sort of things the Reps keep drumming up fear against, and it will largely be their own damn fault.

Pushing those restrictions/bans will be the biggest political disaster the Democrats will ever commit, but they're too stupid (at least right now) to not go for it. Because they'll eventually get enough political capital to make it happen, and git pissed enough to pull that trigger, and it will blow up in their faces, because it will spend ALL of their political capital to make it happen, and then it will blow up in their face and all of the restrictions/bans will go away, down to the state and local level.

There will be a massive, distracting, and politically devastating legal battle, and ultimately ALL of the bans/restrictions will be thrown out on the grounds of the 2nd Amendment, which says in no uncertain terms that "the right to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. All of those bans and restrictions, infringements on the right to keep and bear arms, are like a house of cards built on an M80 with a lit fuse. The idea behind the 2nd Amendment is that civilians drafted or volunteering into a civil militia would provide their own firearms, and as such civil militias who provide their own firearms are vital to the defense of the state (less so today than in the late 18th Century, but the sheer number of people who could quickly be mustered with a firearm and pointed at a foreign invader of the US is still a HUGE strategic factor in the defense of the nation), the right of private citizens to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Further sentiment behind the 2nd Amendment, not specifically enumerated in the text, is that those armed civilians provide a means of checking a tyrannical government, in the most extreme and dire of cases, when all other legal avenues have failed (much like the founding of our nation).

So the Democrats will take that bait, with the Republicans suffering a heavy blow in the short-term, but the backlash will blow up in the Democrats' faces, and when the smoke settles, everything they've accomplished with gun control will have gone up in smoke, their political capital will be spent, and their strategic position will be in shambles.

The Republicans will continue to stonewall and obfuscate, and have everything they fear happen happen, and while the backlash will give them victory on gun control, the ultimate fallout will leave their party a discredited and despised mess.

And the whole damn argument will be moot, anyway, because 3D printing and in-house manufacturing will quickly allow people to make cheap, reliable-enough, re-usable, repeating firearms. It's almost there ALREADY, and with just the additional purchase of a small nail, you can ALREADY print yourself a cheap derringer. You've been able to do that for more than half a decade! Honestly, because I haven't looked recently, I wouldn't be surprised if you could already produce a disposable, repeating firearm with just the addition of a couple cheap springs and a thumbtack.

Banning firearms WILL NOT WORK. It will blow up in the face of anyone who tries it. It WILL NOT WORK any better than Prohibition did, any better than the War on Drugs is, and that's BEFORE you factor in 3D printing and in-home manufacturing technology.

You'll never make any ban stick without a Constitutional Amendment, and that is never going to happen. You might as well try and walk to the moon. There are too many conservatives alone who would oppose a repeal of the 2nd Amendment to get the supermajority that you need to make it pass, and too many liberals/progressives LIKE ME who would oppose it. And without that, any ban or restriction is just a house of cards being built on a firecracker.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Restricting firearms or types or components of firearms won't really help, either. Most of them are written by people who, frankly, don't have a fucking clue what they're talking about. Maryland's laws are a prime example. They specifically ban dozens of variations and components of the AR-15 platform, but most of them are COSMETIC and have little or no meaningful impact on the lethality of the platform, and the versions of the AR-15 that ARE legal under the MD law is actually A MORE EFFECTIVE WEAPON than everything that is banned!

Getting someone who actually knows what the hell their talking about, is actually an expert on firearms and what makes them more or less effective, would help (though more often than not, they'll oppose those policies, because they're not effective), but that will only just drive those parts/versions/etc. into the black market, where they can't be tracked or regulated, and the addition of advancing in-home manufacturing tech makes the whole thing just as moot as banning guns.

Magazine size restrictions are also counter-productive. Sorry, Dr. Brin, but you're notion that limiting magazine size will increase the frequency of reloads and thus make the perpetrator more vulnerable to being tackled by unarmed defenders or people equipped with "weapons of opportunity" (a real term in military force protection, btw), is wrong. Virginia Tech, the most lethal school shooting in our history, was committed with two handguns with 9- and 10-round magazines.

Small size magazines are easy to manipulate and handle, even more so than a standard magazine. Our pistol qualification course includes a couple speed reload sequences of fire, where the shooters are expected to draw a holstered weapon, shoot two rounds, eject the magazine, draw a replacement magazine from a buckled pouch, reload, and shoot two more rounds in ten seconds. Doing so while making reasonably accurate shots is fairly easy even for new, inexperienced shooters with just a little practice. Someone who practices can easily get that time well below 8 seconds, and someone who really practices can do all of that and still make accurate shots in 5 or less.

Extended magazines, on the other hand, are much more cumbersome and awkward to reload. A standard or small size magazine fits easily even in my hands (and I have tiny hands), making it easy to guide it into the magazine well of a pistol. An extended magazine, however, requires notably more coordination, and focus, and time, to reload, and it's much easier to fumble the process (plus, the added weight of all those rounds increases their inertia, adding to the difficulty of reloading them, and their size makes it more awkward to carry them and grab them. Extended/high-capacity magazines are also more prone to jamming and miss-feeding, because of the greater variation in spring tension between a full magazine and an almost-empty magazine. The 2011 Tucson shooting, where Gabrielle Giffords was shot, was stopped because the shooter's 33-round extended magazine jammed, and he fumbled pulling the replacement out of his pocket, allowing him to be tackled to the ground. If he had standard or small-sized magazines (with ~1/2 or ~1/3 the capacity), the shooting probably would have been much worse, because the gun wouldn't have jammed and he wouldn't have fumbled the reload.

Ilithi Dragon said...

If the Dems really want to make a difference here, they're going to have to make a MAJOR compromise, and throw out a bait deal that the Reps absolutely CANNOT refuse.

The Dems should put forward a bill that would establish a National Conceal Carry Permit. This permit would require a comprehensive background check, completion of a firearms safety course, completion of a justification and use of force training course (for "rules of engagement and the use of deadly force" in military terms), and a live-fire qualification course (with annual- or bi-annual live-fire sustainment requirements). This permit would then allow the holder to purchase, possess, and carry any "conventional" (as in, not covered under existing FFL licensing requirements) firearm, with standard-sized magazines, in ANY state.

In return, this bill will also include funding (provided in part by revenue from the permit, as well as a small tax on capital gains and a stock market microtransaction fee) for free psychological evaluation and treatment for everyone, expanded suicide prevention and outreach programs (the vast majority of all gun deaths), and also funding for the investigation of "rare psycholigical side-effects" of new and existing drugs (a number of mass shootings have been linked to psychotic breaks caused by medication), as well as community outreach programs focused on reducing gang violence (one of the other leading causes of gun deaths in the country).

And I think that's about enough for this post. One last thing, though: It's very much worth noting that the school shooting "epidemic" is not nearly as bad as it's made out to be in the media. Since 2000, including this latest shooting, about 250 people have been killed in school shootings, total. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/02/14/eighteen-years-of-gun-violence-in-u-s-schools-mapped/?utm_term=.89495eb5911d

That's less than 15 people per year. That's fewer people than are killed by cows each year: https://curiosity.com/topics/cows-kill-more-people-than-sharks/

School shootings are traumatic, and each death is a tragedy (and I say this as someone who has every intention of living forever, and who wishes everyone else the same opportunity), but they are not nearly as big of an issue as they are made out to be, and their SENSATIONAL, ratings-drawing SHOCK VALUE is exponentially higher than their actual effect and impact.

duncan cairncross said...

Public Schools
I LIKE the NZ approach where the school zones are rated and zones that are not as well off get MORE money from the state

Our Schools are NOT perfect but the "Decile System" has resulted in the actual schools all performing about the same

We don't have the Good School Bad School spread that the UK has

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Ilithi
I think (hope) that you are wrong - the Australian example shows that simply requiring a gun owner to be a member of a gun club and participate in a small number of events each year seems to filter out 99% of the real loonies

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

Guess I'm one of the gang now.

It's kinda like being Jewish without the good parts.


TCB said...

Ilithi Dragon, most of what you're saying makes perfect sense, but this:"If the Dems really want to make a difference here, they're going to have to make a MAJOR compromise, and throw out a bait deal that the Reps absolutely CANNOT refuse." Um. I've heard this idea before, in various contexts, and it turns out that today's GOP can absolutely refuse anything under, over, or inside the sun. The stupider, the better.

Other short notes:

On "equal outcomes". Like the horizon, equal outcomes are something that will recede as you approach. A mirage, a chimera, an unattainable perfection of an ill-defined simulacrum of a goal. No rational person seriously wants "equal outcomes". Vonnetgut's Harrison Bergeron, as previously noted, is the reductio ad absurdum of this. It's a straw man. Mentally delete any paragraph which contains this phrase.

On slippery slopes. The slippery slope is considered a formal fallacy, that is a fallacy of form, because it does not always follow that A will lead to B will lead to C. However, some slopes are slippery. The only way to know is to examine them case by case and come up with good arguments why this particular A will end in that particular C, or why it won't. In the real world, only time will tell. But we have plenty of methods to improve our odds of predicting accurately. An under-used one: not listening to those with really bad predictive records. Especially when they are pushing tax cuts or wars.

Ilithi Dragon said...


It's hard to prove anything with the Australian model; the gun crime rates were already low and in decline before the ban, and the rate of decline didn't really change after.

Community participation and social interaction is a huge factor in resolving the looney issues, in general, though not the ultimate solution.

Ilithi Dragon said...


That national CCW would not be something the republicans could refuse. Most of their base is BEGGING for one, and if they turned it down, their base would eat them alive.

TCB said...

P.S. if "equal outcomes" are a mirage, that doesn't mean "wildly unequal outcomes" is better. Most billionaires are just tumors on society, sucking nutrients out of the economy and the body politic and giving nothing back that couldn't have been done better without them.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Also, TCB,

Nothing I've seen the Dems put forward has actually been a "they can't refuse" deal. They usually make small concession after small concession, trying to bring the Reps to the table.

They need to go all-in on a big one up front, and make it well-known, a thing the Rep base wants a lot, to force the Reps to the table, or hoist themselves on their own petard with their base.

LarryHart said...

@Ilithi Dragon,

You posted way too much to pull quotes out. Let me just mention a few things.

The Second Amendment does not in any way single out firearms. It says "The right to bear arms shall not be infringed." If machetes, hand grenades, and hand-held tactical nuclear weapons can be regulated, why are guns in some sort of special legal category which cannot be touched no matter the harm caused with them?

That aside, I tend to agree with you that I have a hard time imagining a law which by itself would prevent mass shootings, especially those committed by someone who doesn't care if he dies. But we (society) do have to do something to stop the carnage. It's like we're in a war, and when you're in a war you don't just accept that the other side is shooting at you--you try to stop them by winning the war.

So what sort of thing is possible. I have some thoughts which are not at all pleasant.

One is for police to treat white men with a firearm the same way that they treat black people who possess a gun during a traffic stop: One of them shouts "Gun!" which allows the whole force (in immediate fear for their lives) to unload a hail of bullets until as Hawkeye Pearce once put it, "I think they got him and a half." I realize the Second Amendment and all, but the Second Amendment is also supposed to apply to the black man, and it obviously doesn't. Instead of saying everyone should be treated like the white guy, I'm suggesting that maybe everyone who is armed and dangerous should be treated like the black guy.

The second is only bad in its implicit cynicism. That the only way the gun massacre issue will ever be resolved is when (either technologically or evolutionarily) we humans develop immunity to bullets, making it all a moot point.

TCB said...

A national CCW? Eh maybe. And does that come with a national stand your ground law, incentivizing shooting first? That will sell a LOT of pistols and ballistic vests and caskets too!

Sorry if that sounds snarky. Maybe it is. But I prefer living in a world where I do not automatically assume half the guys in the supermarket are carrying automatics.

LarryHart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

And I think that's about enough for this post. One last thing, though: It's very much worth noting that the school shooting "epidemic" is not nearly as bad as it's made out to be in the media. Since 2000, including this latest shooting, about 250 people have been killed in school shootings, total.

It's not just about raw numbers. The fact that any non-zero number of schoolchildren are shot to death at school every year rubs people raw, probably because the expectation is that the number should be zero, and 15 per year is an infinite number of times zero.

Also, it's not just schools. Remember when post offices and McDonalds were the favorite targets to shoot up.

The whole friggin' point of society is to protect its citizens from predatory individuals, foreign and domestic. If you're really arguing that the Second Amendment prevents society from doing just that--that the price of freedom is the reality that anyone on the street has the means and the right to open fire on you should he so feel like it--then what good is being Americans in the first place?

Oh, and an addendum to my suggestion above that we need to become immune to bullets: Maybe what we need is some device that can remotely cause a gun to jam, so the shooter doesn't know if he's going to fire off a few rounds or if the firearm will blow up in his face. Or something like the "explosive pyrotechnics" that occur in Dune when a lasgun blast intersects a shield, killing both the shooter and the shootee simultaneously.

locumranch said...

