Abortion, Lead & Crime

My paper does not refute their conclusions. To the contrary, it actually reaffirms them. I include their abortion measure in my analysis, and I find that the abortion effect is pretty much unchanged when one includes the lead effect. That the two effects are operating relatively independently, and that each one is of similar magnitude when you do or don’t account for the other. So what that means is that, from my perspective, both stories are true. And we can hold both of them kind of side by side. It doesn’t make sense to look for a single explanation for a decline in crime. There are lots of explanations.

Jessica Wolpaw Reyes

I’m glad that Freakonomics Radio went back and revisited this subject. I’ve been wanting to hear Levitt’s opinions on how the data has proven out over the last eighteen years. I had not expected that they would invite the lead study author (Jessica Reyes) to appear on the show and add her weight to the argument concerning why crime rates fell, and what to credit for this dramatic fall in crime.

StitcherAbortion and Crime, Revisited (Ep. 384)

Just a quick tangent here. I have to wonder about Stitcher just as I wonder about most podcast apps and their approach to embedded content. I have to construct the embed for myself in order to get the podcast to play, and even then the embed lacks most of the information that could be provided. Contrast this embed with the embed for Today Explained in this article. That embed showed up just by pasting the URL for the episode directly into WordPress. Like the articles of my own that I post below, the content simply appears.

I, as a firstborn child, born before the legal availability of abortion, a child now turned mature adult. I have no doubt as to the causal nature between wantedness and a tendency towards criminal behavior. I know what my teenage years were like. No, I won’t discuss that subject here. Not now, anyway.

I can say that my experiences have lead me to echo Levitt’s sentiment that I quote below, with my own children. I have striven always to make them feel loved, no matter what they did at any given time in their childhood years. I love them. I wanted them, and I want them to know that. No matter what secret feelings I harbor about my mother and what choices she would have made, had she been allowed to make them, I do my best not allow these feelings to color my dealings with my own children or anyone else around me. If anyone should be terrified that they might have been aborted before birth, that person is me. I would have preferred never to have existed than to have been an unwanted burden on anybody. I can also state that with certainty.

…if there’s one thing that comes out of our research, it is the idea that unwantedness is super-powerful. And it’s affected me as a father in the sense that when I first was having kids, I didn’t feel maybe so obligated to make children feel loved. And it’s interesting that that now as I go through a second round of kids, I am not trying to teach my kids very much. I’m just trying to make them feel incredibly loved. And it seems to me that that’s a pretty good premise for young kids.

Steve Levitt

The Amazon/Ubik Conundrum

I was aghast to discover that I had missed a Philip K. Dick novel the other day. I had shared an image on Facebook that discussed the dangers of pissing off a redhead (or ginger. This image.) something I do every day with the Wife, especially when I point out that her temper proves she is a ginger. That woman can punch hard when she thinks she’s being insulted. However, I’ve seen the carpet a few times in our thirty years of marriage. She’s a ginger. The sun lightens the hair on her head, as it does for most strawberry blondes. But the long-running argument between Red and I wasn’t the subject I wanted to discuss here. Missing from the image was one of my favorite examples of redheads that you really don’t want to piss off, and that is the potentially causality destroying character from the movie Prince of Darkness.

You Are Receiving This Broadcast As A Dream | Prince of Darkness (1987)

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve

…and she was pretty pissed at the end of that film. With good reason. So anyway, another friend and fan of the ginger set said that the clip reminded him of the novel Ubik by Philip K. Dick. Having never read the book I felt I had to remedy my lack of knowledge and went directly to Amazon.com to see if the book was available on Audible. Then I could read the book and find out what it was that he thought was similar between the book and the movie.

Ever since I started getting vertigo I’ve had a problem with the repetitive back and forth motion of the eyes while reading making me tired and dizzy and potentially bringing on vertigo, So I get books on audio now. I listen to so many books that it pays off to have an Audible account. Aside from having a regular supply of books to have read to me, if I feel like I want to access the text of the book I can get whispersync from Amazon to synchronize between the audiobook and the Kindle book, and that makes the experience a win-win for me no matter how I want to learn something new.

This was one of those instances where I was tempted to get both the Kindle book and the audiobook, especially since the page on Amazon offered me the Kindle book for $3.62 as shown in the header image for this article. Less than four bucks more and I could have the book to read for myself if I felt like reading it! So I bought the book and downloaded both versions to my phone. Then I noticed something odd. The Kindle book was not in English, it was in Romansh. I don’t even know what region of the world Romansh is spoken in, much less speak it myself.

Well, that’s weird. The Ubik page on Amazon’s website is written in English and it doesn’t say anything about the other versions of the book that are listed as being in other languages. Feel free to click the link under the image and see for yourself. There is no way to find the English Kindle book short of looking specifically for the book as a Kindle book and that book is not $3.62 it’s $9.99 (free with kindleunlimited! Another fucking subscription service. Just what I need.) more than twice the price of the Kindle book I was first offered. I know what this is, even though I’ve not seen it too many times before. This is false advertising, and I’ve been taken in by it.

