December 29, 2012

That's True

One thing about science: it's very difficult to say something is true or false without being able to show the work that went into it.  "Oh, everyone knows that!" just doesn't cut it.

Hence lists like this:

The 12 most obvious findings in science for 2012.


posted by Thursday at 10:24 am 0 comments

December 28, 2012

Honour Maintained

In honour of Jon Swift's yearly assemblage, the Vagabond Scholar (Batocchio be his name) has assembled a collection of the best of the year from us smaller blogs.

In pretty good company, I'd say!

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posted by Thursday at 8:21 pm 1 comments

December 26, 2012

Nice Whirlwind!

Good luck reapin' that!
The magazine The National Review has once again gone out to sea, expecting victory and instead having to wade through the wreckage of "their guys'" election loss.  It's a good reminder that the people who were banking so strongly on Romney were so certain because they were afraid not to be: one even mentions how "terrified" she is about her future, as another asks the vital question: "What do we do with our money?
It reads to me like Frankenstein and his monster: the people giving the speeches and hosting the tables are supposedly the leading lights of conservative thought, which is frightening enough when you see the playlist.  They have all contributed to the bubble their Republican readers are sitting in, or they are young enough to have always grown up with the self-destructive success Reagan’s “Southern Strategy” ringing in their ears. Now, as they are trying to tell their followers the reality if the situation, the monster refuses to listen.
A clever few – and that’s very few – have actually started coming around to just how insane the mob mentality they have created really is. Some recognized it at the dawn of the Tea Party “rallies” and tried laughing it off, but these others finally coming face-to-face with the determined sense of unreality they’ve fostered instead of leaving it at the end of an internet connection or invisible ears on the radio… 
Are they, too finally seeing the results of decades-long “Me-First/Me-Only” politics?
You’d hope so: in a two party system, it’s best if one of those parties isn’t utterly insane.


posted by Thursday at 3:15 pm 0 comments

December 22, 2012

On Ice

I am a hockey fan.

You can probably guess that by the fact that one of my tags is "Hockey", but other than that I've been avoiding the subject for an obvious, unmentioned reason.  So I'm not going to mention it.

Instead, I'm going to have a good holiday season because the World Juniors are coming up soon, as is the Spengler Cup.  Yes, I also like watching the Spengler Cup, despite the fourth or fifth billing the competition gets in this country (NHL, WJHC, World Championships, CHL, then a toss up between regional AHL or Spengler).

Quick run down of what exactly the Spengler Cup is: 

-It's the oldest invitational hockey tournament in the world.
-Established to improve the skills of German-speaking clubs, it's grown far beyond that.
-Current iteration includes HC Davos hosting every year, with national and professional teams from around the world joining in.
-It has been most frequently a four team tournament, but that has increased to six.

Team Canada has bee playing since 1984, and is usually made up of Canadians playing in Europe, AHL players without NHL contracts, or free agents looking to keep competitive.  What makes it interesting is that any "national" team (the USA and Japan have both played as well) is going to be composed of players from several different locations, where the club teams have played together all season before taking a break to enter the tournament.  Plus, since the club teams have their own players, there are often Canadians playing against Team Canada, something they love doing.  For instance, Rick Nash and Joe Thornton are on Davos this year due to the NHL strike (they also have one of my favourite names, long-time Spengler member Reto von Arx), while Jason Pomminville will be with Alder Mannheim.  Lots of former NHL players with the Euro clubs, too, because wouldn't you?

What makes this year one to watch for is simple:

Team Canada looks insane.


posted by Thursday at 11:55 am 0 comments

December 20, 2012

"The Secret of Magic Is... invoke often."

   -Aleister Crowley

   Of course.  When the defenders of the American Gun Culture speak up, they will be repeating the same, tired excuses and easily-memorized arguments they have after every public mass shooting.  On the rare occasion, there may be a bit of elaboration - but at their core, it's the same useless talking points they think work.

   That's because they work.

   In the past four years, there have been 99 laws passed making it easier to get and carry guns of various types - and in Virginia's case, one law that stopped the tracking of gun sales, demanding the destruction of records the state had collected until that point.

   Here's a quick question for you: what changes have happened to even attempt to curb the number of shootings since what was supposedly the watermark of Columbine?  The answer: another 27 public mass shootings!  Because sooner or later there will be enough to galvanize people into changing the laws of the land, right?


   But in the mean time, advocates like the NRA-ILA are working hard to not only make it easier to get guns, but to ensure they are harder to track, as deadly as possible, and impossible to keep out of the hands of the sick and criminal, because that would keep them out of the hands of the terrified and stupid, too.  And the NRA knows on which side their bread is buttered...

   To keep their jobs is much more important to them than the lives of thousands of people every year - but to ensure no one thinks of it that way, they weave their spells in front of their disciples, letting them loudly declare the "truth" of what they have seen, demanding others confirm the phantasmagoria their faith relies on.  Some of the magics are more powerful than others, but all of them are chanted by the adoring crowds whether the spellweavers believe them or not.