The term 'Equal Outcomes' means participation medals for everyone, NO winners, NO competition, No CITROCATE, just a whole lot of politically correct lowest common denominator losers with delicate FEELZ.

Ilithi_D scores some good point with Federal CCW permits, but it sounds an awful lot like the Nazi registration program for Guns & Jews. (1) How would you enforce a law like this? (2) What Agency could we trust to enforce this law with non-partisanship? And, (3) Why would we want to ?

There was a time not too long ago when many US primary & secondary schools taught firearm safety, marksmanship & competed against one another in sport. Yellow buses were full of children carrying their firearms to & from school. The urban attempt to ban firearms has led to disaster, turning our inner cities into gun-free slaughter houses where honest citizens cower in helpless terror & only criminals possess guns.

As a polite society is an armed society, arm everyone & bullying will be a thing of the past. It would put an end to the tyrannical police state too, as the good police officer would have near infinite back-up but the abusive police officer have only his 'back'.

But, as Larry_H counters, Gun Control is "not just about raw numbers". It's also about probability fallacy, the creation of dependency, fear-mongering & authoritarianism as the means to control a cowed, defenseless & submissive population.


Ilithi Dragon said...


I've got to be up at 0400 to go to a trainer, so I won't be able to give you a full response tonight, but understand that while I agree most any death is a tragedy, especially the death of children, we can't save them all. We can and should try to minimize those deaths as best we can, but you'll never make that number zero. The number for children killed in school shootings each year is about 15. About 700 kids drown each year, many of them in pools in their own homes, or the homes of friends and family. About half that number die each year in atv accidents.

Yes, it's not just about the numbers, but the perspective they provide is absolutely important. If you ignore that perspective, and the context of the bigger picture, and only focus on the emotional impact of children dying at school, you're leaving yourself vulnerable to emotional manipulation and exploitation.

Emotional knee-jerk reactions don't serve to create effective strategies or policies, and a healthy dose of pragmatism is necessary to form effective solutions.

Jon S. said...

Illithi, the Second Amendment starts out, "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state..."

It's not quite so clear-cut as you present it. The current situation in many states can hardly be described as "a well-regulated milita", just for starters.

Anonymous said...

Anyway ... if you want to avoid that those of METI continue sending Email to the Klingons; to the Irken Empire; to the Cardasians; to the Kifs; to the Borg; Etc. Maybe they should send to the METI the final chapter of the second season of Star Trek; that chapter where Michael Burnham gives a speech about what the Federation is; and about the fact that the Federation can not take immoral shortcuts. Because federation is not immoral.
And, certainly, I suppose it would be somewhat uncomfortable to wake up one day and see the Irken fleet filling the whole sky. Extraterrestrial Poorlings. Undoubtedly, the aliens will die at the hands of some lunatic gunman. Later, the drug traffickers will turn the aliens into addicts.
Already seriously; I think a situation like that would not be a problem for Donald Trump. Because without a doubt, if a hostile fleet goes to our world, the first one in dialogue with the invaders will be Donald. (Because now, Donald owns the resources of NASA) And we all know what Donald will do: Donald will sell us all, in exchange for being the supreme leader of the planet.

Paul SB said...


There is a lot to concur with in your long posts, and I am sure a lot of us appreciate it. In my mind the best part was simply your statement that both sides are being moronic. Lie you, I end up voting for the Dumbocrats because they cause less damage than the Repugnant Party (childish monikers, I admit, but what can I say? The theatrics both sides engage in at the cost of real human lives disgusts me to no end). The Dems are like bad parents (or bad teachers, or bad religions) who react to every issue by forbidding something, but Thou Shalt Not is not an appropriate way to handle everything - probably not a majority or even half of society's issues, though there are certainly some things where there are good arguments for bans. What many on the other side refuse to see is that they are just as bad, they just want to ban different things. Repubs want to ban minorities and women from having the rights of citizenship and the same protections of the law that White Anglo-Saxon Protestant males are guaranteed. They want to ban anything that stodgy, inflexible and insensitive church marks who rarely actually read their own holy book. Out of one side of their mouths they say they believe in freedom, while they constantly work to take freedom away from all but the wealthiest people. You can see why I think we would be better off with a plethora of viable parties.

Anonymous said...

As I get the impression that most Americans do not want to solve the problem of the demented gunmen. I have heard them talk about the matter and I do not detect effective solutions. Even worse; Some of you who know more about the subject propose solutions of minimum effect, and affirm that nobody will be able to solve the problem.
Of course, if the Americans wish to make occasional sacrifices to the rifle god, ¿who am I to criticize them? After all, my ancestors 500 years ago sacrificed the foot-ball team that was losing. (The Aztecs often sacrificed the winners, but that was because the Aztecs were damned cheaters) (those of my tribe were calmer than the Aztecs.) We never pretended to dominate the neighboring tribes, and unlike the Aztecs, we never tried to We always live in harmony with nature (and we had a lot of nudists.) And of course, everyone carried weapons: spears, bows and arrows, shields, and we had small monkeys trained to bite directly into the ...
Anyway; The fact is that we all have the right to decide in what kind of world we want to live.


Paul SB said...


Think about bussing, one of the issues that the right-wingers claim is about trying to create equal outcomes. Does sending underprivileged kids to better schools equalize outcomes? Not a chance. Those kids still have to learn, study and perform, earn their GPA and diplomas. The difference is that with bussing they were given the same opportunity to learn as their more well-to-do Caucasian fellow citizens, opportunities that were denied them before. I don't think bussing was a great solution, but it was unsurprising given how it was framed in the courts - separate is never equal. Likewise with income equality I have never heard anyone (even from the Soviet Union) claim that everyone should make exactly the same amount of money, only that there should be enough of a social safety net that no one ends up going homeless and has to beg for a living.

Equal outcomes is a right-wing canard, a straw man like nearly all of their arguments against the left wing. Of course the left does it too, but for some reason the right wing relies on low tactics and unethical means much, much more frequently than the left. I'm not an enthusiastic supporter of the Dems, but I can smell the lesser evil easily enough.

Paul451 said...

Illithi, if you feel like you are getting dog piled, it's just because you aren't seen as "the enemy".

"both sides are FUCKING STUPID.
[...]but 90% of policies EVERYONE ALREADY AGREES ON.
[...] But neither side will actually sit down and have a conversation like adults"

Sorry, no. "Both sides" bullshit doesn't work. It's not the "gun grabbers" who are refusing to sit down and talk, it's not them who are refusing to compromise a millimetre. On the contrary, over the decades they've done nothing but compromise.

The problem is that the leadership on one side, and one side only, do not naturally arise from the community they supposedly lead, but from an industry that manipulates the community for other purposes. For example, the political policies espoused by the NRA do not reflect the views of the vast majority of their membership. (You see the same thing with PETA and their ordinary donors.)

I don't know how you can break that deception, if the average person refuses to see it.

"they scream at each other in this stupid, my-side-your-side partisan squabble [...]
continuing that cycle of "MY WAY! - NO, MY WAY!" bickering [...]"

Except only one side needs to scream/squabble/"MY WAY"/bicker and accuse the other side of doing the same for an issue to be frozen in the way this one is. It doesn't actually matter is the other side is or isn't actually doing the same thing.

"they're going to have to make a MAJOR compromise, and throw out a bait deal that the Reps absolutely CANNOT refuse."


During the entire 8 years of Obama's Presidency, he signed a single gun-related bill. To make it easier to carry firearms on Federal land. Pro-gun. Now go listen to the online gun community talking about what Obama did or tried to do on gun control. There's no actual connection between what they see and what is real. Nothing the Dems can do will puncture that kind of blind tribalism.

The Dems could put a free AR-15 in every home and they'd still be accused of being "gun grabbers". They could make gun training and weekly target practice part of the national school curriculum for all kids and they'd be accused of trying to secretly create a private brainwashed liberal army something something urban thugs.

The problem is not on that side.

Paul SB said...


Out of curiosity, what Post-Classic Mesoamerican polity do you hail from? Tarascan, Tlaxcalan, Yaqui, Zapotec?

Paul451 said...


"Banning firearms WILL NOT WORK."

I live in a country in which it did work. It just worked. 100%. Overnight. And that's the typical story, not specific to one nation or one culture.

It eliminates mass shootings. It. Just. Works. Maybe it shouldn't. But for the kind of people who conduct mass-shootings, it just works.

At some point, just accept what the actual real world is telling you.

"[magazine sizes/3d printers/more people are killed by/blah-blah/NRA talking points]"

I'm not saying you are an NRA shill, I know you aren't, but those really are NRA created talking points. That's where they came from. You pick them up, osmotically, from other gun owners, from gun culture, because they sound reasonable (because they are crafted to sound reasonable) without realising that they are created by manipulators. I see these memes repeating through gun sites all the time, and even amongst some gun owners here in Australia. You can watch new memes emerge online and in the media from the actual shills somewhere and quickly spread around the entire community. But the community can't see it. It's sometimes surreal to watch. You can see it, but they can't. Wilful group blindness.)

Paul451 said...

"a National Conceal Carry Permit. This permit would require a comprehensive background check, completion of a firearms safety course, [etc etc etc]"

And why wouldn't the Republicans and NRA demand a removal of that long list of requirements as the price for their votes? What possible reason do the Republicans have for accepting such a deal?

To which you would reply...
"Most of their base is BEGGING for one, and if they turned it down, their base would eat them alive."

So what? Why do you think the Republicans care about gun owners? They would refuse the "Democrat onerous and outrageous gun control bill attacking law-abiding gun owners" and the base would cheer them on and hunker down even harder against the evil gun grabbing Demoncrats. Locumranch is already practising the memes against it, and that's without carefully crafted talking points repeated endlessly, without rebuttal, throughout the right-wing media empire.

You aren't dealing with an honest negotiator. You can't "compromise" in the normal human sense of working out a deal that's the least worst option for all sides, because the leadership of one (and only one) side is not concerned about the issue, they are using it to create tribal loyalty. And that trick fails if they actually solve the problem.

Meanwhile... you know the Dems have a base too. One that if frustrated with Dem's compromise, and is just as easily manipulated by "both sides are the same" memes created by the same manipulators.

Your plan has no possible win scenario for the Dems.


"a small tax on capital gains and a stock market microtransaction fee"


Paul451 said...

"One that if frustrated"


Paul SB said...


You are right that the problem is not on that side, but that side isn't doing a very good job of coming up with fixes. To look at another contentious subject, do you remember the US Net Wealth graph that Dr. Brin put up about a month ago? It clearly shows that things started to get dramatically worse under Reagan's watch, when trickle-down policies were implemented on a huge scale. But those lines don't change under Clinton or Obama. The neighborhood just keeps sliding off the cliff. The Dems aren't making it worse, but they aren't making it better, either.

Yes, their track record for improving the live son citizens is much better. Our host points these metrics out regularly enough. But the big macro trends are still going the down. We can put the blame for that at the feet of the Repubs, and deservingly so, but we aren't going to fix the situation the Democrat way, either.

David Brin said...

Ilithi Dragon you are always welcome here… and it is an honor knowing a member of this community is down there, at the front lines.

I groked all that you said. But I beg to disagree in parts. There is simply no groundswell among moderate democrats… and they are a larger component than the other two — Santa Monica Liberals and True Lefties… to ban firearms in any large scale way. And without the moderates, you won’t even get a bill out of caucus, let alone Congress.

(Have you forgotten that I push hard for purple retired officers - pro-science but also crewcut hunters - to run for office? You think they’d let such bills out of caucus?

Hell yes, you’ll get moderate-reforms like TRUE background checking with computerized databases and registries of restraining orders etc. nationwide. You’ll get expanded mental health programs. You’ll get protection of each state’s right to impose its own gun laws, so that we can get a range of experiments.

And yes, limiting magazine and clip size ought to have great benefits. Please, Virginia Tech would have been far worse, and you know it. In any event, you do not refute a plausible generality with one anecdote. You know I could cite several cases in which the hero tackled a guy who was briefly out of ammo. In fact, the recent Clint Eastwood flick about the 3 American “Paris Train” heroes is pertinent, since the first guy charged in roughly a clip-change interval. He would have been shredded, otherwise.

Especially since mass shooters are usually NOT in command of their full faculties or generally well-trained.

But the key point is that there is no need for large magazines and clips to justify NOT trying to see if this works! The only reason for them is to kill a lot of people.

BTW… my Jefferson Rifle essay addresses a number of your points. But the biggest gun lobby complaint — “Slippery Slope” - is the one that few liberals address and it must be! And I do.

Tiny hands - Schmands. We all know you are packing, where it counts!

David Brin said...

Ilithi… Your final set of offered compromises sound overall reasonable to me. And they might to that moderate faction, especially enhanced with a wave of retired officers. Now, where’s the Moderate Faction on the right?

