5 Quick Political Facts for Today (3/4/15)

Money, money, money, dru-ugs…and guns.  I forget how that song goes.

This drink intermission sponsored by corporate tax-dodging America!
  • GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio lays out his economic plan for the country and it’s all kinds of terrible.  Nothing overly surprising in the plan as it’s a giveaway to the wealthy and will hurt the poor and middle-class, like most GOP proposals.  Tax cuts for corporations, elimination of dividends and capital gains tax, and cuts to Medicare and Social Security to pay for it.  Please keep trumping that idea around so everyone is clear about what you want to do to us.  I’m sure that presidential run will go great, Senator Nochanceinhell!
  • In economic inequality news, David Geffen donates $100 million to Lincoln Center.  It’s great he wants to make such a donation to the arts but it’s hard to ignore the economic disparity when these donations are made at the same time the wages of the majority have stagnated for so many decades.  It must be nice to donate the equivalent of 6631 minimum wage earners’ combined yearly salaries in one shot.  The donation is great but it does help exemplify the huge difference between the have-everythings and the have-littles.
  • An appeals court has upheld a California city’s ban on gun magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.  A small victory for commonsense gun policy but the case will go through more appeals as gun nuts desperately beg for an increase in the size of their magazines.  Blah blah blah penis joke.  Bob Loblaw penis joke.  Blah blah blah penis joke.  Moving on.
  • Heroin death rates in the United States have quadrupled since 2000So odd it is happening.  It’s almost as if the market has been flooded with more heroin from the people who grow the most heroin in the world since the year 2000 for some reason.  I wonder how that happened?

The article is filled with good information until the end when this quote appears:

David G. Evans, of the Drug-Free America Foundation, blames the use of less-harmful drugs for the uptick in heroin use.

“I think heroin deaths are going up in part because the attitude has changed towards marijuana,” he said. “Kids now think marijuana is a medicine so it’s okay to use it. You get involved in a drug culture, you get high, you get addicted, one drug just seems like the other, and I think that’s a big part of it.”

Ah, the good ole Gateway Theory.  Hasn’t that myth been killed enough by academics to never bother quoting in a serious article on drug use?  It’s like finding a fossil fuel funded climate denying scientist to quote in a climate change article.  We’re better than that now, aren’t we?

  • Palestinian president Abbas calls Israel gangsters over the tax dollars they are holding from the Palestinian people.  If you read the article closely, it clearly maps out how this situation could easily (and will likely) devolve into more violence due to Israel’s horrendous action.  Israel will then “mow the lawn” again and kill more innocent Palestinians in the name of their security, despite the fact they will have caused the situation to begin in the first place.

Already many of the PA’s 140,000 civil servants have had their pay cut by around 40 percent

Gosh, why would 140k people be angry about their pay being cut nearly in half by an occupying government that just killed more than 2,000 of their people?  But remember everyone, it’s Israel that is being treated terribly by the Palestinians and not the other way around.  Just listen to their leader.  If Netanyahu wasn’t busy lying about the non-existent nuclear threat of Iran, he would be able to lie to you about the threat of Palestinians.

Frontline On The NRA: “Gunned Down”

080513_frontline_stack_card.380x212.jpg.fit.480x270For anyone who is interested in the gun control debate should watch this episode of “Frontline” entitled “Gunned Down.”

The documentary is about the NRA and it’s powerful lobbying history. It covers how the organization has always come out on top despite many senseless murders and massacres committed by assailants with firearms. Follow the link. (I apologize about using the link instead of embedding the video. WordPress does not allow Frontline’s documentaries to be embedded on its platform)

http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365397152?chapter=1” target=”_blank”>Frontline: “Gunned Down”






Hillary Attacks Gun Culture

1e1e828f-c6fb-4842-8667-fffca5de21fd-460x276A report in The Guardian on a recent speaking engagement featuring former Sec. of State, and potential Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton at the National Council for Behavioural Health conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in which she stated that gun culture in the U.S. is “way out of balance”.

She argued that the idea that “anybody can have a gun, anywhere, anytime” needs to be reined in while our Second Amendment rights could still be recognized.

Read Here.

Also, at The Guardian’s website you can find great info and cool graphs outlining individual gun laws state-by-state (link below). But the information was published in January, 2013, and, therefore, may be outdated regarding some States.