So I started the refund on the Kindle book in a language I can’t read and opened a chat dialog with someone at Amazon so that I could resolve the problem of being sold something that I didn’t want. What I wanted was the book in English, the language the book was originally written in, and I wanted it at the advertised price on the Ubik page on Amazon. I mean, it takes less work to port over the exact type script of the original work than it does to pay someone to translate the book into another language, edit, copyedit, format, etc. the new manuscript into another language. Why was the Kindle book twice the price?

Well, I know why the Kindle book was twice the price, as does every person who deals with the frustration of getting any book in this day and age. Amazon and Apple and just about every other digital book publisher rigs the prices of books through contractual obligations at artificially high prices where they can get away with them, and then offers bargain prices where they cannot gouge the unsuspecting customer. And after an hour or so of arguing with the representative in the Amazon chat service, they conceded I had a legitimate complaint but that they were not contractually able to offer the digital books at the same prices that they offer them at in other countries and for other languages. However, I could get a credit for the difference in price between the two books, and that was the best that they could do for me. So I took the only route available to me and accepted the credit offer. Not that it really made me happy.


Today on Facebook I was offered a memory I may have missed from June 11th, 2018. Hey, it’s been a year and four days since the Amazon/Ubik conundrum. I’ve listened to/read the book now. More than once. I know why the dream sequence reminded my friend of that book. The one unresolved conundrum here is that the webpage for Ubik on Amazon still takes you to the Romansh Kindle version even when you type “Ubik” in a fresh instance on the Amazon store. Even though I returned that book and bought the English version for a final price of $3.62 when the store credit was applied. Even though I helpfully reiterated the potential legal liability that Amazon was opening itself up to by putting a price and no stated language waiver on the combined Ubik page that you land on when you type in Ubik on their home screen.

One whole year later, still not fixed. I saved the chat session logs. I saved the page images. It’s a simple thing to reassemble the entire conundrum, so I figured I’d do that. I mean, I’ve given them a year to fix their programming and they still haven’t done it. I wonder how many Kindle books there are out there that are offered at a lower price in a language other than English, versions that are offered on landing pages when you go looking for a book by its title? Books that are not the books that the shopper is looking for, even though they are tempted to buy the books for the lower price stated, later to have to go through the exact same process I have had to go through? There’s a class action lawsuit in there somewhere for the savvy lawyer to take advantage of. Just send my children the finders fee twenty years from now when the lawsuit settles, would you?


“To clarify, most of the ‘not on service’ shows are available for purchase on Amazon, but are not included with a Prime Video membership,” the analysts wrote. “So, consumers are confusing the streaming service for the Amazon video store.”

Even worse, the firm suggests that “it may be Amazon’s strategy to use Prime Video as a barker channel to upsell consumers to rent or buy the titles they want to see.”

InIn other words, the interface could very well be intentionally set up to prey upon your impulses at exactly the moment when you are most vulnerable. Let’s face it—how else are you going to save this pitiful Saturday night?

Fast Company – Amazon Prime Video is confusing its customers with bait-and-switch tactics, survey shows

#MAGA: Disrespecting the Flag

I was trying to think about the last time American history seemed to matter as much as it seems to right now. We’re minding our past in debates over monuments and standing or kneeling during our national anthem, aren’t we essentially asking ourselves over and over what it means to be an American? We’re testing our arguments, our old ones and new ones, we’re staking claims for ourselves and our families and whatever comes of this place we call home. Yeah, we can think of this as a fight I guess, or we can think of this as part of our natural destiny. We claim to be founded on ideas, well maybe this is how an enlightenment nation grows. How we settle the great divide will be the stuff our grandchildren will be reading about. And I suppose we do have this much in common; surely we want to make them proud.

David Brown’s intro to the Texas Standard, September 29, 2017

I have no use for football. I realize that I’m committing a cardinal Texas sin by saying that, but it is the truth. I don’t play it, I don’t watch it, I don’t care about it at all. I don’t know who won the Superbowl last year. I have no idea who is doing well or poorly or has done well or poorly since I moved out of my dad’s house as a teenager and stopped having to endure football viewing in order to watch anything on TV with him. However, I do know a thing or two about football because of those years of enforced viewing with my father. I also know a thing or two about how to properly treat a flag because of him and his desire that I spend time in the Boy Scouts as child.

For the purposes of historical context, there is a disagreement rampaging between the players of professional football and their right to protest, and Donald Trump, who has decided that the political speech of football professionals is more important than seeing that Puerto Rico gets the hurricane relief it needs. I have determined that this is the real problem being covered up by our absentee president because he hasn’t mentioned Puerto Rico once since hurricane Maria hit the island and left it without water or power (editor’s note: this was after Puerto Rico had survived Hurricane Irma a few weeks earlier) He has tweeted about football players taking a knee in protest during the pre-game tradition of standing for the US national anthem. He’s tweeted about the subject several times. This distraction from his failure to relieve the suffering of Puerto Ricans didn’t help him get Luther Strange elected to the Senate, but you can’t win them all.