“Nothing I've seen the Dems put forward has actually been a "they can't refuse" deal. They usually make small concession after small concession, trying to bring the Reps to the table. They need to go all-in on a big one up front…”

That is exactly what I try here http://www.tinyurl.com/jrifle

But nothing forces republicans to the table. Because their whole and entire purpose (other than tax gifts to the rich) is to destroy the table! Ever hear of the Hastert Rule? Negotiating like adults is THE trait Rupert Murdoch has aimed to wreck. There is no other common element and it is the central confederate catechism.

But thanks! Your presence here, this evening, made it even easier to just scroll on past locumranch without even skimming.

David Brin said...

BTW there have been EIGHTEEN school shootings this year alone, in 45 days.

Paul451 said...

"I have never heard anyone (even from the Soviet Union) ...."

Indeed, even the Marxist quote: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" explicitly assumes unequal capability and unequal outcomes.

Re: Dems.

The Dems suck at their jobs. They are the worst possible US political party...

...except for all the others.


Re: Tackling inequality.

It's about the starting assumption, which way you should mainly face, what your main concern should be. Starting with the assumption that as long as there's no explicit legal barrier, opportunity is equal and outcomes are almost entirely innate will lead to merely entrenched, generational inequality and lost opportunity.

Instead, always assume that an inequality is systemic and needs to be challenged; place the burden of proof on those who claim otherwise.

One day, your society might be otherwise. But you are so, so far from that day that it's just not worth planning today for that eventuality.

Tim H. said...

Ilithi Dragon, I believe the lasting solution would be more along the lines of abandoning the half-assed libertarian policies that are so popular with the .001% and so stressful for everyone else, but mandatory liability insurance on firearms might be helpful* and gun owners largely didn't complain when liability insurance became mandatory for motor vehicle owners...
For the record, I don't want a firearms ban, but the longer the NRA** fights any restrictions as a first step on a slippery slope, the greater the pressure will be to ban outright.

*The cost of insuring an assault-style weapon and several 30 round clips would at least reduce the butcher's bill.
**My outsider's perception is that the NRA is primarily a sales promotion organization, and sees the rank & file as useful idiots.

Paul SB said...

Paul 451 doth written,

"The Dems suck at their jobs. They are the worst possible US political party...

...except for all the others."

- to which I reply, thus do I vote the D ticket! At least some of them will listen to sense, though conformity to party tradition seems to be their main thrust.

"It's about the starting assumption, which way you should mainly face, what your main concern should be. Starting with the assumption that as long as there's no explicit legal barrier, opportunity is equal and outcomes are almost entirely innate will lead to merely entrenched, generational inequality and lost opportunity."

- This is exactly why I go on and on about genetic determinism and neuroplasticity. These are the foundations of the repugnant right's rationalizations. Every day the work of biological and social scientists the world over demonstrate that the bedrock of assumptions their hate rests upon is nothing but scree. That is why they hate science so much - science proves their stupidity.

LarryHart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

While I agree most any death is a tragedy, especially the death of children, we can't save them all. We can and should try to minimize those deaths as best we can, but you'll never make that number zero. The number for children killed in school shootings each year is about 15. About 700 kids drown each year, many of them in pools in their own homes, or the homes of friends and family. About half that number die each year in atv accidents.

We're talking about different things.

No, we can't save everybody from everything, but saving people from the intentional harm inflicted by others in defiance of their rights? That's what society is for. School shootings (or church shootings or concert shootings) aren't a consequence of environmental conditions or calculated risks involved in some dangerous activity. They're violent, criminal acts if not acts of war. Although I've been facetiously arguing that they should be treated as natural disasters like hurricanes, I'm not ready to concede that point yet in reality.

Note, I'm not demanding assault weapons bans or "gun control". I think we could use those things, but I don't think they'd solve the problem, and I agree with you that they'd probably cause more harm (blowback) than good. Truth to tell, I don't have an immediate solution in mind (except the dystopian ones I already listed, which are dystopian), but I think it's long past time we (society as a whole) do some analysis and come up with some answers. The fact that the federal government, by law, is forbidden from doing so is obscene.

I get that the gun owners have (Second Amendment) rights too. As with abortion, this is not an issue where one side has right on their side and the other does not--it's a matter of mediating between conflicting rights, just as abortion is a matter of balancing the mother's rights against the baby's. As things stand, I think law and custom are way, Way, WAY out of balance in favor of gun rights against the right to life. That's what I believe has to change.

Paul SB said...


I like the idea of mandatory liability insurance. Look at how "sin taxes" are affecting tobacco. For decades more people have been quitting and fewer people starting, because it's simply too expensive. It sucks to be a poor person who is addicted, and I have heard plenty of griping, none of which ever goes beyond that self-centered, individualist perspective of the right wing that is utterly blind to social consequences like second-hand smoke, leaded gasoline, supersized sodas or a plethora of similar "freedoms" that they bitch about. You know if you start taxing AR-15s you will get a huge anti-Big Brother backlash, and making insurance mandatory will probably do the same, but it will be easier to swallow than a ban or a tax.

This would not have stopped the Vegas shooting, but quite a few mass murderers have been people of limited means who would probably not have been able to afford semi-automatic death machines if there were a steep insurance requirement (and insurance for mass-murder machines would be very steep, given how much all those funerals, investigations and mental health services for survivors cost - you might not see a whole lot of insurers willing to take it on). Here's another case where financial inequality has dire consequences, as most of those people would not have lost their minds if their lives were financially secure. Stress matters - most mental disorders are only partly influenced by genes, largely influenced by the pressures of life that can trigger epigenetic changes. That's why people who are born with schizophrenia rarely show signs of it when they are children, even though they are "born that way." The defective genes only get switched on if they experience significant enough stress to marinate their tissues in cortisol.

Rather than an outright ban, which pretends to be able to solve a problem right away, an insurance requirement would be something more akin to the "harm reduction" strategies used in treating drug addictions. Eventually it might wean American culture off its phallic gun fixation.

Marino said...

Re: guns. Seen from outside, the whole 2. Am. as a way to mantain freedom sounds anachronistic, from the age of the black powder muzzleloader.
Against a technically advanced repressive state, I suppose the technical term for a mob of Jefferson-rifle-toting people will be "target". Imagine it the other side uses frag grenades or helicopter gunships.

Re: equality of outcomes. It's the silliest right-wing canard ever. Kurt Vonnegut shouldn't have written Harrison Bergeron (and given Vonnegut, it was more in the paths of Marcuse's One Dimensional Man than in Ayn Rand's)
Which outcomes?
In some cases it's simply a matter of efficiency: education or healthcare are expensive on their own, so getting the most people healed or well-educated is the best option. Imagine that the success of any simple medical procedure, say an appendicectomy, had the same spread in results that incomes have...
Also, education: getting everyone a "level field" and equal opportunities and expecting a very, very wide difference in outcomes?
Equality in income... absolute equality is something no one wishes. But too extreme differences hurt capitalism and market themselves, as they reduce demand, steal resources (better one overpaid corporate executive or ten or twenty people more working in R&D?), reduce the efficiency of markets.
And, for those who scream "equal outcome is communism!!"... sorry. Marx stated that "communism" was a post scarcity economy
based on automation and science, so "equality of income" becomes meaningless, and people will be free to develop their talents in full.
A" different thing" from Harrison Bergeron, "in fact the opposite thing". Basically, the Culture by Iain Banks.
I bet on the screams from the usual suspects, but let's put it this way: if and when a post scarcity society becomes feasible, is it morally justifiable to keep people poor, suffering and uneducated because "it forges stronger people" or somesuch (something well disproved by evidence). And in such a case, who decides who will stay poor and suffering?
Instead of Harrison Bergeron, some people out there should read The ones who walk away from Omelas, instead.

locumranch said...

Nice try, Ilithe_D, but realise that David has been mesmerised by the number EIGHTEEN (school shootings), so much so that he cannot no longer compare relative probabilities or even recognise that more children die on playground equipment every year than are killed by guns.

It's the Psychology of Magic: He can only see School Shooting as the threat to children (misdirection); he is convinced that children will be SAFE once school shooting are eliminated (illusion); and he has been led & bred to conclude that banning guns is the one & only solution to school shootings (mental forcing).

Of course, the same process repeats when he fixates on Trump (misdirection), becomes convinced that Trump is the cause of all of problems (illusion), and concludes that US Democrats are our one & only choice for political salvation (mental forcing).

Even so, David maintains much more mental flexibility than the majority of true believers who fixate on Outcome Inequality (misdirection), conclude that Outcome Inequality is the cause of all our problems (illusion), and commit themselves to failed Marxist policies as the one & only means to resolving Outcome Inequality (mental forcing).

As in the case of Paul_SB, no amount of hard data or persuasion could convince him that his dedication to Social Progress (and/or resolving Outcome Equality) is irrational, even though it's supposed solution (Education) has slashed the average teacher's salary by almost 30% over the last 30 years.

But, tell Paul_SB that he now receives 30% less (on average) than his starting salary of 30 years ago -- show him the data -- and he will call you a liar, because he can no longer accept a reality that diverges from his preconceptions.


Anonymous said...

"even recognise that more children die on playground equipment every year than are killed by guns."

is the frickin' difference between "accident" and "intent with malice" lost on you? (rethorical question. It is)

btw: school (or workplace, see why people use "going postal") shootings happen almost just in the States. Not in other nations where guns are common and not "grabbed". Chemtrails? Mind control lasers run by deep state Bad Guys? :-)

anyway, dr. Brin is too good, Blue, liberal and tolerant.
I recognize a true quill Fascist when I see one (or two...). And coming from a very different shade of Red, lining 'em against a brick wall is a efefctive, time-tested and time-honored way of dealing with them.
Expecially when they endorse the murder of children.(Your country has those nice laws about capital punishment even for accomplices in murder, even when they didn't fire any shot. Live by the sword, or the gun, and die by it. Karma's a bitch and thank any god you worship, I bet on Satan, you weren't in the right place in Italy 1943-45. There was a certain petrol pump in a Milan square eagerly awaiting...)

Jon S. said...

"BTW there have been EIGHTEEN school shootings this year alone, in 45 days."

In point of fact, Doctor, this statement is... not entirely accurate. It includes any discharge of a firearm on or near the grounds of any institute of learning, including at least one case of a security guard at a college campus who experienced an accidental discharge (read: he didn't exercise enough care, and almost shot himself in the leg), and one of a man who committed suicide in a car parked outside an elementary school that had been closed for renovations since last July.

Now, I do take your point - one Parkland incident is one too many, and there have been more than one - but when we use inflated numbers, the ammosexuals (a term I've stolen from Twitter, as I think it apropos) seize on this as an excuse to dismiss everything we're trying to tell them.

Anonymous said...

if that person seeks to restrict another person’s individual ambition, based upon membership in an involuntary classification like race or gender, then that bigot is a nasty, degraded person who did voluntarily join a classification group!

Except that people aren't complaining about individual hiring decisions at certain companies, they are complaining about group hiring percentages. The claim is that in this case it is reasonable to discuss group attributes. I think we need to be honest about our reasons for opposing the bell curve; which are not necessarily grounded in the statistics of the matter.

A.F. Rey said...

Illith, a few thoughts.

You keep harping on how this and that won't "stop" shootings. And you are absolutely right. There is nothing that will prevent mass shootings in the future.

So we have to focus on what is practical. We need to consider what will make it harder for people to shoot each other.

So don't discount an idea because it won't prevent a shooter from killing people. Think about if it will make it harder for him to do so.


While you can change a small magazine in 5 to 10 seconds, you only seem to focus on whether the person can be stopped during that time, and seem to neglect the other side. How many people can get away during that time.

If the Las Vegas shooter had to change magazines every 10 shots or so, how many more people would have time to have fled the scene? How many less bullets could he have shot? And don't forget logistics. Isn't it harder to carry and quickly retrieve eighteen 10 round magazines than six 30 round magazines? Did you factor these problems into your analysis?


Also, why are you limiting your thoughts to only school shootings? Yes, they are a relatively minor problem in the U.S. (while still being horrible). But why aren't you also considering the thousands of people murdered with guns in the U.S. each year in individual shootings? Are you considering them in your analysis?

Sure, people can be murdered with other weapons, or even bare hands. But once again, I'm sure you'll agree that it is harder to kill people with those other weapons than it is with guns.


Finally, you start off your post stating that 90 percent of the policies are accepted by both sides. Could you list those? Because right now it seems like any idea that might make it harder for shooters like the Florida kid to obtain a gun is "shot down" (forgive the pun) by the other side. It would be good to know what we all actually agree upon, and to be able to inform those who don't agree that they truly are in the minority.

david s said...

