Monthly Archives: January 2013

That’s Not How Statistics Works

One complaint you will often see from gun rights people is that there are many countries that have banned guns and their crime rates are much higher than in the United States.  Often, Great Britain is used as an example.  According to the “statistics”, Great Britain has a violent crime rate of 2,034 per 100,000 people while the U.S. has a violent crime rate of 466 per 100,000 people.  Great Britain has banned all guns thus banning weapons doesn’t deter crime!  Point.  Set.  Match.

This is what happens when people who don’t understand statistics use statistics.  The problem here is that violent crime in the United States is measured much differently than it is in Great Britain.  The U.S. only counts four crimes as violent: murder/manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.  Our friends across the pond, on the other hand, also count all sexual crimes, all minor assaults like bar fights, and even threats against a person.  It’s no wonder Great Britain looks so violent.

The reality is that, since banning guns, Great Britain’s violent crime rate has plummeted (pdf).  One might want to assume that the banning of guns is related to the drop in violent crime.  One would be wrong.  Violent crime has been steadily dropping in almost every first world country for well over a decade.  There is absolutely no correlation between violent crime and guns.

The United States has, by far, the highest gun ownership rate in the world.  We are also 10th in the world in the number of gun deaths.  Many people would argue that, if guns were so dangerous, shouldn’t we be first?  Look at that list.  Almost every country above us has an active drug war going on.  Drug wars, by the way, that are being fought because of our horrific drug laws here in the United States.  You have to go down to 19th place, Switzerland, to find another country with an extremely stable government.  It should come as no surprise that Switzerland has the third highest gun ownership rate.

Outside of leisurely pursuits, guns can only be used for one purpose: to kill a human being.  And while it is true that murders and suicides will always happen, widespread ownership of guns makes it trivially easy to accomplish.

How Are Guns And Christianity Compatible?

A post from Andrew Sullivan gets to the heart of a question that I have never understood.  There are many Christians out there that think owning a gun for self-defense is compatible with Christianity.  It’s as if they’ve never heard the phrase “turn the other cheek”.

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

I don’t think the Bible could be any clearer that killing someone, even in self-defense, is wrong.  And yet you have people who not only think guns and Christianity are compatible but that they are perfectly intertwined.  That’s why we have an incredibly religious armed forces.  I have news for you.  You can kill in the name of your country.  You can’t kill in the name of Jesus.  That’s not how Christianity works.

Huzzah! The Worst Democratic Senator Is Retiring

Tom Harkin (D-IA) is retiring and will not seek reelection in 2014.  This is good news for science.  The Republicans get all the publicity for their wacky “scientific” theories and complete disassociation from reality, but you’d be hard pressed to find an individual who did more harm to actual people than Tom Harkin.  He has used his position to promote the worst of “alternative” medicines.  (You know what they call alternative medicine that has been proven to work?  Medicine. – Tim Minchin)  He also was a major backer of creating the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) within the NIH giving alternative medicine a undeserved prestige by associating it with an organization that does good science.  He then was critical of the agency when it went on to disprove many of the “alternative” medicines that Harkin endorses.

So good riddance, Senator Harkin!  Science will be much better off without you.

Embracing Muslim Communist Homo-Bortion

I love a good mocking of the college Greek system just as much as the next guy, but Gin and Tacos sure does it right.  In the Greek system’s defense, what is actually being mocked is the parallels to Conservatism and the Greek system.  Apparently, it turns out that organizations of mostly white males tend to be more conservative than others.  Who’da thunk?  It also turns out that fraternities feel persecuted because they never get as much credit for the good works they perform as they do for the sexual assaults or the binge drinking or the pledge week deaths.  News flash, good doesn’t matter if you continue to do evil.  But, but, but, tradition!

Lurching Toward Anarchy

A Federal Appeals Court ruled on Friday that President Obama’s recess appointment of three National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) members was unconstitutional.  If this is actually upheld, we will be declaring ourselves ungovernable.