The attending audiences in these giant government-funded sports arenas are shocked. Shocked! I say. How dare these players protest the treatment of black people by racially biased police departments? How dare they protest in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick who was excluded from playing in the 2017 season after he started staging political protests during the national anthem in the 2016 season? These players are disrespecting the flag! They can’t be allowed to protest like this! the outraged fans insist. Except it isn’t about flags or soldiers or any of the other things the fans, lead by their stormtrumper-in-chief, object to.

In the week since I wrote the original post about Colin Kaepernick on Facebook I’ve received literally tens of thousands of responses. The overwhelming majority are positive, notes of encouragement and understanding, enthusiastic and even reluctant agreement.  It makes me proud to note many of those responses came from veterans, from cops, and from Americans who put their asses on line for their fellows every day without expectation of reward or thanks. They may not agree with Kaepernick, but they stand with him nonetheless as true Americans do. A number came from non-Americans, those on foreign shores who look to America with equal parts fear and fascination and wonder at that shining city on the hill and it makes me proud that they can still admire this nation for what it is supposed to represent.

But in that same week I’ve daily posted a roster of those who don’t get it. Those who wrote me, many who claim to be veterans, who called me traitor and called Kaepernick nigger and who have daily sent me death threats and seething hate simply because I spoke of honor and duty and respect. It is these people, these haters, these dimwitted goons, who prove with their own words the validity and necessity of Kaepernick’s protest and why I stand with him.

Stonekettle.com

These protesters, these professional football players, aren’t disrespecting the flag. They are disrespecting the outrage of the fans who demand that their sport be free of politics. Free of politics that the votes of the fans have brought directly into conflict with the players on the field. The people who are booing? They are fans of Donald Trump as well as football, and I say this because only people dumb enough to believe that a con artist like Trump wouldn’t line his own pockets at their expense would believe that you can isolate a sport and keep it from reflecting the world around it.

So let’s talk about respecting the flag and the nation, since I don’t care about football and really wouldn’t be writing this post if it was really all about football or the fans of football. Here is an example image of the kinds of daily disrespect an American flag is subjected to in this day and age. Study the image carefully. You see the flag, right? The flag bunched up around the ring of the field in the foreground, an American flag laying right on the dirt of the field. Do you see it now?

The US flag is not to touch the ground. US flags should not be bunched up or crumpled. How do I know this? It’s right there in the flag code. I hear a question from the audience. What was the question? there’s a flag code? Yes. Yes there is a flag code, as the most rudimentary search of the internet should reveal. Here is a link to the text on wikipedia. This should be common knowledge for anyone interested in seeing the flag of your nation treated with respect. Follow the code and you are respecting the flag, don’t follow the code and you run the risk of making a mockery of the flag.

Most national flags and battle flags are not to be allowed to lay on the ground. It is one of the highest forms of disrespect to treat a flag the way this flag is being treated, whether this is common practice or not at your average sports event. I don’t think this fact, spelled out in the flag code, can be said loudly enough to not be ignored by the politically blind in today’s United States. They know what they want to believe, emotionally. Your words will not carry meaning for them unless those words agree with the things they already believe. But the president of the United States is lying to the people who are booing from the stands at these sports events, and he’s doing it because it makes him look better agreeing with their outrage at being disrespected.

How many people know that the US flag was never worn as clothing until the 60’s? When Abbie Hoffman wore it in protest and was arrested and tried for doing so? I’d wager that not many of the MAGA do. The way we treat the flag these days in almost all venues is disrespectful. It should not be allowed to fly in the rain. It should not be left hanging on the flagpole after dark unless spotlit. It should not be allowed to touch the ground, with various theories as to what you should do with the flag after it has been allowed to touch the ground (the wiki article addresses this urban legend) the answer being, get it off the ground when you see it touching the ground. That flag on the ground is being disrespected by every fan in the stadium because they do not rush out onto the field and see that it is lifted from the ground immediately.

So those guys taking a knee in protest? That is the least of the flag code offenses currently occurring in football stadiums, and the players’ failure to assume the accepted position of obeisance before the attending audience should be understood as a protest against those self-same people. Maybe these audiences should worry about some of the other violations of the flag code first. The violations of law and common decency running rampant amongst the #MAGA, the Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans who are the ones destroying the fabric of American society. Destroying it by calling for an end to political speech by professional football players. It might fix the players need to protest in the process.


A few days after I had written this, On The Media riffed on the same subject. This is the benefit of just sitting down and banging out some text when you have something to say. When I hit publish, the work is done. A podcast has to write and edit, then interview, then re-edit and narrate connective segments, then do a final review and edit before publishing. Once a week for a podcast is an almost breakneck pace, when you understand how much work goes into one.

On The Media, Anatomy of an Outrage, September 28, 2017

On The Media understands that the outrage is not really about flags or football either. It’s really about controlling speech, limiting the speech of unpopular speakers. They also have more resources so they can dig deep on subjects that deserve to be revealed to the light of day.

On The Media, The Star-Spangled Banner: A Radical History, September 28, 2017

That’s right. The Star-Spangled Banner was based on earlier works. It was part of a valued tradition of protest and counter-protests set to song. On The Media also touches on the important story that isn’t being discussed while Donald Trump rants on about football players and tearing up the first amendment.