I'm in favor of liability insurance on guns. The problem I see is that as long as the 2A is understood to apply to personal guns, you have a problem that increasing the costs of guns, especially recurring costs, turns gun ownership into a privileged that is likely to be struck down by the courts. It is problematic for the same reasons that poll taxes are. It upsets gun right advocates in the same way that increasing the costs to vote (by making people acquire mandated ID) upsets voting rights advocates.

I personally favor a militia clause interpretation of the 2A. I'm in favor of treating guns like we treat automobiles. In fact we should rename the DMV to DMV&F (motor vehicles and firearms). Require licenses, insurance, and turn the NRA's gun safety rules into gun safety law as Jim Wright has suggested (http://www.stonekettle.com/2015/06/bang-bang-sanity.html).

David S said...

Laws don't stop shootings because laws don't change physics. However, laws do give society legal recourse to punish those who do anti-social behavior. This over time changes culture.

So what are the anti-social behaviors that contribute to gun deaths -- suicides, homicides, accidents, police shootings, and massacres?

David Brin said...

We have two examples of America facilitating possession of potentially lethal machinery in the hands of citizens. In one case, there are two hundred million almost daily users, who operate the machines with stunning skill, aiming them to just barely miss each other. They license and register the machines and get insurance.

Yes, thousands of lives are lost to these lethal machines, but if you divide that by the sheer number of hours of use, then by the economic benefits and life satisfaction points, then the pain is so thinly distributed that the social consensus is: "Let's keep researching ways to refine the regulations and improve the technology to make them safer, but let's keep using them.

"This is working."

The other class of potentially lethal machinery accounts for almost exactly the same number of deaths per year! Even though it is used vastly, vastly, vastly less often, especially when it comes to "self-protection." The ratio of deaths per hour of use is incomparably higher. But that is nothing compared to per hour of utility to users.

In one case there are regulations concerning training, insurance and liability (not just by user-owners but also manufacturers) that successfully reduce risk while enhancing utility. In the other case, none of this risk/harm/liability mitigation happens. At all. Whatsoever.

The experiment has been run. Cars are regulated with spectacular success, at all levels and in all ways. Even the DMV runs far better, nowadays.

A huge burden of proof falls upon those who proclaim that Guns should not be treated EXACTLY like cars. At all levels and in all ways.

There is only one justification for refusing to go along with this. The Slippery Slope to total confiscation of firearms by an Orwellian State. (SSTTCFOS). That is it. That is the sum total of the argument against changing the DMV to the DMV&G. And I shock folks by saying... I agree! SSTTCFOS is an actual concern and there's a germ of a genuine objection, deep down, underneath the NRA-fomented hysteria. In fact, I favor some steel-hard protections of Americans' "insurrectionary recourse."

The criminal stupidity of gun nuttery is not to fret about SSTTCFOS. It is refusal to look for a win-win. A positive-sum outcome. I describe one here. http://www.tinyurl.com/jrifle

Anonymous said...

Paul SB:
The tribe of my ancestors? The Totonacs. We had important cities, with pyramids and many ball courts. The women were tall and beautiful. They were perfumed with vanilla and the men got a lot of tattoos. It can be said that we were a very happy people, when we were not fighting against the Aztecs.
My ancestors were the first to join Hernán Cortez, to kick the abusive Aztecs out of power. Then the Tlaxcaltecas joined us and the rest is history. But everything went terribly wrong in the long run. The Spaniards changed everything by force, they took away our gods and they took away our lands. In any case, the Totonacs and the Tlaxcalans were allowed to own ranches in gratitude for the help during the conquest.
Why do we help the Spaniards to conquer our country ?: Because the Aztec leaders attacked our territory in campaigns of expansionist domination (they never won us completely), they also carried out continuous raids, to capture prisoners to satisfy the endless thirst for blood of your gods In addition, the Aztec leaders were abusive and egotistical (equal to Donald Trump) it was simply impossible to dialogue peace with them. Either we knelt before them or they destroyed us. (Something similar to the current tactics of Mexican politicians).
In any case, the coast of Mexico was preferred by the Spaniards to build their colonies. (very peaceful areas, we were allies) and, therefore, my people melted quickly with the Spaniards. Now nothing that ancient traditions.
Do you see what happens when invaders arrive in a country that is divided because of a war caused by egotistical and abusive leaders? The invaders can advance without problems. The Spaniards were very few. Without our help and the help of the Tlaxcaltecas, Hernán Cortez would have finished barbecued and mole.
The Tlaxcaltecas hated the Aztecs because one day, the Aztecs sent emissaries to the king of the Tlaxcaltecas. They said: Give us the most beautiful princess; to be the wife of our king and in that way peace will come to our kingdoms.
The king sent his most beautiful and beloved daughter. Days later, the Aztecs returned the dismembered princess in many pieces to the Tlaxcaltecas. The Aztecs were crazy.
People divided; defeated town. If the Russians arrived at the moment in the United States ...
Winter 7

David Brin said...

Thank you Winter7. I am surprised that the Spanish kept their word. I am glad they did.

locumranch said...

The Systems Approach is lost on an Anonymous who argues that there is a difference between "accident" and "intent with malice", especially when we known that many automobile manufacturers have deliberately concealed design flaws (based on cost/benefit analysis) that have contributed to foreseeable (and therefore preventable) human deaths by intentional 'accident'.

This is splitting hairs, this morality by ill-defined intent, but it does give do-gooders like Anonymous the excuse to commit all sorts evils while claiming the best intentions, like the various Prohibitionists who 'meant well' but created Al Capone, Manuel Noriega, Pablo Escobar & their criminal gangs who slaughtered tens of thousands because of the good intentions of the self-righteously ignorant.

Only the most ignorant of gits believe that prohibitions solve anything of merit. Instead, prohibitions escalate what they try to prevent, by turning the prohibited item (alcohol, drugs, pornography, guns & even homosexuality) into forbidden fruit of increased value.

The best way to resolve the 'Gun Problem' is to make guns so damn common that they have little or no value. Our gun-free zone approach to schools only empower the random anti-social bully with a gun, but said bully cannot stand against thousands of similarly armed nerds.

And, finally, let's put to bed the lie that gun-free European zones are immune gun-related school massacres According to Wikipedia, they are quite common in countries that restrict gun ownership:


It may have not been their INTENT, but Luis & his people got the enslavement they deserved when they aided & abetted the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, trading one master for another, and it doesn't matter if said outcome occurred by either accident or design. Perhaps Mexico should have paid for a Wall way back then. Haha.

Treebeard said...

Winter 7, right there in wikipedia it says "many Aztecs were forced to sell themselves or their family members as slaves to the Totonac in exchange for subsistence maize", so this may have had something to do with the Aztecs' later treatment of the Totonac. We're obviously getting a very biased story from you; for all we know, the Totonacs were the evil confederate slave-holders of their region, and as fully deserve to have their culture and traditions erased as our own evil Confederates. You see, the destruction of peoples and subjugation by more enlightened empires is all part of the great Wheel of Progress.

David Brin said...

perverts and bullies and philanderers and perverts, almost down the line. SOMEONE must be tallying the ratio of these scandals, tween dems and republicans. But it does not look good for the Grand Old Party of values. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/02/22/missouri-gov-eric-greitens-indicted-st-louis-prosecutor-felony-invasion-privacy-charge/365131002/

duncan cairncross said...

SOMEONE must be tallying the ratio of these scandals, tween dems and republicans.

Here you go

I know its the DailyKos - and it's year out of date - but the pattern is inescapable

David Brin said...

Thanks Duncan. Wow!

Note that this compilation was made before Donald Trump took office, and hence the GOP figures would by now be staggeringly worse.

Note also that this list would not include outside officials like lobbyists or the 2016 Republican Party Presidential Campaign Manager Paul Manafort.

Nor does the compilation compare resignations due to scandal, like Democrats Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer, who were caught in stinky sexual embarrassments that were arguably adult-consensual… or Republicans Larry Craig and Dennis Hastert and Roy Moore, who were blatantly child abusers or predatory perverts. Indeed, a set of charts tabulating sex abuse scandals by party would likely be just as embarrassing to the GOP… as would a study of the rates of divorce among Republican office holders, vs. Democrats. (Reagan, Gingrich, and Trump had seven wives among them. Dennis Hastert - the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House in history, and titular head of the party – had just one, but oh, man.)

Then there's the exaltation of mafia-connected casino lords into high influence in the party of morals.

By their fruits you shall know them.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Haven't had time to fully read all comments, and I'm not going to have time to go into the full detail required tonight (there is SO MUCH to cover, so many important details and factors, I'd probably only scratch the surface if I spent the rest of the night doing nothing but writing on the subject), but there's a couple major points I've gathered.

First, much of what I was trying to say was lost for the sake of brevity, and while trying to be brief, I fell into many of the same miscommunication traps I talked about in the very beginning of my post (more on this in a following point)! You all bring up many good points (as you always do), some of which I hadn't considered, or hadn't considered responses to (and some I'd considered long ago and forgotten about!), and I wish I had more time to address them all specifically.

Second, I'm going to take an educated guess here and say that most of you probably have little or no personal experience with firearms (at least, most of the ones who have commented on the subject). Am I correct? It's been my experience that exposure to firearms, or lack of exposure to firearms, has a huge impact on people's opinions and tolerance of them (just as exposure or lack of exposure to different racial types, gender preferences, etc. has a huge impact on people's opinions and tolerances of those things, and for the same reason). For those of you who have not had personal experience with a firearm, or very limited experience, I strongly encourage you to swing by a local gun club or sportsmans club, and explain that you have no personal experience with firearms and that you want to get hands-on experience with them to help form your own opinion of the matter. I guarantee you will get a friendly response, and many people will be happy to teach you and help you learn. This is a "reaching across the aisle" move that I have never personally seen any Democrat do, nor have I heard of any Democrat who self-initiated that move. I have a few friends who were previously staunchly in favor of severe gun control, who were talked into going out to a range with some other friends, and had their opinions and viewpoints severely moderated.

Third, on miscommunication mentioned above. A very important point of clarification: Upon review, when talking of banning guns, when I say "that won't work" I am absolutely certain that what I mean when I say that, is not what YOU think I mean when I say that (and the same goes for most on the right when they say the same thing).

Nobody is denying that, if you remove all guns, nobody will be shot, because there will be no guns to shoot people with. That's a no-brainer. What we mean by "that won't work" is that you won't be able to remove all guns. Not in the US. Other countries, that was a viable option. They had fewer people, fewer guns, a different culture surrounding guns, different intrinsic national laws involving guns. But it won't work in the US. Any ban or restriction enacted without modifying or repealing the 2nd Amendment is built on an unstable foundation. Yes, there is a lot of legal precedent for restricting or banning certain classes and types of firearm (many of which I don't necessarily disagree with, though I think a tiered licensing and permitting system would be better), but it is just legal precedent. The actual letter of the law says "shall not be infringed." All it will take is a compelling argument based around that, and a court that is sympathetic to the argument, or that recognizes that its job is not to interpret new meaning of laws, or legislate through legal precedence, but rather to determine whether or not things are in accordance with the law, or if specific laws are in accordance with the Constitution. That's all it will take to have ALL of those bans and restrictions overthrown. Every ban and restriction that exists today ultimately exists at the whim of the Supreme Court.

Ilithi Dragon said...

The 2nd Amendment reads in full: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." This establishes no requirement that the people be a part of a well-regulated militia, just that such militias (which were comprised of civilians providing their own firearms) is necessary to the security of a free state. The second part doesn't specify firearms, just a blanket "Arms", and says that the right of the people to keep and bear them shall not be infringed. By the letter of the law, as the Constitution is written, no infringement of the right to keep and bear any arms is legal. That has been interpreted by the courts to mean something not quite that, but that interpretation is entirely at the whim of the courts. If you want any ban or restriction to be solidly founded, you have to amend the constitution to amend or repeal the 2nd Amendment.

That. Will. Not. Happen. You require a 2/3rds vote in both houses of congress and THEN you need to get 2/3rds votes in the state congresses of at least 38 states. Conservatives alone can prevent that, nevermind the many liberals/progressives like myself who would oppose such a change.* You will not get the votes to get it through Congress, nevermind a constitutional convention, and trying to do so will be political suicide.

Even if by some MIRACLE of gerrymandering, you manage to get enough votes to pass a repeal of the 2nd Amendment, you will still fail to remove the guns, because I can guarantee you that that will kick off a civil war. That is EXACTLY the scenario the Rep leadership and punditry have been feeding their base's paranoia with, and you have millions of Americans who will only give up their guns when they are pried from their "cold, dead hands."

You also won't get much support from the military to back you up on that one. They'll largely try to stay out of it, and if forced into it... Remember, a larger percentage of conservatives, who will be sympathetic to that cause, join the military than liberals, and the latter also tend to be or become pro-gun.