   Here, then, is some of the magic and how to see through it.  Their order is, more or less, from weakest to strongest - though none are more than puffs of smoke:

1) Video Games/Rock Music


   No, seriously: this again.  Because these things don't actually exist in any other country, apparently.  My favourite comment about this is the first one on Fark:

  "What crappy video game would have semi auto Bushmaster junk in it?"

2) Guns Are Tools/Just Like Cars

  I'm ashamed to say it, but I was showing my kids my rifle and we accidentally built a spice rack.

  There have been massive, massive numbers of laws regulating cars in every possible way, from the speeds they travel at to what they're made of to their fuel efficiency.  There have been nearly as many laws about drivers themselves: sobriety, location, minimum skill level.  There is one state where you can take your gun registration test on-line, and a push for the federal government to make gun licenses reciprocal across state lines: this means you don't even have to prove you know what end to hold, you just have to say you do.

3) Armed Guards Make Schools Safer

   In short: rather than restrict access to guns, we should just arm teachers.  Because that makes more sense.  Or something.  Because accidents never happen around armed people who are bored out of their minds.  Yes, bored: being a guard is a spectacularly boring job, because nothing actually happens until something does.

  The argument is also saying this: "Some kids dying is okay."  Don't think so?  When do you think an armed guard is going to open fire: the instant they see someone who looks oddly suspicious, or when they hear gunfire in another part of the building?

   There was one shooting (Virginia, 2002) where students at the Appalachian School of Law captured a shooter.  What doesn't get mentioned is that the students who initiated the capture were current and former police officers (note the name of the school) and that the gunman was out of ammunition.  Guns were there, and available, and in trained, capable hands - and they didn't stop the shooter.

   Add to this the cost of putting guards in schools: there are 100,000 public schools in the United States.  Those schools with armed guards average $28,000 per year, meaning a single guard (wages only, no equipment or training course) would cost $2,800,000,000.  The gun industry in the United States is around $13 billion dollars total, so it is unlikely they will be footing the bill.

4) More Guns Make Us Safer

   There is nowhere in the world this is true.  Even the famously-armed Israel demands higher standards for allowing guns in private hands than America does, including, interestingly, the number of bullets they get.

   There is no circumstance where private citizens being armed improved a situation with an armed gunman gunning people down: in the past thirty years, there has been ONE case of a private citizen shooting a gunman, and that was after the gunman left the scene on a bicycle (Miami, 1982).  He was chased down by a witness in a car, then shot after he was rammed off his bike - raising the question of whether it was the gun or the car that stopped the shooter.  In 2005 (Tacoma, Washington and Tyler, Texas) two citizens pulled their licensed handguns on gunmen, and both lost - one dead, one in a coma - against the far more prepared and armed assailants.

  Because as much as you might fantasize about being the hero who saves the day, you probably don't wear body armour on your way to work, or dinner, or the movies.

5) We Must Protect Our Homes

   Fine, except it doesn't work.  Of the 30,000 gun related deaths a year in the US, around 17,000 are suicides and 13,000 homicides.  Of the assaults in the home, far and away the majority are by people who know each other (there is a reason why family members are under primary suspicion in murder investigations) - meaning it's people who know where the guns are, who has them, and how to get them.

   Burglars breaking into your house are not likely to do so when you're there, which is why a gun in your home is far more likely to be used against you, or even simply stolen and sold off, putting your legally purchased firearm on the street.

6) Just Increase The Punishment

   By the time someone is shooting random people, they are well past considering the consequences of their actions.  Most either shoot themselves or attack the police in an effort to get killed.

   There is nothing to threaten a suicide bomber with - only dissuasion or capture before the crime is committed.

7) We Must Protect Ourselves Against the Government!

   What exactly do you think your collection of peashooters is going to do about an M1A1 Abrams Battle Tank?  Or drone missile?  If "The Government" is going to come take your guns away, they know you're armed and will take steps accordingly.  Good luck with that.

   Sometimes, this will turn into "[...] Against Fascism!"  In which case, see if they also argued to turn every school in the country into a prison camp.

8) Bad Guys Can Always Get Guns

  Only if the guns are there.  In Australia, a nation that prides itself on toughness, outdoor living, and astoundingly deadly fauna, rapid-fire long guns (that would be your semi-automatic assault rifles) were banned after thirteen mass shootings in eighteen years culminated in their worst - 35 people dead in 1996.  In the fourteen years after the ban, there was a single mass shooting.  One.  Other laws were changed, too: tighter controls on licensing and storage were enacted, but the population of Australia was still armed: just not a lethally.

   All limiting the availability of some guns will do is limit the availability of some guns.  In the vast majority of mass shootings in the past 30 years, the gunman got the guns legally.  Around a third of people in prison for gun-related crimes got their guns from family or friends, and around ten percent stole them from people who got them legally.