See Here



A Pic and Thought for the Day

I mean, really, how does it work like this?

Countering the Right: The Kid’s Argument Against Gun Control Part 2

Continued from Part 1 here

Then a common and pertinent point made by gun advocates and worth addressing.

Now, even of those 3,371, only 37 were killed with a rifle which is barely 1%.  98% were killed with a handgun so creating gun control legislation that targets assault rifles has statistically proven to only weed out less than 1% of the problem, if you are lucky.

This point is relevant and there is no denying the numbers but it doesn’t tell the whole story of lives lost.  If we are going to take a critical look at the most high-powered weapons, we have to look at Mexico and what has gone on there over the past seven years.  As I’ve stated before, the Assault Weapons Ban expired in late 2004 and two years later former President Calderon began sending Mexican Army troops into the areas where the drug cartels had become too heavily armed for regular police.  The idea that the ease with which one can buy a weapon made solely for military purposes in the U.S. has nothing to do with the drug cartels in Mexico being so well armed is ludicrous.  A fair assessment of the effect on lives taken by these weapons would include this fact.

Well produced speech. Awful argument.

If the Afghan-Chicago comparison hadn’t been made, this next part would be the most absurd leap from reality in the speech.

On December 14th of 2012 the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting in Central China a man stabbed 22 children and one adult.  Guns are not needed for mass murder.

Guns may not be “needed for mass murder” but they sure make the deed easier.  I suppose I would need an example to prove that.  Where can I possibly find one?

Wait, I got it.  I’ll use the same one given in the speech.

What is not noted here is the fact there wasn’t a mass murder in China that day.  How do I know this?  Because for an event to be classified as a mass murder, you need a few key things and those things are actual dead bodies, of which there were approximately zero fatalities in the China attack mentioned.  To which the question should be asked, what school would you want your child to have been in that day?  The one where there was a mass murder or the one where there wasn’t?

Then one last claim by the young girl worthy of a closer look.

You must also consider the fact that the majority of gun violence occurs in low income neighborhoods.  Raising the overall cost of owing a gun through higher licensing and registration fees, denies the ability of lower income individuals to protect themselves against the crime focus in the areas they live in. Passing this legislation would be discriminating against these lower income individuals who are actually at a higher risk of being victimized of crimes.

People on the right want to protect low income individuals?  When did this class war begin?

In short, the point made here gives us two options when we also consider the fact most of the violence in low income areas in places like Chicago is due to gang violence and not just random acts.  Option A: make guns easier to get so both sides are armed to the teeth and have the areas delve into mini-war zones akin to the cartel violence in Mexico.  Option B: make guns harder to get everywhere and the price goes up for the gangs to get them thereby reducing the overall level of violence over time.

Maybe we could work on giving them an option C: offering better jobs and a way to a better standard of living so gang life isn’t so appealing.

Nah, that’s crazy talk.  The answer is and apparently always will be: more guns.  (No matter how ridiculous the argument backing it up is.)

Countering the Right: The Kid’s Argument Against Gun Control Part 1

A recently posted video on YouTube has been making the rounds in conservative circles as it shows an eloquent 15-year-old girl giving a speech to Maryland legislators against gun control.  The speech is well delivered and only has one major flaw: most of her points are shoddy arguments, at best, when looked at a little more critically.

To begin, an early piece of her opinion jumps out as a stretch of imagination considering reality.

You are not eliminating guns from society but eliminating our ability to protect our lives, liberty, and pursuits of happiness.

Actually, most people seem to be doing just fine living their lives and pursuing their happiness without guns in their possession.  As has been reported in recent years, the number of gun owners in the U.S. has dropped and seems to be continuing in that direction as “the number of households owning guns has declined from almost 50% in 1973 to just over 32% in 2010.”  Not only is her claim an opinion (as is mine, admittedly) but it’s one that is weakening over time (not statistically the case with mine).

Then comes one of the most irrational claims I have ever heard in defense of gun rights.

Well produced speech. Awful argument.

And it is currently more than twice as likely for you to be killed in Chicago as in the Afghan War.  For the past 11 years and 4 months in the Afghan War 2,166 people have been killed.  Now in only 8 years in Chicago, 4,265 people have been killed and 3,371 of them were from being shot.