Lastly, even if, by some miracle of divine providence, you manage to repeal the 2nd Amendment and not kick off a hot civil war, it will take you DECADES to collect all the guns off the black market. Sure, you might make mass shootings disappear, but that's only a small fraction of gun deaths each year (the majority are suicides, followed by gang violence and other inner-city crime). The majority of gun deaths won't be impeded for YEARS, if not DECADES, because it will take so long to collect all of the guns, and so many of them will "disappear" or wind up "stolen." And by the time you've rounded up all the commercially-manufactured guns, your objective of keeping the guns out of the hands of mass shooters by banning guns will be moot, because in-home manufacturing tech will be cheap and sophisticated enough that, for the same cost of arming up today with commercially-purchased firearms, a prospective mass shooter can buy the equipment to manufacture his/her own firearms at home.

And that ran long again... } : = 8 / TLDR: What I mean by "that won't work" isn't that taking guns away won't solve the gun problem, it's that you won't be able to take the guns away. From a strictly pragmatic perspective, attempting to do so is a waste of time and effort, and there are other solutions that you can pursue more effectively (and guns are really only a surface symptom of other, underlying problems, anyway; it's better to target and resolve those underlying issues, thus rendering the gun issue moot, rather than trying to bandaid the problem by focusing on the gun issue).

Ilithi Dragon said...

Point four: Magazine capacity: The Aurora shooting is another example, taken off the top of my head (I don't have time to dig into all of them). The shooter's 100-round drum magazine jammed, cutting short his killing spree. I agree that further study/analysis is warranted (and we have several states with magazine capacity restrictions already in place, so we should already have a decent array of data points), but it is my professional opinion that, if the intent is to maximize the opportunity for victims to take shooters down while the shooter is reloading or clearing a malfunction, high-capacity magazines, while it seems counter-intuitive, actually serve that purpose better than low-capacity magazines.

It is also worth noting that magazine capacity restrictions aren't a very effective means of preventing shooters from using higher-capacity magazines. It's not hard to make them, or to modify the "light" magazines (with stops/blocks built in to limit their full capacity), and most mass shootings (and particularly the deadly ones) are per-meditated.

Point five: I had a Point Five... I can't remember what it was, now... >_> Probably for the best, this is running way longer than I intended it to be, anyway (I was planning 20-40 minutes to spend on this post... 2.5 hours later.... <_<; )

Dr. Brin: Your Jefferson Rifle/Militia Rifle proposition serves as a key foundation/inspiration for my own tiered licensing/permitting proposal, whereby firearms are classified into different categories or tiers (Tier 1: manual-action long arms (pump/bolt/breach/lever/etc. rifles and shotguns); Tier 2: semi-automatic long arms; Tier 3: revolvers and semi-auto pistols; Tier 4: automatic/select-fire weapons; etc.), with increasing levels of licensing, permitting, training, and screening required to purchase, along with a national conceal carry permit system that requires additional training and licensing, with a specific requirement that the cost of licensing should not serve as the primary barrier to acquisition, but rather the training and screening requirements (otherwise rich folks would have all the fancy guns, and not rich folks wouldn't have any guns).

OH! I remember Point Five, now! Paul451, on the subject of "NRA talking points." These are not talking points fed to me by the NRA (an organization that I have maintained a low opinion of since early high school, at least), nor that I have "osmosised" from them. They are me, applying my critical thinking skills, number crunching, and analyzing the big picture. I came up with them, all on my own. What you are doing, sir, is taking an array of valid points presented by the opposing side, and instead of addressing them, you are dismissing them by arbitrarily assigning them to an authority that you then arbitrarily dismiss as invalid. That is a logical fallacy (I can't remember the specific name of it off the top of my head), and a less than honest debate practice. Address my points on their own merits, please, rather than dismissing them out of hand because you have a low opinion of what you incorrectly assume to be their source.

Addendum to Point Five: I see a lot of dismissal of "talking points" or "NRA BS", etc. by the left as a way to dismiss or disregard valid points raised by the right. The right does it, too, but this just further degrades and undermines any conversation, because you are blatantly telling the other side that you're not listening to or regarding anything they say, and thereby giving them no reason to listen to or regard anything YOU have to say. Take that first step forward, and instead of dismissing a point, DISCUSS IT.

And I urge the "left" to do this because, let's be honest, the "right" isn't going to. BUT! I can assure you from personal experience, that if you engage them by showing them that you consider and way their points, rather than dismiss them outright, you will get surprisingly positive responses.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Point Six (I'm cutting myself off with this one, I swear...): Someone asked about why I'm focusing on mass shootings/school shootings, and not the thousands of other gun homicides each year. Well, first of all, moving the goal posts. Second, I did briefly mention the other homicides, but was primarily focusing on mass shootings/school shootings because that was kinda the focus, in light of the recent school shooting. Third, I would LOVE to shift the focus of gun control away from the (really rather MINISCULE, compared to other deaths, including other gun deaths) issue of mass shootings (which are highly sensationalized and blown way out of proportion by their gut-wrenching nature, and how the media capitalizes on that to sell ratings) to the issue of gun homicides and gun suicides. Most of THOSE have much more visible, and much more targetable underlying causes, that largely stem from social inequality and poverty issues (and mental health issues in the case of suicides). Focusing on those problems, rather than banning guns, will kill multiple birds with one stone, because not only will resolving those underlying issues reduce the gun crimes and suicides that they cause, they will also resolve or alleviate many other problems that are plaguing our society because of them.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I forgot the asterisk I put in there way near the top...

*I would support a change to the 2nd Amendment that ensconced a "Jefferson Rifle" or "Militia Rifle" type weapon while allowing for restrictions on heavier ordnance, or a tiered licensing system that I've been toying with (based on Dr. Brin's Jefferson Rifle proposal), but honestly, it would have to be VERY carefully worded to unequivocally guarantee the right to keep and bear arms, even if certain of those are restricted. There is also, too, the issue of advancing weapons technology, and the eventual development of energy weapons (lasers, particle beams, plasma weapons, etc.) that would not fit inside the category of "firearm" or "rifle," but that would make any such older weapon hopelessly obsolete. The people need to have the ability to arm themselves against an oppressive government, should that disaster arise (or, oppressive corporations who have neutered the government, if that suits your paranoia better (or your desire for a repeat of our actual history of revolution)), and that requires the ability to access weapons that maintain a certain level of competitiveness with modern military weaponry.

That armed populace is an important component of the system of checks and balances that are built into our government (and that system of... accountability... is probably the single greatest factor in the success of our experiment in democracy and enlightenment). It's a failsafe, one that we hope we never have to use, but one that we need to have. It's like the Emergency Blow system on a submarine. You hope you never have to use it, not for real, and if everyone does their job and nothing goes catastrophically wrong, you shouldn't have to, but you still need to have that system. Just. In. Case. Because if you need it, and you don't have it, or it doesn't work, well... Then you become the USS Thresher.

Also, those tens of millions of Americans with hundreds of millions of guns is not an insignificant factor in our strategic national defense. It adds a very formidable layer of defense against land invasion by a foreign army. Yes, even an AR-15 won't do anything more than amuse the crews of even an antiquated tank, but 1. getting those tanks over here is no mean feat in the first place, and 2. remember Korea. When China entered the Korean War, they sent their Million Man Army in. Many of them didn't even have guns, they just had sticks, and few had a high degree of training, but despite that, and despite the fact that we carpet bombed them literally around the clock, they still took us by the hand, and walked us to the 38th Parallel. Quantity has a quality all its own, as the saying goes.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Ilithi, one minor snark. I am a fairly staunch D, but have no objection to gun ownership with reasonable and prudent precautions built in. I have 3 friends who own several firearms each, and their training and caution when handling them satisfies me. Of course, none of them have gone on any shooting rampages either :D I also play paintball, although I largely dropped out years ago. Firearms don't scare me, unless they are badly handled or misused by someone who doesn't have the sense they were born with.

Ilithi Dragon said...


A lot of people, I think, would be surprised by the number of Rs who facepalm, cringe, groan, or get pissed off at the idiot mishandlers of firearms. Which, btw, is actually pretty freaking small, all things considered - despite tens of millions of gun owners, and hundreds of millions of guns, only about 700 or so people are killed in gun accidents each year - 95% of which are because somebody assumed a gun wasn't loaded when it actually was (Universal Weapon Safety Rule #1: Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.)

I know quite a few Ds / libs/progressives (not all like to associate with the D party) who are pro-gun, or pretty mild or moderate on the gun control issue.

The problem is that they're not the people who are heard! It's the more radical ones, who go hard into the paint on regulating guns, or outright banning them, who are the ones who are heard the most (they're also the ones who tend to know the least - and thus further exacerbate the issue by screaming their head off about an issue and then looking like an idiot because they don't actually know what they're talking about).

Sure, they tend to be the types to make a lot of noise, and they're also sensational, which sells ratings (and they play into the paranoia scheme the R punditry have going with their base, so of course they get more coverage from that side), but the moderates do damned little to make the distinction between their moderate opinions/positions, and the more radical pro-banners, and they do damned little to identify that more extreme position/viewpoint as part of their more extreme fringes, rather than the main group.

Instead, they tend to lean towards that banner, further lending credibility to it, and lending plausibility to the R pundit claims that all liberals want to ban guns. Sure, part of that is in backlash to R stupidity (which I haven't touched on much on this subject, because I felt it unnecessary for me to do so), but that doesn't alleviate all of the responsibility of the moderates for the issue.

Tim H. said...

Lilithi, I learned firearms safety from my Father, who learned his from the USCG in 1942, admittedly, I don't have recent firearms experience. Your last point is the most important, given hope, mass shootings and suicide become rare.

Acacia H. said...

Ilithi Dragon, your predictions of gloom and doom for Democrats runs into one very huge speed bump. And that is Generation Z.

You see, Generation X and the Millennials have been hobbled by debt. It was discovered that when someone holds a lot of debt, they are far less likely to demonstrate and protest. Debt holders become increasingly risk adverse! It also harms the economy which is why you keep hearing "Millennials have killed X industry" without looking into how massive levels of student debt required to have the education needed for most jobs these days has decimated the ability of Millennials to participate effectively in the economy.

Generation Z has seen this. They have seen Generation X and Millennials hobbled by debt, given degrees that are useless, and now they are being targeted in schools. They are not safe. And the elected Republican officials out there have said "you don't matter." Because let's be honest, unless you are an embryo you have no worth to a Republican.

Or a member of the NRA.

The youth of America just saw themselves targeted and Donald Trump, the spokesman for the Republican Party, the grand poopah himself, said "this is your fault." High-ranking Republicans have stated outright they will continue to take funds from the NRA. These kids are stating "this organization endorses mass slaughter." Their parents are waking up.

You have little girls crying because they need to replace their flashing shoes lest they become a target for mad gunmen.

You say that the Republicans are going to lose and then win back big? I say that the youth of America has realized they need to step up right now, before they are saddled with debt, before they are given obligations, and they need to demonstrate now. They need to protest like those of my generation and the Millennials have been unable to do. And I am willing to bet this is going to spread like wildfire. This is the new Vietnam Protest.

If Republicans were truly smart they would enact some basic sane gun control measures. They are not sane. And so parent after parent is going to see their kids say "you better not vote Republican" and hearing that Republicans don't care about their kids and they have evidence of this with the Trump Tax Cut which benefits the ultra-rich and gives pennies elsewhere, while Republicans seek to eliminate food stamps and kill health insurance.

Republicans were scared before of a Democrat Wave. It's going to get worse. Because in three years, the children who were terrorized in Florida and elsewhere are going to be voting. And they will know that Republicans turned against them. They will turn their parents against Republicans. And outside of teenage white supremacists who feel put upon, most of our youth is going to turn against Republicans. And never look back.

Republicans will cry "they are coming to take your guns!" and in response will hear "gun owners are coming to murder your kids!" And how can they rebut this when it is shown to be true? Nor does it matter it's a minority of a minority. It will still ring true.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

@Ilithi Dragon,

What do you think of Donald Trump's and the NRA's proposed solution that more armed teachers would solve the problem? And if gun-free schools are invitations to murder, and the more guns in the school to shoot the bad guy with the better, then why aren't guns allowed inside NRA conventions?

If we can't get eliminate guns, and we can't eliminate white Christian MAGA-wearing men, then maybe we should look into eliminating schools.

The impasse we're reaching is that the Second Amendment is an immovable object, but the outrage over gun violence is starting to become an irresistible force. It will be interesting to see what happens when they meet.

Anonymous said...