9) We're Allowed To

   True... kind of.  To think that the writers of the Second Amendment had sniper rifles and repeating carbines in mind is a bit of a stretch, though.  Likewise, users of this spell forget the second half of that amendment: it only applies to a well regulated militia.  If you happen to be a member of the National Guard, you can use this excuse.  Otherwise, it doesn't mean you.

   There are two more examples that showed up during this latest round of outrage and "outrage", and they deserve mention:

Special Addition I) God'll Stop 'Em!

   The spectacularly offensive cry - short as it was - that shootings happen in schools because "God was taken out of school" doesn't quite fit in here, but gets a special mention for pure, unadulterated Stupid in its natural form.  Because apparently, God was kept out of churches and temples as well.

Special Addition II)  A Guy in China Attacked Kids

   Yes he did, with a knife.  He injured 22 elementary school children, with no deaths.  If you don't know what the difference is, please turn in your keyboard until you do.


posted by Thursday at 6:58 pm 0 comments

December 16, 2012

Pierre Trudeau's bedroom habits, puzzling New Yorkers, and why China belongs to Mongolia (according to China).

The Morning After, Monday morning from 9-12 on CICV 98.7 FM


posted by Thursday at 10:11 pm 0 comments

December 15, 2012

Acceptable Losses

Every mass shooting in the United States has predictable responses: the insistently religious claim it's because "God isn't allowed in schools" (or occasionally because rock and roll); the freakishly paranoid tremble and roar about how it's a government plot; and the gun fans will say that it's because more people weren't armed.

Then there's the other side: gun control advocates, promoting the idea of not making actually it easier to carry handguns around, or for more people to gain access to semi-automatic weapons for no reason other than they want them.  Naturally, these folks are opposed every time by the NRA.  In fact, anything proposed about guns outside of making them easier to get, modify, and use is staunchly opposed by the NRA; and if the track record is any indication, they've won.  In fact, they've won so decisively, I've taken the opportunity to draft their victory letter:

"Dear America:

We win.

The open ridicule that people who want to bring up gun control are subjected to is a clear indicator of our victory, and for that we thank you.  After all the shootings that have occurred since Columbine, way back in 1999, it has become easier to get semi-automatic assault rifles - something we have fought for.  Concealed-carry laws are now in place in all 50 states, meaning anyone can carry a handgun into nearly any building without anyone being the wiser - laws we have worked hard to have enacted.  The ban on assault weapons expired in 2004, and there was no political will to reinstate it - something we have ensured with constant lobbying and our reputation as one of the strongest special interest groups in America.

Again, we thank you.  Because we know why these laws have been stopped, weakened, or reversed: you wanted it that way.

I've heard it said that we, the NRA, is 'okay with these deaths', and I want to make it emphatically clear: NO ONE is "okay" with murder.  We are NOT 'okay' with the slaughter of children or innocent people, and no one ever should be.  But there is a difference between being "okay" with senseless violence, and accepting them.  Yes, these are murder victims; but they are also acceptable losses.

Every freedom we have comes at a cost.  Automobile manufacturers are NOT 'okay' with over 30,000 deaths a year on American roads, but since that is the cost of having vehicles available to the general population, it is acceptable.  The alcohol industry is NOT "okay" with 35,000 people per year dying directly from misuse of their products, but with no public outcry about those deaths, they are acceptable.  Those numbers are simply accepted as part of the cost of the freedoms they are a result of.  The population of America has shrugged their collective shoulders, wept for the dead, and moved on.

Some people insist on calling guns 'tools', which is somewhat disingenuous: a gun is a tool like a crossbow is a hammer, or a sword is a drill.  Guns do two things: they kill things and they entertain us.  (Did you think I was going to say "protect people"?  They do protect people of course: by killing, or threatening to kill, other people.)  When guns are used properly in their primary job, they kill things.  When they are used incorrectly, they often still kill things, just accidentally.  Hunting rifles or shotguns, the only two weapon types that could conceivably be called "tools", are almost never brought up by gun control advocates, yet they are an excellent straw man for us to defend - it's SO much easier to get rational people on your side when you can put a reasonable, law abiding hunter in front of the camera instead of an army dropout who thinks camo is formal attire and Red Dawn is a predictive documentary.

Of course, some people will point out that when gun owners are asked about gun control, it seems the majority hugely support common sense laws: like requiring background checks, or preventing people charged with violent misdemeanors or federal offenses from getting guns.  But thanks to us, what we say is more important than what gun owners themselves say.  After all, it's not gun owners who have lobbyists in Capitol Hill, it's us - the NRA.  We just happen to use their money and the threat a 4-million strong membership can imply to someone running for (re)election.

And what WE say is that any legislation of any kind, whether it makes sense or not, is an assault on the rights of all gun owners and thus all Americans.  And the people believe us.  We don't know why, but they do.

And for that, we thank you."


posted by Thursday at 8:25 pm 4 comments