Wow, that Afghan place sounds like a magical land of safety for Americans compared to Chicago.  Twice as likely to get killed in Chicago?  Whole numbers are fun but completely illogical when comparing two places, particularly when the populations differ wildly.  Let’s take a look at the numbers.

I’m going to be incredibly generous here and use the highest American troop levels in Afghanistan, right at 100k, and only the given population of the city of Chicago, 2.7 million, and not the larger number of the Chicagoland area, well over 9 million.  By doing this, I’m swinging the numbers in favor of her argument just for the sake of showing how ridiculous the claim still is.

So, assuming 100k Americans were in Afghanistan during the entire period (not true), and 2,166 were killed, you get a death rate of 21.66 per 1k people.  In Chicago during the time given, you get a death rate of 1.58 per 1k.  Therefore, using the most generous numbers possible, you were actually 13.7 times more likely to get killed in Afghanistan than Chicago.  Feel free to run the numbers with more realistic estimates of population if you want but I’m choosing to be nice.

There is also the ridiculous claim that Chicago is a great example of the failure of gun control because it’s restrictive laws have not been very effective.  To which I would counter, what idiot doesn’t know how to drive outside the city limits when they want a gun?  Gun advocates do realize it was a city policy and not a national or even state one, don’t they?

As this article points out, “Statistics show that more than half of the guns seized by Chicago police in the last 12 years came from other states. A University of Chicago study found that more than 1,300 guns confiscated by police since 2008 were purchased at a single store just outside city limits. More than 270 were used in crimes.”  No gun control policy would or will ever work in a major U.S. city alone when it is so easy to purchase so close to the area.  It is just as silly to pass this type of measure at the city level as it is to claim this is an example of how gun control doesn’t work.

NRA Using Switzerland as Example? Not so Fast

Many opponents of any gun control measures in the United States use the country of Switzerland as an example of how guns are supposedly not the problem when it comes to number of gun deaths.  So I suppose we should have gun laws that mimic those of the Swiss and I’m sure gun control opponents would agree.  Or would they?

An article from the BBC delves into the gun culture of Switzerland and notes a few points worth mentioning at length since gun advocates would probably not be so keen to hold the Swiss as an example for proper gun laws:

Gun laws (in Switzerland) concerning army weapons have tightened. Although it is still possible for a former soldier to buy his firearm after he finishes military service, he must provide a justification for keeping the weapon and apply for a permit.

Neither of these is even remotely necessary when buying a gun in the U.S., of course.  It continues:

Mathias, a PhD student and serving officer…”And we don’t get bullets any more,” he adds. “The Army doesn’t give ammunition now – it’s all kept in a central arsenal.” This measure was introduced by Switzerland’s Federal Council in 2007.

So gun but no bullets.  Wonder how the NRA feels about that?  It goes further:

“Shooting instructors at rifle clubs always control who is shooting,” he says. And all ammunition bought at the club has to be used there.

“When the shooting is finished and the person wants to leave the club, the instructor will look to see how many bullets have been shot and will demand the rest are given back.”

NRA advocating that type of control?  Nope.  Yet they use the Swiss as an example of a society with high gun ownership and a lower number of gun murders than the United States.  Maybe everyone should play along and ask for Swiss-type gun laws.  Then let’s see how closely the NRA continues to uphold the gun-toting Swiss as their ace-in-the-hole argument.

Weapons Debate is Not Only About Saving American Lives

A Mexican checkpoint with heavily armed troops. The fault of the U.S. gun policy.

As the United States government gradually takes its action on the debate over weapons on the streets, another government and country of people are watching closely as to how the laws will change.  The people of Mexico have called for changes to American laws for many years now and have seen the effects firsthand of how the ability to buy such dangerous weapons with ease can turn cities and towns into war zones.

Mexican interest continues now as the debate seems to be drawing closer to some real action on assault rifles and magazine capacities.  Some comments from the Mexican Ambassador are worth noting:

“The Second Amendment … is not, was never and should not be designed to arm foreign criminal groups,” Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora told reporters last week.

The end of the (Assault Weapons) ban in 2004 impacted Mexico, he said.

“There is certainly a statistical correlation between the end of this measure and the increase in the firepower of foreign criminal groups, particular those that operate out of our country,” he said.