David Brin:
Yes, Hernán Cortés allowed the allies to have ranches; but Hernán Cortés sent an expedition to conquer the area of Honduras; for this he sent Cristóbal de Olid, but when Olid managed to conquer the area and founded cities, he declared himself a caudillo of Honduras and became an ally of the enemies of Hernán Cortés. When Cortés went to Honduras to punish the betrayal. Cortés captured him and decapitated him. However, during Cortés' absence, his enemies took over Mexico's control and upon his return he was dismissed; depriving him of his privileges.
In 1528, the royal officials of Spain, created the Audiencia of New Spain. The members of that "audience" turned out to be unjust people and lacking moral sense; was president Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, and oidores Juan Ortiz de Matienzo and Diego Delgadillo. They committed all kinds of abuses, squeezing the Indians, who were awarded one hundred thousand in encomienda (the almost slavery in exchange for "protection"), and stripped the old conquerors; they initiated a trial against Cortés, in which all the accusations, real or false, were spilled, with the purpose of ruining his personality, and they had strong clashes with the bishop of Mexico, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, who opposed his excesses.
From that moment on, the Spaniards broke all agreements and began to enslave and deprive all the Indians of their land. Even to the old allies. (The greedy Hernán Cortés died trying to legally defend the last possessions he had left). And although the Franciscan monks educated and were good to the natives, the church committed great atrocities against the natives, overlapping the abuses of the Spaniards and directly committing injustices, through the holy office of the Inquisition, led by the friars Dominicans

In spanish:
Si, Hernán Cortés permitió a los aliados tener ranchos; pero Hernán Cortés envió una expedición para conquistar el área de honduras; para ello envió a Cristóbal de Olid, pero cuando Olid logro conquistar la zona y fundó ciudades, se declaró caudillo de honduras y se convirtió en aliado de los enemigos de Hernán Cortés. Cuando Cortés fue hacia honduras para castigar la traición. Cortés lo capturó y lo decapitó. Sin embargo, durante la ausencia de Cortés, sus enemigos se adueñaron del control de México y a su regreso lo destituyeron; despojándole de sus privilegios.
En 1528, los oficiales reales de España, crearon la Audiencia de Nueva España. Los miembros de esa “audiencia” resultaron ser gente injusta y carente de sentido moral; era presidente Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, y oidores Juan Ortiz de Matienzo y Diego Delgadillo. Cometieron toda clase de abusos, exprimiendo a los indios, de quienes se adjudicaron cien mil en encomienda (la casi esclavitud a cambio de “protección”), y despojaron a los viejos conquistadores; iniciaron un proceso contra Cortés, en el que se vertieron todas las acusaciones, reales o falsas, con el propósito de arruinar su personalidad, y tuvieron fuertes choque con el obispo de México, fray Juan de Zumárraga, que se opuso a sus desmanes.
A partir de ese momento, los españoles rompieron todo acuerdo y comenzaron a esclavizar y despojar de sus tierras a todos los indígenas. Incluso a los antiguos aliados. (El codicioso Hernán Cortés murió intentando defender legalmente las últimas posesiones que le quedaban). Y a pesar de que los monjes franciscanos educaron y fueron buenos con los nativos, la iglesia cometió grandes atrocidades contra los indígenas, al solapar los abusos de los españoles y al cometer directamente injusticias, mediante el santo oficio de la inquisición, dirigido por los frailes dominicos.


Ilithi Dragon said...

Personally, I've always opposed gun-free zones, with few exceptions (that are protected by armed security).

That has to do with basic security and force protection principles (which is a large part of my day job).

The best way to protect an asset is to deter an attack. The best way to deter an attack is to look like a hard target. You don't even have to actually BE a hard target, you just have to LOOK LIKE a hard target. A prospective attacker looks at you, sees a target that looks like it would be hard to attack, and then looks for an easier target.

If you make an easy target, you are going to attract attackers. School campuses that don't allow guns and don't have armed security are EASY TARGETS, because any potential attacker KNOWS, for certain, that there are no guns there (and even if somebody there DOES have a gun on them, because they're breaking the law, they would be very reluctant to use it, because then they would be arrested, for breaking the law).

Looking like a hard target, even actually BEING a hard target, isn't a guaranteed defense against attack. Ideally, you want a layered, "defense-in-depth" set-up, with multiple layers of different types of defense, ranging from physical security, to counter-surveillance, to community outreach, to get an ear to the ground and try and spot potential attackers in the developmental and planning stages, before they actually go through with anything (and looking like a hard target helps prolong that period, and forces potential attackers to conduct more invasive surveillance, increasing the odds of catching them in that phase).

If you want to make a school a gun-free zone, fine, but you should also put a staff of armed security guards on the premises, and train them to be on friendly terms with the students (while always remaining vigilant themselves), to facilitate student trust and the community outreach aspect.

LarryHart said...


High-ranking Republicans have stated outright they will continue to take funds from the NRA. These kids are stating "this organization endorses mass slaughter."

From now on, when someone expresses preference for a Republican candidate, I will say, "So you support killing of schoolchildren." Not as a question, but a statement of fact.

Republicans will cry "they are coming to take your guns!" and in response will hear "gun owners are coming to murder your kids!" And how can they rebut this when it is shown to be true? Nor does it matter it's a minority of a minority. It will still ring true.

Yes, it doesn't even matter whether Democrats can enact policies that would prevent gun massacres, any more than it matters whether Republicans can enact policies that prevent crime or terrorism. The point is that they are "anti-crime" and "anti-terrorism" while Democrats are perceived to be "weak on" those things. On the gun issue, the reverse is the case. Democrats want to save children, and Republicans don't. Democrats want to save your children from Republicans. As far as I'm concerned, those who have lived by Frank Lutz style sophistry can die by it.


Acacia H. said...

First, who pays for this?

Second, are you saying you want to turn our school system into prison camps? Shall we surround them with barbed wire to prevent people from getting in or out?

Third, if you say "arm teachers" how are they going to pay for this seeing their tax deductions for school expenses was just eliminated?

Fourth, one or two days ago a child found a loaded handgun in the bathroom. It belonged to one of the teachers. She put the gun down so she could take off her jacket and go to the bathroom. She forgot to take the gun with her after she was done. This is proof that you cannot just arm teachers and expect the problem to go away - instead, more problems will happen.

I am a hunter. I am for gun rights. I see the writing on the wall and I see Republicans refusing to back down one iota. And I see Generation Z and they are going to say "fuck you" and take everything they can to make sure school shootings don't happen. Hell, they might even be smart about it and state "only veterans, military personnel, and members of properly registered militias that undergo monthly training exercises under the supervision of the National Guard can have firearms." This would legally be according to the 2nd Amendment. Right down to the militia. Oh, and then they'll pass legislation stating that any militia is responsible for the actions of its members and can and will be shut down if any of the members commit crimes with their guns. Also perfectly legal.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

If you want to make a school a gun-free zone, ...

Before there were official "gun free zones", weren't schools mostly soft targets anyway? Maybe scary gang membes were carrying, but even so, most kids and teachers are not. And Kindergartens? Pre-schools? Nursing homes, for that matter? These were never protected by armed guards in the past. They were mostly protected by the fact that there was no motive for anyone to commit armed violence there. No money in it. No enemies to eliminate. Just kids and old people who didn't mean anything one way or another to someone not related to them.

The difference now, it would seem, is not the gun-free zones, but the fact that committing atrocities for atrocity's sake has become a common motive. So what do we (society) do about that?

meh said...

@Paul SB

Male and female life expectancy is within one standard deviation, so I don't see why your claim holds. We need to stop opposing this on 'statistical' grounds because

1. It forces dishonest uses of statistics
2. If your opposition is staked on statistical tests, then what happens if new data shows higher significance?

Imagine a world where the data passes whatever statistical objections you hold. Are you now a supporter of 'bell curve' ideology? Probably not, in this world you are forced to think about what your true objections to it are. This is what your argument should be, not attacking it as 'weak statistics'.

David Brin said...

Sorry Ilithi, but you are reaching out to … well… handsful of BS. I am quite familiar with gunpowder weapons of a wide variety. My wife — much more liberal than I am and a vegetarian — is also a qualified NRA Pro Marksman and the best shot I ever personally knew. I arranged a shooting day for our Boy Scout Troop and was the master of Rocketry days many years.

Your stereotype may be very roughly true of maybe the left half of the lib-dem big tent. But only about half, and only very roughly. In fact, many lefties started quietly arming themselves, during the W era.

“Nobody is denying that, if you remove all guns, nobody will be shot, because there will be no guns to shoot people with.”

1) I’ve heard it said there are berserker knifings in China almost hourly. In Singkian you need police permission to buy a big kitchen knife.

2) There is no way the tsunami of guns in America will ever be eliminated without mass probings by genuine lie detectors of every single citizen.

3) It’s guaranteed that someday there will be a court that uses the “militia” 1st half of the 2nd amendment to limit things. What, you actually think that won’t happen? The 2nd is utterly pathetically weak. I offer a much more explicit and potent amendment as part of a grand bargain, at http://www.tinyurl.com/jrifle

“Even if by some MIRACLE of gerrymandering, you manage to get enough votes to pass a repeal of the 2nd Amendment, you will still fail to remove the guns, because I can guarantee you that that will kick off a civil war.”

Geez man, what the HELL have you been drinking? Show me the vast lib’rul wave to do any of that? SHOW us! Any evidence at all, other than chimera’s screeched by your mad uncles?

It’s Blue States that are eliminating gerrymandering. And ending the goddam Drug War. And where actual, actual capitalist innovation in goods and services takes place. Every single positive desideratum that used to be “conservative” (not negative stuff like racism and paranoia) is far more alive in Blue America.

“Red” America used to deem gambling and lying and divorce to be sins. Now confederate America leads the way in STDs, teen sex and pregnancy, domestic violence, gambling, addiction, murder… GOP politicians are toppling to morals charges, perversion scandals and corruption faster than dominoes, in an era when Democrats have ZERO power over ANY portion of the federal government.

Finally… your whole argument about magazines is that they don’t… work… well? You want us to base policy and our kids’ life on… that? Dig it. There is only one reason for big magazines… to kill a lot of people. That is why the SAW contains hundreds of rounds. What kind of magical incantation did you actually think would fly, here?

There are no valid “NRA points” other than one… just one… only one. The Slippery slope to confiscation. There’s absolutely no reason not to treat guns EXACTLY like cars… except that slope to confiscation… which you yourself just dismissed as a joke, since no one will risk Civil War to do the impossible, confiscating all guns.

“I would support a change to the 2nd Amendment that ensconced a "Jefferson Rifle" or "Militia Rifle" type weapon while allowing for restrictions on heavier ordnance, or a tiered licensing system that I've been toying with (based on Dr. Brin's Jefferson Rifle proposal), but honestly, it would have to be VERY carefully worded to unequivocally guarantee the right to keep and bear arms, even if certain of those are restricted.”

Then why didn’t you say so at the start???? I am happy to negotiate (a word despised by the GOP, under the Hastert Rule) very strong language.

And yes, the bolt action “Jefferson Rifle” can be upgraded, over time. But first we have to grow up and decide we want to be grownups.

And the Confederacy is Neither grownup nor even remotely sane.

David Brin said...

Sorry, then there’s this: “The problem is that they're not the people who are heard! It's the more radical ones…”

Because them’s the ones Rupert Murdoch wants heard!!!! Think about that. The 5% lefty ninnies have no power! They run a couple of hundred university soft studies departments and Berkeley. That’s it. But Hannity yowls and they serve his purposes.

Cari D. Burstein said...

I would take more seriously the GOP/NRA lobby's claims that it is not worth implementing any reforms to combat gun violence because they would be ineffective if they would be willing to address these two glaring issues:

- Congress interfering with CDC research on violence
- Addressing the legal chains on the ATF that prevents them from computerizing records of gun ownership

I frequently hear claims that nothing will work, and that existing laws aren't being enforced effectively so why add more, but then those same people fight tooth and nail to prevent research into what will work, and actually making the existing laws enforceable and not filled with loopholes.

I also think it's a little ridiculous to claim that nothing will fix it entirely, therefore we shouldn't try partial measures that might help somewhat. It's certainly not the same logic these people use when supporting other laws.

I'm also a little sick of hearing that the real problem is liberals all want to take all guns away. Some liberals would love to do that, but almost nobody is seriously proposing that- there's a lot of reasonable measures that can be taken that are far short of it. The people shouting that the liberals all want to take the guns away are the NRA and GOP folks that are using it to drive gun sales and votes, and no level of reasonable discourse will combat that view as long as they get their news from sources magnifying that message.

In terms of why we treat this problem more seriously than others that kill more or similar numbers of children, I believe the biggest reason is because it's a relatively new problem. I remember when Columbine happened, and how shocked and dismayed everyone was, and what big news it was. That was 19 years ago. How many mass shootings have we had in schools or other public areas since then? How many did we have prior to that? When there's a seriously large uptick in something of this nature, it's natural that we would want to figure out how to combat the problem.

One of the key problems seems to be that the very existence and coverage of these types of shootings seems to feed into there being more. Disaffected and seriously disturbed people in the past might have handled it some other way (perhaps by just taking themselves out) but now they see a chance to take it out on everyone around them in a spectacular "I'll show them" way. I don't know how you combat that but I think it bears study. I like David Brin's idea of not actually using the person's name, but I don't think that alone is the solution.