Here’s some backstory.  The NLRB is a five person panel that mediates unfair labor practices and conducts union elections.  In order for the NLRB to make decisions, at least three board members must be in attendance.  By the end of 2011, due to term expirations, there were only two members left on the board.  Republicans filibustered the President’s three nominees effectively making the NLRB useless since it couldn’t call a quorum.  Republicans, using a technicality,  also refused to recess the Senate for the Christmas holidays which should prevent President Obama from making recess appointments.  Despite that, Obama declared that the Senate was actually in recess and made three recess appointments to the NLRB.  The NLRB now had the quorum it needed to conduct business and it has been doing so ever since.  The Federal Appeals Court’s ruling said that Obama’s appointments were unconstitutional.

If the Appeals Court ruling stands, every decision the NLRB has made in the past year will be invalidated.  Every case that was decided will have to be redone on top of all the new cases that come before the board.  Assuming, of course, that Republicans will actually allow a vote for new board members.  Which is suspect.  This effectively makes unions useless.  Which was probably the plan all along.

More Stuff, Less Time

One of the major complaints that come from people who are in favor of cutting welfare is that the poor have too much stuff.  After all, almost 100% of really poor people have a refrigerator.

It’s easy to make fun of idiotic attacks like that.  Really easy.  But, like all effective attacks, there is a sliver of truth to it.  Poor people do have more stuff.  Mostly, this is because the middle class has more stuff.  And the middle class has more stuff because the cost of stuff really hasn’t gone up much even as the purchasing power of the middle class has stagnated.  The middle class gets a new refrigerator and the poor get a still functioning old refrigerator for dirt cheap.

What is hidden in all of this is the one thing that we haven’t figured out how to recycle.  Time.  Specifically, family time.  The total hours of time worked per family has increased steadily in the United States.  As Paul Krugman points out, you may be tempted to say that is to be expected with more women joining the work force.  Europe has pretty much the same employment rates as the U.S., though, and their total hours worked has dropped steadily.

So we now have a middle class that has slightly more stuff than they used to be able to have but at the expense of much less family time.  You would think that the party that attempts to claim a monopoly on “family values” would want to address an issue as important as this.

Cats, Just Say No To Drugs

(h/t Chris Clarke)

This is pretty awesome.  Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?

That’s Not How Reality Works

This Scenes From A Multiverse comic is eerily familiar.  It’s about evolution, but replace that with just about any other “contentious” scientific subject and you’ll find yourself in the same boat.  People have a root level fundamental misunderstanding of how a certain thing works and yet they still choose to take a stand and build their world view around that misinformed opinion.  We are, as a people, so afraid to simply say, “I don’t know enough about that to form an opinion”.  Instead, we take the misinformed opinions of someone we mistakenly trust and use them as our own.  That is, unfortunately, how reality works.

Movie Review: Broken City

Ratings for reviews will appear above the fold, while the review itself will appear below the fold to avoid spoilers for anyone that wants to go into it with a blank slate.

Jean-Paul’s rating: 3/5 stars

Every politician’s corrupt.  Some of them just happen to do good along the way. “Broken City” is a perfectly adequate film about corruption at the highest levels of New York City if you don’t do something stupid like think about it too much.  I, however, suffer from the rare disease of thought.  I will try not to let that spoil my review. Continue reading

Hurricane Sandy: Take Two

The extremely strange weather continues.  There is an extratropical storm rapidly gaining strength in the Northern Atlantic.  This storm is associated with a low pressure system that is normally only found in category four hurricanes.  Luckily, this storm is not predicted to hit land before it falls apart so the only ones in danger are ships.  That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t affected land, though.  It has dumped 6″ of snow in Maryland.  Small potatoes compared to the feet of snow that the recent record breaking Great Lakes cold snap has generated.

Very few extratropical storms have ever been recorded with as low a pressure as this one.  We can expect more of events like this as the planet continues to warm.  We are like ostriches with our head in the sand.  If ostriches actually stuck their heads in the sand.  Which they don’t.  Which, I guess, is strangely appropriate for climate change.  There are lots of people that believe ostriches do stick their heads in the sand even though a little research would prove otherwise and there are lots of people that believe climate change isn’t real even though a little research would also prove otherwise.