On The Media, What’s Going on in Puerto Rico?, September 28, 2017

Trump did go to Puerto Rico several days after I wrote the original article. I guess the island finally had an air conditioned room they could put him up in for his required stay there. This allowed him to be seen being presidential at the site of the hurricane’s destruction. I’m betting the people of Puerto Rico would have preferred he stayed in Washington D.C. and actually got to work doing the job he was elected to do. Instead he did his usual insane media op, in this case tossing rolls of paper towels into the crowd that showed up waiting to hear what their president was planning on doing for them. Tossing towels into the crowd as if the people there were at a sports event and were there by choice; not because they were homeless, hungry, thirsty and desperate. They went away without reassurances. So much for being presidential.

There are three other segments in the episode of On The Media (Insult to Injury) in addition to the three that I embedded directly in this post. On The Media is one of the few podcasts that I am sure to listen to when it shows up in my podcast queue. It is one of the few that I take extra time to listen to closely. Brooke’s editing is a masterwork. She wastes no time on filler. Facts and more facts are ladled on in rapid succession. Pay attention because there will be a test later.


In the For What It’s Worth department I have the evidence that the idea to take a knee came from a US veteran who saw Colin Kaepernick sitting during his first protest. The video below is an excellent little montage that explains the reason why taking a knee is not disrespecting the flag as much as calling for an end to protests is.

Matt Orfalea – Why Colin Kaepernick Took a Knee (US Army Veteran, Nate Boyer) – Oct 9, 2017

Here is Orf’s Patreon page, if you feel like supporting his work. There are still people without power in Puerto Rico today, one year after writing this. Ponder that fact, as you sit fuming at the kneeling football players you see on your television set.


With this addendum I moved the post up to August 26, 2018. This is something I don’t feel the need to do very often, but then these aren’t normal times. Who would have thought that we’d still be arguing about this bullshit three football seasons later? We are though, and that means it’s still news. What makes it news is that the fans still can’t get it through their heads that they cannot command respect from the players no matter how many times they scream about it. No matter how many times they grill candidates for public office about curtailing the rights of people to protest at public events.

Guardian News – ‘I can think of nothing more American’: Beto O’Rourke responds to question on NFL protests – Aug 22, 2018

If the players cannot protest, even when those players are protesting respectfully and peacefully, then none of us are allowed to air our grievances in public. Like Beto O’Rourke I can think of few other things less American than telling people to stop protesting and to fall in line. The few times this attitude has been taken and enforced historically (and it has happened) the results were not what the authorities of that time expected or wanted. Those decisions have also been overturned in court. The people screaming about this behavior are also the people screaming about asylum seekers and funds spent on hurricane recovery. If we are too broke as a country to pay for caring for the harborless and homeless, we are certainly too broke to be imprisoning football players for unwanted speech and then having to defend those actions in court.

TEXAS STANDARD, BETO O’ROURKE’S VIRAL VIDEO RENEWS DEBATE OVER NFL PLAYERS TAKING A KNEE IN PROTEST, August 24, 2018

This Texan really hopes that the video goes viral. Beto O’Rourke is a shining example of intelligence in Texas. I’m hoping there are enough intelligent people in Texas to fix the problems Texas faces rather than continuing to allow the stupid to make more problems for Texas to deal with. I’ll see you all at the polls November 6th.

Nike’s latest ad campaign, Sept. 5, 2018,  features Colin Kaepernick as a spokesman. In the distance you could hear the sound of a million conservative heads exploding in outrage.

In the immediate backlash against the campaign, announced on Monday, Nike shares fell nearly 4 percent at one point on Tuesday and closed down 3.2 percent.

Calls for a boycott fed social media buzz about the campaign. There were 2.7 million mentions of Nike over the previous 24 hours, the social media analysis firm Talkwalker said at midday, an increase of 135 percent over the previous week.

Reuters, Kaepernick ads spark boycott calls

People are supposedly burning their Nike gear in protest as a result of this ad campaign. I’ve never owned Nike gear because I’m poor. I’ve never paid more than $40 for a pair of shoes and I doubt I ever will. If you are dumb enough to spend $200 on a pair of Nike shoes just so you can burn them, Nike will happily sell you a pair. I may not know much, but I’ll stake my reputation on that fact. 


Editor’s note.

This article was originally written for the blogspot URL in September of 2017. I updated it several times as the dumpster fire continued to re-ignite every new football season until the coronavirus ended sports as we had known it previously. An out of control pandemic is what you get when you elect people to government that fundamentally believe that government doesn’t work. Congratulations, you broke the government. In October of 2020 I re-edited the article again for the new URL and I softened the language in the article so as to not drive off the people I wrote it for. You are welcome.

Is a Pit Bull a Semi-Automatic?