I'm also not convinced that everyone carrying guns is the solution to anything. I understand the attraction of the idea, but realistically many people make poor choices in the spur of the moment, and more people carrying guns would probably just lead to more accidents or rage killings. In a situation where someone starts shooting and everyone pulls out their guns, how do you know which is the perpetrator and which are the "good guys with guns"? This idea of arming teachers seems like an accident waiting to happen- that seems like a great way for the kid who wants to shoot up the school to get a gun in the first place. Having some kind of armed guard placed at a school might be more reasonable but it does come with its own problems and probably not practical at a lot of schools.

The truth is, if someone really wants to do massive destruction and they plan well, they can achieve quite a lot before we can stop them. It's impossible to guard every public place against someone who really wants to be an asshole. But we don't have to make it quite so easy for them to kill so many people. We make more effort keeping people from buying sudafed to make meth than we do from gathering arsenals for mass shootings. Again, this is why it'd be nice for the CDC to be funded to actually do the studies that we need to figure out which approaches are the most effective and for our background check system to be allowed to work properly.

A.F. Rey said...

Just a quick FYI, Illith:

While not very familiar with guns, I did grow up with them. My father had a .38 semi-automatic pistol (I forget the brand) along with a .22 target pistol. We used to go out to a valley off of I-15 north of the I-10--Lyttle Creek, IIRC--where unregulated target practice was allowed. I remember my brother once fanned the trigger of the .22, and a couple of guys came over to see if we had a machine gun... 8D

I've shot the .38, the .22, and my brother's .22 rifles. I've cleaned guns, enjoyed shooting them, and have a healthy respect for them.

I also come from a neighborhood that had plenty of guns. I recall one neighbor who ran into the living room of another neighbor because he had been shot in the leg by a third neighbor. I recall seeing the slug on the back of his leg as he writhed on the floor. I believe he had guns, too, because I heard that, a few weeks later, the neighbor who had shot him had been murdered.

So while I'm nowhere near an expert, I have some experience with guns, and that having more people armed really does not make a neighborhood safer, despite what some on the Right might say.

TCB said...

Luis said: "Hernán Cortez would have finished barbecued and mole."

Cue Homer Simpson drool face

TCB said...

@ Ilithi Dragon: if I argue with you it at least means you're worth arguing with. You don't see me argue much with the beard and the rancher. Feck those kkklowns.

BTW I thought The Road was the most realistic post-apocalyptic movie scenario, except they should have run out of people long before they ran out of bullets (if it's set in the US).

LarryHart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

(And for those who came in late, the guy's nym is I L I T H I. That's eye-ell-eye-tee-aich-eye.)

Personally, I've always opposed gun-free zones, with few exceptions (that are protected by armed security).

Gunslingers needed to check their weapons at the saloon door even in the old west. More to the point, NRA members have to check their guns at their own conventions. Why? According to their own theories, the safest place in the world should be a room full of good guys with guns. Why don't they put their metaphorical money where their literal mouths are?

That has to do with basic security and force protection principles (which is a large part of my day job).

The best way to protect an asset is to deter an attack.

You're talking about an attack from without. The point of gun-free zones is to protect from an attack from within. You don't think keeping guns off of airplanes makes them more vulnerable to attack, do you? But then again, airplanes "gun free" nature are enforced by security checkpoints and such. Some schools in bad neighborhoods are more like that, but many are "gun-free" in name only--broadcasting to the world that they are unarmed while not preventing a rogue from actually bringing in a gun. The worst of both worlds. I suspect that that is what you really object to.

LarryHart said...

Remember all that the NRA is above all an organization representing the interests of manufacturers and sellers of guns. They use rhetoric to get gun lovers to support them financially and politically, but ultimately, they want policies that sell more guns. That's why their solution to the problem of gun violence is always "more guns".

Politics is often the art of grafting your (unpopular, or at least under-the-radar) agenda onto another that is widely popular. The NRA made themselves synonymous with the Republican Party, which Americans tend to support for other reasons. That strategy has worked well for decades, but may be reaching a turning point in the wake of the recent shootings. They have been a parasite on a successful organism, but that organism is failing to adapt to changing conditions, and may soon die off, killing the parasite as well.

As far as I'm concerned, that would be a win-win.

Paul SB said...

I haven't had time to read everything here, but if we got to vote for most well-reasoned post, my vote would go to Cari Burnstein. A few of her points were things I would have brought up myself but she beat me to it. However, being homozygous recessive for verbosity, I can surely add to it, as well as the good sense spoken by A.F. Rey and Larry. I, too, grew up surrounded by guns, and it became painfully obvious at a very young age that the arguments in favor of arming everyone make one very, very wrong assumption. It's the same wrong assumption that economists use to defend laissez faire capitalism: all people are equally rational and would therefore respond to incentives and detergents in the same way. This speaks to one of the biggest problems with the conservative mindset, their lazy-brained reliance on "common sense" and refusal to deal with actual facts.

Cari is absolutely on the ball bringing up the Republican ban on researching gun violence. If the leadership truly believed what they preach they should welcome proof that they are right. But they know they are wrong, which is why they quash efforts to prove it one way or the other. Loyalty to them is far more important to their agenda than truth, life or human decency, which is exactly why they appeal so much to serotonin-dominant personalities. They have been doing exactly the same thing with climate science and educational outcomes - and why I think it is no hyperbole when Dr. Brin calls them traitors. We often see what they do and face palm over their stupidity, but it isn't stupidity, it's self-serving evil. The stupid ones are the ones who believe their lies and vote for these bastards.

Ask yourselves why this seems to be happening so much over the last 40 years, then look at that Shares of US Net Wealth graph again and look at what changed 40 years ago. It should be fairly obvious. When the playing field was dramatically tilted in favor of the richest 0.01% of the people, that started us down a path that is deeply unhealthy to the minds of 90% of the human beings that make up the bulk of America (and similar trends are happening elsewhere in the Anglosphere). It reminded me of a line from one of my mother's favorite comedians:

The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.
- Lily Tomlin

My best friend in junior high school had two pet rats, Max and Templeton. They were the friendliest rodents ever! The best rodents you ever laid eyes on. They never bit anyone. They loved to snuggle and tickle you with their whiskers. But they were also well fed and lived pretty stress-free lives. No bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, no "pure evil" as our glorious leader says. Funny how much like humans this sounds. Go figure.

Paul SB said...


Larry makes two really important points:

1) The NRA is the lobby for the gun industry, people who are laughing to the bank every time people die with bullets in their bodies. We despise them when they run guns to our enemies (think Custer's Last Stand and those well-armed natives) but it never occurs to those right-wingers who accuse the lefties of being hopelessly gullible just how they themselves are being used for someone else's profits.

2) the NRA does not allow its own members to bear arms into their own meetings. Now wouldn't it be funny if a squad of masked desperadoes broke into an NRA meeting and hosed them down with paintballs, caught it on camera and posted the video on Youtube? That might take some of the steam out of their (specious) arguments.

And another point Cari made about the seriously large uptick in mass shootings points to another deep flaw in conservative reasoning. They avoid collective responsibility and collective action against all social problems by pretending that they are just a bunch of individual problems, so logically we should just blame and punish the individuals. Good luck doing that to the American equivalent of suicide bombers! When the numbers of "individual" problems change so rapidly, the burden of proof is on them to show that these problems are not being caused by the structure and/or superstructure of society.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

Re: neurons and AI

Sad to say, but if you said those things 20 years ago, you were well behind the curve. You predicted 20 years ago that neurons were non-linear? And that possibly it involved more than just the neuron? Geez, it was known even then. At least to the people I knew.

Anyone who thought that transistors, or even gates equaled processors equaled neurons clearly didn't know much at all about how those things work. Then again, many of the PhDs I work with don't know that much about processors at the
Closer to 30 years ago, I was involved in some researchy stuff that involved attempting to use new neuron-inspired models of computing. At the time, we were still in the flat part of Moore's Law (though the machines were still impressive compared to a decade earlier.). The so-called 'AI winter' was over. But Artificial neural networks weren't evolving much at that time. Sure, there were things they were good at, but the machines didn't have the capacities to do much more with them (that's changed since we hit the steep part of Moore's Law, and more importantly, much larger RAM and storage and datasets).

So we were using what we knew at the time about how biological neurons worked. This pulled in a binch of stuff from biology and analog electronics, fuzzy logic (just getting started in the digital world at the time, the analog world had used it for decades), and probably a bunch of stuff I don't even recall any more.

For those not in the know, fuzzy logic, simply stated, is when there's more than just yes and no in the logic system. The value of something can take on a real-number value, and the threshold at which that value is considered a yes or no is also not necessarily a fixed value, but a function that can include the value's history. An easy example is in digital logic itself at the gate level. For example, TTL logic is generally considered to be no at 0 volts and yes at 5 volts. In reality, a transition from no to yes doesn't happen at 5 volts, but at more like 2.7 volts. A transition from yes to no occurs at more like 1.5 volts.

Anyway, in our simulations we'd set up our network randomly, neurons and synapses. Even then, we had a lot more synapses than neurons. We had input into the system via the neurons, and output as well. We even had things that were analogous to neurotransmitters in that we weren't simulations single values in the neurons and synapses. And we were using historical information in the simulation to not only alter the various threshold functions, but also to cull and create synapses (not neurons, as I recall).

My personal contribution came from reading a biology paper on the measurement of optic nerve excitement. As I sort-of expected (remember, I wanted to be a chip designer, and I'd studied a lot of low-level electronic stuff), the input from your eyes is fuzzy. That is, it doesn't keep the same level all the time, even for a theoretical constant input. When we added that bit of fuzziness, we got some very interesting results. We started getting change even with constant input. Most of that was feedback, but some was original processing due to the fuzzy input values. In effect, our networks could daydream. I'm not sure if/where any of it got published. I was doing it as a sort of extra credit in an AI class.

These days, with the advances in computing power, resources, and datasets, the search for better neuron-like structures isn't really in vogue any more. Not like how to swallow everything out there and make it usable.

raito said...

Re: The bell curve.

As a sports coach/instructor, I run into this a lot. And I mean a lot. And the arguments for it are just plain stupid.

Around a decade ago was a bad patch for it in my area of expertise. A rather well-known woman had written a book on her experiences. It was extremely destructive to my sport as regards women. While it was written as "here's what I went through -- you can do it too!" it was taken as "men and women do it differently -- so insist that we're different". I had women who wanted to train who insisted that they couldn't do physical motions in the same manner as men because of this book. No matter that the book insisted that I do those motions like a woman.

So I did a pile of research, specifically in real-world sports (mine is rather niche) where men and women compete by the same rules, even if not against each other. Thus, gymnastics, for example did not count. Not only are the apparatus rules different, but so are the judging criteria. And I found no sport of any sort in which men and women are taught different physical motions in their sports. Not a one. A smoking gun might have been to find different coaching standards for those coaching men and women. And of the ones I found, there were no such differences. None. Not a single one. That's my wager to those who want it otherwise, regardless of which side of the fence they're on.

So, at that time and for me, the Bell Curve problem was more in evidence by those supposedly on the weaker end of the curve. Not at all like the problem given in the article (which is still a problem). Women were using the argument to restrict themselves. (And some thought I was the bad guy for not buying into it. But I had too many counterexamples for their complaints to amount to much.)

But this doesn't mean that individuals don't differ. They do. But a short woman wresting a taller opponent is no different than a short man wresting a tall man. A fast woman doesn't use different techniques than a fast man. And as Dr. Brin is so fond of his judo, there is no difference in belt tests for Kodokan Judo for men and women.

And recently, we're running into these problems again. I had to talk to a guy who asserted that since he was physically weak and couldn't do certain things, that women would have the same problem. Pretty much wrong on all counts. Firstly, strength is not a necessary component beyond a certain minimum, and that minimum is pretty low. Secondly, >he< doesn't get to decide how well someone else does, or even predict it. That's very disrespectful. And finally, though least important, I know this guy. He could achieve any goal in our sport he wants, if he doesn't restrict himself by his thoughts.

raito said...


Yeah, the Second Law. Makes me laugh a bit every time someone says 'sustainable' and appears to really believe it.


Part of the reason is that it's treated as a racial thing, when the latest research I've been told about finds that it correlates a lot more with economic status. Hell, I had to sit in a meeting lat night where a black woman assert4ed quite positively that 'people of color' couldn't afford public transportation. And as usual in these arguments, her brain fried when asked if there were any poor white (or Latino in this case) people who couldn't afford it, or 'people of color' who could. Bell Curve indeed. And a problem of identity.

Then again, I'm still wondering how my alma mater graduates 91%, but only 50-some % pass the required reading level.