If we look at the timing of certain events, there definitely seems to be a lot of truth to his statements.  The Assault Weapons Ban expired in late 2004 and two years later former President Calderon began sending Mexican Army troops into the areas where the drug cartels had become too heavily armed for regular police.  Over 50,000 casualties later, the Mexican people are still looking to the United States for changes in weapons policy.

Some may argue the problem is/was the ATF’s Fast and Furious policy allowing guns to walk across the border but I’ve addressed the insanity of this position previously and will quote myself here:

If there wasn’t a problem to begin with, extremely awful policy solutions like Fast and Furious would not have been conjured, much less implemented…Let’s look at what we know.  Fast and Furious allowed roughly 2,000 weapons to cross the border.  However, the Mexican authorities have seized nearly 70,000 weapons traced back to the United States around the same time period.  How many they haven’t seized and are still in circulation is probably anyone’s guess but it’s safe to assume it’s larger than the number captured.  Focusing only on Fast and Furious is the equivalent of a watching a pack of hungry lions running at you in the wild and being more concerned about a mosquito that just landed on your arm.

For the safety of everyone, let’s hope they get changes that matter and legislation that helps damage the weapons caches of the many Mexican drug cartels who arm themselves by abusing the lax gun laws of the United States.

Believe It or Not, There is a Middle Ground in Gun Control Debate

While watching the debate over guns unfold for the last few weeks, one might mistakenly believe there are only two options given by the most extreme elements of both political leanings: a nationwide ban on all guns, knives, forks, hammers, hard cover books, and heavily starched pillow cases or an allowance of one person to buy enough firepower and ammunition from their nearest corporate retail store to kill everyone on the East Coast with no restrictions whatsoever.  Despite how comically interesting these positions are when given by the opponents of the other side, they just aren’t reality.

New polling data from Pew was released today and it gives a much better and reasonable look at what could be done on guns without invoking either extreme.  As one can see from the numbers, there are many factors the majority of the public supports that do not overextend the hand of the government to the point some gun rights activists allege when conjuring images of Nazi Germany or Stalin’s USSR.  For instance, the most popular option, a thorough background check including at gun shows, should be a reasonable change.  Are you a law-abiding, sane citizen?  You get to pass.  Are you not?  No gun for you.  Pretty simple and a step in the right direction that a clear majority seem to agree with in the U.S.

In fact, it is surprising any opposition of this idea comes from the right.  The argument against this issue seems to be the government having too much information on individuals but where was this opposition on the right when the Patriot Act was passed?  It certainly wasn’t nonexistent on the right, but also wasn’t as loud.  So, we must ask a question here: is it really okay to suspend the rights of citizens the way the Patriot Act did through spying and warrant-less maneuvers but not okay to attempt to keep the wrong people from owning dangerous weapons capable of massacres like Tuscon, Aurora, and Newtown?  The hypocrisy is obvious.

Overall, we can find a middle ground on this debate.  A letter from a hunter appeared over the weekend on the Atlantic’s site that is a good start for sanity on gun control.  One of the most important points from the article is this:

My son is just a baby now, but when he’s old enough, I want him to get to experience all of this (hunting) himself. The good news is: he can, even if we enact strict laws requiring background checks and waiting periods and banning high-capacity magazines. In fact, those laws could help keep him safe in the meantime.

When sane and rational measure such as some mentioned in the Pew poll are suggested, another insane and irrational counterpoint is always made: this is a slippery slope to an outright ban on all guns.  Anyone who believes this, however, just isn’t paying attention.  We have seen so many massacres both in and out of schools since Columbine but the only major change on guns that has happened since then is the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban.  Massacres occurred and gun control measures were actually lessened during this time.  The amount of victims it has taken to ignite the debate to this point should be a pretty good indicator that no outright ban on guns will ever happen in the United States.  The slippery slope argument is simply fantasy conjured by conspiracy theorists.

Ultimately, we can find middle ground on this debate to make the country safer and it seems some measures might be put in place doing just that.  The change will not happen tomorrow but we will all be a little safer once these new laws have taken their effect over time.

NRA’s La Pierre and Infowars’ Blatant Abuse of Data

One of the most important lessons to learn about observation of the political arena is the reality people can extract whatever info they want from given data to push their point and completely ignore other aspects that would make them look like fools.  This was painfully apparent in recent dispatches from the right wing of American politics.