David Gerrold posted this image to his wall on Facebook. Now, while I am sympathetic to people who love their pets almost more than they love their children, the fact is that Pit Bulls are not a breed. The fact is that Pit Bulls, the square-headed, short-legged, bulky dogs that people think of when they think Pit Bull, were bred to fight other dogs. That is what the name Pit Bull means. Animal fights traditionally occured in a pit, and the square-headed fighting dogs were variants of the full-sized bulldog, a dog that was bred specifically for the sport of Bull-baiting. These dogs were bred to be violent, and the Pit Bull variant was bred specifically to attack other dogs. I have lost a dog to a Pit Bull attack, myself (I go into this in the article Rescues. -ed.) so I can speak first-hand about the violence of dogs bred to attack other dogs. These are not the musings of someone who is just afraid of dogs. Some dog breeds are quite violent, and you should be wary of strange dogs and understand the individual behavior and pack behavior of dogs if you want to avoid becoming a dog-bite statistic. My original comment went something like this,

More pit bulls are involved in human deaths than any other breed. (Along with Rottweilers, they make up 67% of dog bite deaths.) Pits are involved in 92% of the reports of dogs killed by dogs and 96% of cats killed by dogs. More pit bulls end up in shelters than any other breed. I’ve known many happy pit owners, but owning a pit requires responsibility and intelligence, as would owning a car or gun. Statistically, many owners just aren’t up to the task of owning and controlling a Pit Bull.

Another commenter on that image then responded with a dog is a dog, what part of this don’t you understand here? This misunderstanding allows me to draw some allusions to the gun argument, and perhaps shed some light on both subjects. This is another one of those instances of miscategorization that seem to automatically get me started. I’m off and running before I’m even sure what I’m talking about.

A dog is not a dog in the same way that all guns are not semi-automatics. To say it another way, a Pit Bull is not a Shepherd is not a Terrier in exactly the same way that a repeater is not a revolver and is not a semi-automatic weapon. Let me draw a third comparison so I know this illustration will be crystal clear. A hammer is not a claw hammer at the same time as all claw hammers are hammers. Groups and subgroups. Dogs are tools created for purposes in the same way that guns are tools created for their purposes. Owning a tool that you don’t understand how to use and don’t know the use it was created for leaves you open to errors that stem from the purpose of the tool’s creation.

Breeds of dogs were created for specific purposes. Terriers were created to hunt down rodents hiding in stonework. Terriers bite more frequently than any other breed of dog, ask anyone who has groomed dogs. Stats show Chihuahuas bite the most. They are snappy little things, personal experience confirms this fact, but Terriers bite hard and they bite repeatedly. Shepherds were bred to herd sheep and other farm animals. They have specific natural tendencies and require different kinds of care than Terriers and other small dogs do. Retrievers were bred for bringing game back to a hunter while out on a hunt. Rottweilers and Huskies were bred to pull sledges and to act as guard dogs.

Pit Bulls, like full-sized Bulldogs, were bred for animal fighting. I don’t need to go over that again. I could, but I won’t. Each of these breeds requires understanding of the breeds tendencies, the health problems of each specific breed, if you are going to be a responsible pet owner. Pretending that a dog that was bred to bite is more gentle than a dog that was bred to retrieve game without biting it is to deny the baseline nature of each dog breed.

All dogs can be violent.

Dogs are descended from wolves, and there are common traits that all dogs share with wolves. As pack hunters they defend their pack from other packs, exhibiting very strong ingroup/outgroup discrimination; in other words, if you never let your pet out to play with other dogs and meet other people, your pet will respond aggressively to others until it learns what order the new group structure represents. The ingroup is to be cared for even to the destruction of the individual itself, making them doting with children and fierce when threatened by strangers. These ingroup tendencies endear dogs to their owners, which is probably why dogs are the favored pet in most households.

But the general tendencies of the species can masque other traits that the specific breeds were bred for in the past, that might come to the surface in any descendant individual animal. So Pit Bulls that were bred exclusively for fighting can be more dangerous than other dog breeds whose jobs were less focused on the need to guard or attack and more on herding/caring.

A complex biological tool can be like that. Traits that had been designed in can disappear and then resurface later. A purpose-built simple tool, like a firearm, can’t do this. Single-shot pistols and muskets gave way to cartridge-loads fed by mechanical action and springs (repeaters) or mechanical action alone (revolvers) which gave way to the gas-powered semi-automatic and the fully automatic weapons of today. A musket is not a semi-automatic weapon. Aside from the basic design, killing with a chemically propelled metallic slug directed through a hardened steel barrel, the tools have virtually nothing else in common.

Today we own dogs as pets, and we choose those pets based on their appeal to us, visually and behaviorally. The purposes that the various breeds were created for are not what we own dogs as pets for now. There are some people who want a stocky, threatening dog because they want to train it to be dangerous. They want the dog(s) to be dangerous to other dogs and dangerous to other people. There are people who cherish the soft-side of their visually threatening dog and they train their dogs to be things other than what they visually appear. This is also true of weaponry. We generally buy a weapon for how it looks, and how it looks can determine how it is treated by law.

Both the laws against Pit Bulls and the laws against assault weapons are misguided, and for the same reason. They are misguided because the characteristics of their design, the nature of what they individually were made for, are not accurately reflected in the way they look. A Pit Bull is no more dangerous than the training that the dog owner has given it, no matter what it looks like.

The wooden stock and grips on a semi-automatic weapon do not alter the underlying technology that allows it to throw large amounts of lead downrange in a very short order. Ask any expert on weaponry, and they will confirm this fact for you. A semi-automatic weapon is a semi-automatic weapon, no matter what it looks like.