As for efforts, the local district tried to bus the rich white kids to the poor black school (and no quibbling about terms, please, the numbers were irrefutable). The result wasn't an improvement in the gap (not that it would have anyway, even if the scores had improved). The result was that the local Catholic school got a bump in enrollment and half the school board was voted out at the next election.

It's also telling that the parents from the poor black school don't want their children going anywhere else. But they also have no clue how to change the current gap (not that I'd expect all of them to know, but none seem to even have any ideas). The one ray of light is that the new district head lives where his children go there, so maybe we'll see some improvement.

raito said...

Ilithi Dragon,

While I agree with most of what you say, it doesn't take a 3D printer to make a firearm. As I've said for nearly ever, as long as they sell files, drills, and chunks of metal, there will be guns. Fewer probably, but they're just too easy to make. And all the designs you need are on the internet. In the USPTO database if nowhere else. But while
'zero' is not possible, 'fewer' certainly is.

And bringing LarryHart into this, I seem to recall that one of the WACO guys was off the compound with a gun and a knife, and it was the knife that allowed him to be arrested. And any remote device can be bypassed. See my comment about meal, files and drill above.

Your citation of numbers of deaths is somewhat moot. There's a big difference between a child drowning in their own pool vs. someone holding them under until they drown, if you get my drift.

And if your natioanl CCW proposal made it into a bill, I predict that the GOP would only then start maundering on about Frankenstein bills.

I do have some experience with firearms, having had rural farming relatives. I didn't manage to complete a CCW permit in Texas when I lived there, because I moved before I finished. My Rule #1 is even a bit more strict that yours, and a bit simpler. "It is always loaded."

And you are absolutely incorrect about protecting assets. Yes, the best way to to deter attack. But the best way to deter attack is to make the attacker not need to attack. You are correct that an attacker will seek the easiest targets. But what we want is for them to not seek targets at all. And that's where your reasoning breaks down. Having a lock on my door only makes the burgler go to the next house, regardless of the fact that he could break into mine by breaking a window. But it doesn't stop him from going to the next house, does it?


Re: Paintball in the NRA

In this morning's news was a bit on the arrest of a man who walked into his child's elementary school, to his child's classroom, and handed the teacher a piece of paper that had the word 'gun' written on it.


Here's a thought of how perhaps to explain things to some folks.

Humanity is a bit like a car race. But it's not a drag race, nor a dirt track race, nor a rally, nor a cross-country race. It's a combination of a NASCAR race and a LeMans race. From LeMans, it's like a relay. Your team is your family. You get as far ahead as you can, so the younger members of your family are better off. From NASCAR, drafting is essential. You're still competing, but you have to work together to run faster. If you draft, everyone finishes faster. If you don't you get left behind.

Personally, I don't mind if someone 'wins' the race, as long as we're all not that far behind.

Zepp Jamieson said...

This just in: Gates has pled guilty to an array of felonies committed whilst assistant Trump campaign manager, including conspiracy against the United States.

locumranch said...

I haven't mentioned this before, but my daughter's name appeared on a secondary school 'hit list' earlier this year and, even though the local policed quickly intervened, apprehended & arrested 3 of her classmates, our justice system was unable to actually charge these 3 potential murders for the non-crime of not actually committing any violence wherein the presence or absence of INTENT was unobtainable without the psychic powers of the Grey Lensman.

Of course, my daughter feels threatened, is incensed about this supposed miscarriage of justice, cares not a whit for the whole 'innocent until proven guilty' canard and demands the summary arrest & punishment of everyone & anyone who might represent a potential threat to her & her classmates, just like the other whinging narcissists on NPR who demand that others accept full responsibility for their protection without accepting any responsibility to protect themselves.

Quite unwittingly, it appears, I have convinced my daughter (by placing her interests & safety above my own in all things) that the entire universe must also place her interests & safety above the interests of those others who may (or may not) represent any real or imagined threat against her, and there is nothing I can say now to convince her otherwise.

How do you convince a child that their interests are not the Universe's interests?

For ill or worse, it now appears that our Society-in-Decline isn't even willing to try: Instead, we will simply scapegoat whole identity groups as 'deplorables', assume criminal intent & strip them of their constitutional rights because we place our own peace-of-mind above truth, justice & the american way.

Funny how those deplorables feel the same way about YOU.


Anonymous said...

And they continue with that total attachment to arms. Hooo. Anyway. Then. I see that Obama's idea of ​​advancing the creation of weapons that can be fired by the owner makes sense. (That does not fix the problem, only decrease the percentage of massacres) But it is certainly a partial solution.
This can be done to bring that solution to the highest degree of application: An ultimatum of the Democrats to the industry of manufacture and sale of weapons: Or sell from now on weapons with systems that allow only the user to shoot the weapon, or not There is more business. Continuous legal blockade by the Democratic party.
I suppose that trying something like this will cause many to start panic buying high-powered weapons for a few months. But after the new laws are applied. In the streets, only arms with padlock electronic devices can circulate. Otherwise, millimeter wave detection systems will be activated in buildings, detecting the presence of unauthorized weapons, as each legal weapon will have its own identification "beacon". Do you want to have weapons? Then they will have to get used to the harassment of millimeter wave machines. That is, literally, all Americans will become nudists, because they can be spied on by the guards who manage millimeter wave systems (and those systems see everything) (I can remember that since the first months the cameras were implemented Millimetric wave images of naked women were detected, recorded with millimeter wave cameras, taken by supposedly honorable guards In a world full of weapons, eventually, the industry of millimeter wave cameras will be everywhere, it is inevitable and even a child can see that it will be so, because all entrepreneurs will feel that they need them to protect their families and their customers.
Goodbye privacy, welcome, nudist world! It is curious, how with our obstinacy we are creating exactly a world where the depraved as Donald Trump can spy on all women. And of course, all this will be the fault of the Republican leaders.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I should go and cook broccoli to increase my intelligence and prevent the cancer that Republican combustion gases cause.

Anonymous said...

Finally, maybe this will help you understand the problem of poverty outside the United States and why the problem will not change without the use of energetic actions to curb political corruption:



David Brin said...

Jiminy, we hope and pray locum's daughter does well in sagacity, self-protection and luck. B veering just a bit away from his hallucinatory-raving obsessions, he actually came across as a concerned parent and citizen. STill grumpy to the point of delusion. But one has an impression that generations improve....

Geez you guys are revealing tidbits about yourselves, of late. But this thread is dedicated to our dedicated TorpedoMan!

David Brin said...

Stay safe out there, Dragon-TorpedoMan...

Now... onward


Jerry A. said...

Are you guys all engineers or similar? No one has mentioned the real death knell to the "Bell Curve" argument. Biologically, there is no such thing as race. The human genome project and the large genetics study in Brazil proved that what we call "races" are meaningless biologically, with the genetic diversity within any one so-called "race" being much broader than the difference between races. Basically, race is a social construct based upon appearance that is not much more than skin deep. There is minor genetic variability like mutations related to diseases, but those are as much related to the origin of human groups as anything else. So-called "race" is 99% cultural and socio-economics, and cultures & economics can change. IQ tests measure not intelligence, but cultural training, as there is no such thing as a culture-free IQ test, nor is there one which can measure intelligence consistently. Racists are, at heart, people who have been trained ("carefully taught", per Lehrer) to ignore reality in order to justify their hates and fears. So, the Bell Curve measures little that is real because the question it is trying to answer is meaningless. There are no races, biologically, so it is really measuring cultural and economic variables versus education. When schools across the US have equal funding (allowing for local cost of living), equal access to resources and well trained teachers, then we can maybe discuss other variables. My guess is that if the racism in the US goes away to the point that we can have that, then we won't even have to bother with dumb questions like those posed by the Bell Curve.
To chime in on the other issue, I was trained to use a rifle in the Scouts, and the military trained me to fire a .45 sidearm. I'm not "afraid" of guns and I am familiar with them. I think they should be regulated because I am familiar with them, not out of ignorance. Guns are designed to be dangerous. Assault-style rifles are designed to kill and maim humans. They suck as target or hunting weapons. I hate it when right wingers try to co-opt gun ownership by claiming that liberals are either fearful or somehow unpatriotic. And apparently from CPAC, I'm more willing to discuss the matter rationally than the NRA Executive and spokes-weasels. Just don't call me un-American because I think the 2nd Amendment comes after the right to life instead of before it.

Anonymous said...

@Jerry A

I'm not sure I understand, could you please explain this more? Don't children have the same race as their biological parents? When people I know adopt from foreign countries, their children have the race of the origin country, despite growing up in the adopted parents culture.

Jerry A. said...

Simple answer: The people who try to use "race" to discuss intelligence are trying to fool you into thinking that someone's brain function has something to do with their level of melanin production. It's scientific nonsense.

More complicated answer:
What people call "race" is a tiny subset of factors that define the biology of a human being. Most of those race-defining characteristics (called phenotypes) are minor biologically (to a technological society) and very minor genetically, and almost all factors are independent of each other. For examples:
Skin color: darker (more melanin) = protects from UV exposure versus lighter = more vitamin D production.
Eye color & shape: light reflection or absorption.
Nose shape: heat retention
Fat content: heat retention.

None of these factors has anything to do with intelligence, leadership, the ability to form families or complicated social structures, yet racists have tried to say so.

Humans have looked at these minor variations, artificially (socially) lumped them together, and called them "racial characteristics" when they do nothing more than indicate the geographic location of our ancestors. Most of these characteristics vary enormously within what we call races, to the point that a so-called "white" person may be visually "black", and vice-versa. While facial features and skin color vary among human sub-populations, race as we have been taught historically does not exist. Children look like their parents, who look like their parents, nothing more. Race does not exist aside from being a label of 3-5 independent characteristics. A society could as easily re-define "races" using reaction speed, the ability to drive or pilot, and musical ability (perfect pitch). It's nonsensical and impossible to tell a a glance, but that's only because what we (society) call race is nonsense. People came up with the idea of races because they could not explain why people looked different from each other in different parts of the world. Now we can do so.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are now saying there are biological components to race, but none of them are related to intelligence/leadership/etc.

I think it is a stronger argument if you say 'biologically, what we refer to as race has only these physical components' rather than 'Biologically, there is no such thing as race'

Jerry A. said...

Biologically, there is no such thing as race.

A particular society can agree to call a certain extreme of variations of human skin color or eye shape (superficial characteristics) as a certain race, but there are variations in the middle where people do not agree on a race. Those people in the middle are not "mixed race", and they are not "no race", so what are they? Other societies may not agree on the same definitions. And no geneticist will say "this set of genes defines this race". Therefore, races are social constructs, not biological ones. Sure, you can still use the word "race" in a social setting, but it is meaningless scientifically.

Anonymous said...

Are you an engineer or similar?

Biologically, is there such a thing as a species?

Jerry A. said...

Anonymous, don't be dense. A race is not a species. Species are distinct genetically as well as phenotypically and morphologically.

Ph.D. research biochemist, not an engineer.

Anonymous said...

But aren't species also hard to define?
Biology in general seems to have long lists of exceptions to any attempt at making rules for it.
I am just not seeing the crux of the argument that race is not biological. I can see how you can claim that it is only determining a minor set of attributes that are not important in a technological society, but you do say "those race-defining characteristics (called phenotypes) are minor biologically". You don't say they aren't biological.

Doing some reading, there appears to be more disagreement here than you suggest:

I don't think this is the main argument to use against bell curve zealots. If tomorrow some advanced genetic techniques now showed that race is biological, or some such, opposition to the bell curve should remain. Ultimately, some percentage threshold of genetic diversity is not why we are against bell curve zealots.

Jerry A. said...

No, species have as one of their definitions the inability for distinct species to cross-breed to have viable, fertile offspring.

Of course, many characteristics of human variation have a genetic component. That is irrelevant because race cannot be defined using those characteristics or any other features. They are very widely spread across all of the world, with no strict separation points. See this for a better explanation: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2017/science-genetics-reshaping-race-debate-21st-century/
As that article states, two people of European ancestry may have more in common genetically with an Asian-descended person than with each other. Our ideas about race are purely based upon superficial _appearance_, not major variations of biology. Read the article.

Genetics is a pretty major and damning fact for people who want to use race to argue about unrelated traits like intelligence. By the way, there can be no "advanced genetic technique" to show race is genetic because that assumption has already been disproven. That egg has not only been cracked, it has been scrambled, cooked, and digested.

Jerry A. said...

Also see these explanations:




Anonymous said...

I don't think my points are being understood.
I know not how to proceed.

Jerry A. said...

I think the problem is miscommunication. Anonymous is using the colloquial definition of race, which is imprecise and outdated. I am rather badly trying to explain the scientific definition of race, involving genetic diversity, as it applies to human beings. Can you understand that the scientific consensus of geneticists and anthropologists is that what people call race as applied to humans is wrong? That there are no human races, merely unimportant and minor but superficial visible variations in appearance? What people call "race" is to geneticists like calling someone an Inuit (Eskimo) just because they are wearing a parka.