The first I noticed in a statement made by current head of the NRA, Wayne La Pierre.  While backing his controversial stance on armed personnel in schools, he reinforced his position and made the following statement:

He added that in Friday’s news conference, “I said what I honestly thought and what millions, and hundreds of millions, of people all over this country believe will actually make a difference.”

“Hundreds of millions” of people back his position?  In other words, at least 200 millions Americans?  Quite the claim.  Just one problem: the lack of any actual scientific polling data even remotely backing this claim.

Why does this continue to happen?

The current population of the United States is slightly over 310 million people.  This would mean any polls addressing this question or ones like it should show more than 66% in favor of armed guards, police, principals, teachers, etc. in schools.  (This is, of course, completely ignoring the fact that %23.7 of the population is under the age of 18 and would be unlikely to take part in these polls.  Subtracting the roughly 70 million minors from the polled population would mean over %83 would have to favor La Pierre’s position to hit the 200 million mark.  But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and completely ignore these facts just to be nice and just as he obviously has.)

So, do the polls show enough support of the idea to support the NRA head’s claim?  Doesn’t appear that way.

According to this WSJ poll, a little over 42% support the position.  This poll has it at just below %42.  This one comes in at a little over %45.  This NPR poll came in higher at a little above %57 but the wording of the question should be noted and could be the reason for the increase.  The Pew Research Center did some of their more scientific polling but failed to asked a question specifically regarding armed personnel in schools.  However, one question was asked that is directly relevant to this issue.  Respondents were asked, “does gun ownership do more to protect people from crime or put people’s safety at risk?”  Pierre’s idea is to put guns in schools as a means of protection so this question is basically asking the same thing in a different way.  %48 agreed it protects people from crime which is still well below the %66 La Pierre would need to support his claim.  All of this is coupled with the reality some prominent Republicans, such as former RNC head Michael Steele and former presidential hopeful and NJ Governor Chris Christie, criticized his argument as misguided at best.

So, La Pierre’s claim has seemingly no real data to back it up and there was an apparent gap in information that needed to be filled.  Enter hard right-wing website Infowars.  An article was posted making a claim that would appear to give credence to the NRA head’s statement and used the following headline:

Gallup poll: 64 percent of Americans want school officials armed to protect children.

Now this is an impressive headline and is even allegedly coming from a legit polling source in Gallup.  Just one hangup the author probably should have noted before even writing the body of the article: the title is not factual.

The headline suggests Americans want this action taken and support the measure.  That’s not what they were asked, however.  The question (polling data from Gallup here) asked was not “do you support this” but “do you think this is effective.”  Respondents were essentially given three choices, two of which can be seen as supporting the issue.  In the case of armed personnel in schools, %34 thought it is “very effective” and %30 said “somewhat effective”, giving the Infowars author the %64 figure.  If we look at what people would consider “very effective” methods to combat this type of violence, a school official carrying a gun came in 5th out of 6 choices.  Not as impressive in terms of support when stated that way but don’t tell the author or anyone believing his work that.

It should also be pointed out that, just because we view something as “effective”, doesn’t mean we would support its implementation.  Take, for example, the castration of all sex offenders regardless of crime.  Effective in terms of stopping these offenders from committing more sex crimes but obviously not supported as a means to solve the problem.  Herein lies the importance of recognizing Gallup’s wording in this poll.

But that isn’t the only element that should be noted from this piece of propaganda.  If you read the article closely and read the results from Gallup, you might notice something is missing from the Infowars article.  The author cleverly left out the fact that, in terms of what people see as a “very effective” way to combat school shootings, banning the sale of assault and semi-automatic guns beat out armed school officials, %42 to %34.  The author mentions many of the other results but completely omits that one.  Gee, I wonder why?  (I’m not really wondering why, by the way.)  Even if we combine the results, they are nearly identical at %64 and %63.  Considering this is within the margin of error, banning assault and semi-automatic weapons probably deserves its own article on Infowars yet isn’t even mentioned in the one posted.

Taking all of this into consideration, there is no real evidence backing the outlandish claim of La Pierre that his position has the support of “hundreds of millions” of Americans.  And no matter how hard right-wing propaganda sites like Infowars try to sell their positions, we shouldn’t be tricked into believing them when the data does not add up.  The ultimate truth is these claims from the NRA and Infowars have one critical element in common: they are both lacking in an important little thing called facts.