But a Pit Bull is not always a dangerous weapon, ask any Pit Bull owner. It, like almost any other full-sized breed, can be trained to be dangerous by the people who own it. The problem with that breed and other dangerous looking breeds arises when the owners want a dangerous looking dog because they want a dangerous dog, and then make the dog dangerous with training. This is where a simple weapon, like a firearm, is not like a biological weapon, a trained attack dog. Guns don’t think, at least not yet, but dogs do think and they can do things their owners don’t expect no matter how well the owner thinks they’ve trained their dog. The key here is not to make a living weapon out of your dog. I would not let my child play around a dog I had trained to kill. That is simply irresponsible parenting.

So you can have a Pit Bull that isn’t a killer, but your semi-automatic weapon is always going to be a killing machine. Pit Bulls are not semi-automatics, anymore than other wolf-descended canines can be deceptively harmless around pack mates. However, your Hello Kitty assault rifle will always be a killing machine. Like the hammer, a firearm is a purpose-built tool. A hammer drives in nails. A claw hammer drives them in and then can pull them back out again. If only we could recall the bullets from all the semi-automatic weapons fire we’ve seen over the past few years.

This article was inspired by a comment to one of David Gerrold’s Facebook posts. A comment he has since deleted. It’s probably also the reason he unfriended me and why I can no longer comment on his posts. Them’s the breaks sometimes.

Improper Takings

One of the segments on the Texas Standard today caught my ear,

TEXAS STANDARD – FORT BEND COUNTY SUES US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS OVER HARVEY-RELATED FLOODING

[Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert] says the reservoir was built in such a way that overspill and flooding of private property was inevitable. “It should be quite obvious when the federal property ends at an elevation of 95 feet and the emergency spillway for the reservoir is at 107 feet, something’s wrong.”

Texas Standard

I’m not sure how the host of the show was confused by the math in that statement, but doing the math you come to the answer of twelve feet of water being stored on private property when the reservoir is at 100% capacity. This fact should have been evident in the original designs of the reservoir, as I’m sure the County Judge knows. The original construction documents would have these measurements on them.

Anyone buying property behind the dam would have been advised that their property was located in a flood plain, could be subject to flooding if the reservoir was filled to capacity. There are many homes located in floodplains like this everywhere across Texas at least. Probably across the US if not the entire world. If this fact wasn’t disclosed to prospective buyers before they signed contracts, then there is quite a bit of liability there to go around. Not just the corps of engineers, but the county, the developers, the mortgage lenders, the realtors who sold the property, etc. I suspect that there are going to be a lot of lawsuits filed over this in the coming months. At least 3100 of them, possibly a multiple of that number depending on how wealthy the landowners are, and how many governmental bodies had jurisdiction over the property being sold.

I think the county is trying to avoid being sued themselves, that’s how I read this. It’s hard to get a lawsuit to stick against a county when that county is already engaged in a lawsuit against the governmental body, the Army Corps of Engineers, that is responsible for constructing a reservoir that was designed to store twelve feet of water on private land in the first place. Proving the county knew this fact beforehand should be a simple matter of discovery. So I’m not sure how well this defensive action will work, but I wish the county luck.

This entire mess is proof positive that you should take the time to read your contracts before signing them. Have an attorney read them over for you, at the very least. It blows my mind the number of people who just sign contracts without understanding the liability they are assuming in putting their signature on a document that they haven’t read. 

Beef’s Beef With Beef

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) filed a 15-page petition with the USDA to prevent products from being labeled as “meat” or “beef” unless they’re made from a slaughtered animal.

Countable.us

So what is it if it’s genetically bovine muscle tissue if not beef? I want someone to explain to me how beef isn’t beef if it tests out as beef? This is the most transparent attempt to manipulate markets that I’ve seen since the tobacco industry stood up and said their products were not dangerous or addictive. That was a lie, and pretending beef is not beef is also a lie.

I have been and remain anxious to be in the front line of consumers for this product. It’s a product that is good for the environment. It’s a product that removes the suffering of animals raised for food completely from the equation. Because it is only muscle cells, there is no chance of gut bacteria getting mixed in with the meat causing costly recalls and deadly food poisoning outbreaks.

#WeThePeople LIVE EP 113. ARTIFICIAL MEAT

Editor’s Note: I hate that show title. It ain’t artificial, it’s just meat. Also Josh Zepps has abandoned his We The People Live podcast (WeThePeople LIVE on Twitter) he is currently hosting (3/21/2021) a similar show titled Uncomfortable Conversations.

And if the whole truth were told on this subject, we have no choice. The increase in protein demand from a more affluent world population will require us to produce meat in this fashion if we can ever hope to feed everyone while not destroying the environment. Do not fall for the natural fallacy and believe cows are natural and lab meat is artificial. Cows were modified by man to be what they are today. Lab meat is simply the next step in that process.

What we need to be thinking about is not what we call meat that is grown from animals we recognize in the field, but rather what names we will apply to the kinds of cultured meat that will appear after this technology is accepted. If you blend genomes to heighten taste and (for example) remove allergens like alpha gal from the product, it won’t be beef or pork any longer. It will still be muscle tissue (meat) but what kind of meat that would be part of what kind of animal that has never been seen in the wild or on the farm? That is the real quandary.

In any case, the meat producers must not be allowed to try to alienate the consumer from this new food supply, altering the playing field to suit themselves and not the entirety of humanity on the planet as the oil companies and tobacco companies and the sugar industry has done in the past. This needs to be put to rest now so that consumers can be assured that they are getting what they pay for and that no business can blow smoke up consumers butt with fake claims of natural and organic. As if  food you can digest isn’t organic. As if feedlots and slaughterhouses are natural. Do not fall for that kind of bull because you will get the bullshit along with it, and what is in bullshit can kill you.

Texas Standard, WHAT SHOULD WE CALL LAB-GROWN MEAT? By Michael Marks, July 23, 2018 12:45 pm

The Key to Ending Mass Shootings?

How will you shoot dozens of people if your gun doesn’t reload itself?

The Washington Post

If you want law enforcement to predict the future without violating your rights, without taking away all the guns, without turning America into an science fiction dystopian nightmare, you HAVE to give them the tools to do the job.

Stonekettle Station

If we want gun rights the way the gun defenders suggest they exist, the way their constitutional interpretation represents them, we will have to follow the rules of 17th century militia induction and assume that all adult residents of a region are militia members, and we will have to train everyone in weapons usage and assess their abilities accordingly.

The militia authority can then establish who can be relied upon to use what weapon and require those people to keep arms ready at all times for reason of regional defense. This is the way that the verbiage in the constitution works out. The military is subordinate to the civil authority. Civil authority has dictated that the militias will be organized under the National Guard. Every adult person in the United States is a member of the local militia. Everyone will immediately be enrolled in the Guard for the purposes of weapons training and assessment. We cannot have weapons in the hands of the untrained, and the proficiency of the soldier in question has to be known in order to ensure that they are properly trained in their military role. This is what it means to have the at-will right to keep and bear arms, especially military grade weaponry. You will be trained, and you will be assigned a weapon that suits your abilities.

It is either that or we have to interpret the constitution differently, and allow that the government has the authority to deny weapons to people who are not certified, trained and insured to handle those weapons. And if gunnuts start making comparisons to knives we can talk about training people with knives too. A lot of these arguments descend to the level of the ridiculous extremely fast.

Well you don’t want anyone to have weapons

I want everyone to know how to defend themselves and to be trained in the best methods of achieving that goal. Weirdly, escaping from a threat is probably the most useful method of self-defense, and the gunnuts I’m frequently arguing with never fail to reject the idea that the sensible thing to do when confronted or threatened is to run away if you can.

I have talked about both these slants on the subject previously:

The ability to move is just about as fundamental as it gets. It is why the human species has adapted to so many different climates on this planet.  We travel and set up shop somewhere else where there isn’t already ten thousand other people trying to live. Where resources aren’t already owned. Where our lives are not threatened by a greater number of others who want what we have and/or need to survive. A classic defensive strategy, not to be where your enemies are looking for you.

Travel is a right. Limitations on travel without due process is a violation of our rights, what the government is supposed to be safeguarding for us. So the existence of the [Terrorist] no-fly list outside of due process is a constitutional violation of our rights. 

But that discussion is only tangentially related to the specific problem at hand, preventing future mass shootings. Restricting all semi-automatic weapons to the same kind of licensure that full-automatic weapons are subjected to would go a long way towards alleviating this problem. This is especially true in the light of workarounds that have been affected to make semi-autos into full automatic weapons. If there aren’t a plethora of semi-autos to modify in the population, there won’t be the problem with the mass shootings we currently have.

There has been a lot of talk since the most recent shooting about reinstating Clinton’s assault rifle ban. I doubt that the ban will have the effect intended since you can take almost any semi-automatic rifle and modify it to use the various workarounds currently employed with assault/military style rifles. The only way to restrict availability of these weapons without creating lists of people who can’t buy particular weapons, can’t buy weapons before they’ve actually done anything demonstrably wrong, is to restrict these types of weapons as we do automatic weapons. This proposal represents the real work before us if we hope to start cutting into the numbers of these events we have to suffer through.

The problem is not going to get any better on its own. This is because population pressure is the likely culprit for the increase in mass shooting events in the last twenty or thirty years. There are simply more people living more densely than ever before in human history, all across the face of the planet, and that statistic is only going to increase if you look at projections into the future. America is only one facet of this problem, but we are the outlier when it comes to availability of weapons of mass destruction.

Local control is the reason that weapons are so prevalent in cities in the US today. City ordinances are generally pretty harsh (even in Texas) on weapons usage, even weapon carrying, but you can’t just stop and frisk everyone or expect every traveler to let themselves be x-rayed for weapons everywhere they go. So the local ordinances are overwhelmed by modern commercialism and the movement of populations. Weapons manufactured in other locals find their way into the cities where the police are already overwhelmed and don’t have time to track down every weapon in the city. Track them down so they can confiscate them. This was the law in Chicago and Washington DC for decades, no weapons allowed within the jurisdiction of the city authority unless they met specific criteria written into the law.

What is now needed is a revision to national laws. Some kind of coherent, proven method of harm reduction that applies to whole regions. Restricting all semi automatics to licensure and insurance requirements are in that vein. I don’t see the harm in allowing weapons for self-defense. What I do see harm in is claiming self-defense as your reason for having weapons, when what you have is a weapon that will demonstrably inflict collateral damage while you are defending yourself. QED, a weapon that fires multiple shots quickly and easily.

There is no way to be safe from harm. But there also isn’t any real justification for having a weapon that reloads itself for the next trigger pull, and propellant powered reloading is the mechanism that allows semi-automatic weapons to be become fully automatic, thereby upping the body count when firing into a crowd. If you have to work a bolt or a lever to reload, you aren’t going to be hitting 600 people in a crowded mall before the crowd disperses. That is simple math.

The mechanics of getting a weapon to reload automatically after being fired is quite tricky to pull off. Putting all semi-automatic weapons into the same category as automatic weapons will restrict the availability of those weapons and cartridges. The average city-dweller can defend themselves with a revolver, never mind that statistics show you are more likely to be killed by your own weapon than you are to kill others with it.

On the Media – Rinse and Repeat – February 21, 2018

Almost all mass shootings are carried out with long guns. Not having a semi-automatic weapon easily accessible would achieve the goal of ending mass shootings as we have come to know them. The counter argument to this observation runs along the lines of machinists being willing to put themselves at risk by manufacturing and selling semi-automatic weapons out of their garages, but you aren’t going to see a lot of machinists willing to be targeted for lawsuits if they start cranking out semi-automatic weapons on the cheap, and then those weapons are used to kill a bunch of people.

Again. There is no way to be safe from harm. People who are afraid are not reasonable people. Which is why you can sell people afraid of what the Orange Hate-Monkey represents on the idea that they are safer with a weapon for self-defense. This is statistically simply not the case. Women are more at risk of being killed by someone else with their gun than they are of killing someone with it. Men take their own lives with a gun far more frequently than they use that very same gun for self-defense. Guns are not the answer to worries about personal security.

I am all-in on making people feel secure. I am neurotic about locking doors. I tried to get my children into self-defense courses when they were younger. I think everyone should be trained in hand-to-hand defensive tactics. I think every woman should be trained in how to kill a man with their bare hands, if not actually outfitted with whatever weapon they are comfortable with, at a cost borne by the government, in the furtherance of ending violence targeting women. All-in on teaching women to fight back, equipping them to fight back. This is how you reduce the numbers of women who are victims, stop making them victims-in-waiting.

But that doesn’t negate the simple statistic that the presence of a weapon means that the weapon will be used against the owners of the weapon more often than not, especially in the case of women.

I grew up in rural Kansas. I currently live in Texas where, if you drive out to the country, you’ll still find a firearm and/or gun rack in every vehicle. I have owned weapons in the past, including semi-automatics. I understand gun culture even if I’m no longer immersed in it. I was a gunnut once. Owning a weapon is shorthand for having independence in the US; and this delusion we live with, that weapons keep us free, is probably the largest blind spot most Americans have. We are being robbed blind by thieves as I sit here typing and no increase in firepower will stop that theft. Understanding how modern battles are fought, and where, is how we get a handle on that theft. The first step is admitting we don’t understand what is happening, and then trying to figure out what is going on.


Information inequality is the biggest contributor to the gap in the perceptions between rural and metropolitan, the poor and the wealthy. I live in Austin, one of the high-tech hubs in the US. I have the entire knowledge of mankind available to me in a fraction of a second. All I have to do is know what question to ask, and the internet will give me the answer to that question. Day or night, rain or shine. If my home fiber-optic cable happens to be down, there are an even dozen places within walking distance that can get me equivalent access for free or nearly free. I don’t watch TV. I don’t listen to the radio. I read, and I do that voraciously. I listen to targeted podcasts and audiobooks almost constantly.

I can do this because the metropolitan area and my own economic niche I carved out when I was a productive member of society allows me access to this information that easily. But I have relatives that live in the country. Going out to their homes is almost like turning off my mind. They watch TV and still pay for cable so that they can get at least that much entertainment. They are limited by their cellular data plans, cannot access the information that they need to make informed decisions even if they knew they needed to ask questions before making decisions that they simply don’t have the knowledge to understand. They aren’t stupid, they are just not well informed because the entertainment that they can get access to doesn’t offer them any real information. They don’t even know that they are missing information that is critical to making whatever decision is in front of them.

We are living in a Dunning-Kruger experiment of hellish proportions in the US today. Whole segments of the population are asked to render opinions on subjects that they have never had exposure to, and they only know of a subject because of the advertising in the form of infotainment that they get from mass media. That is a recipe for disaster, a disaster we are currently living through.

Imagine what it would be like to be able to get access to the information you want right now, the websites that contain the info you need to bolster your argument or to prove that your initial perceptions are wrong. Fully half the time I start out writing anything, I discover that I am wrong on some key part of my understanding which then alters the narrative that I’m composing as I’m writing it. I go through this process on an hourly basis.

And the most important understanding that I have developed over years of attempting to understand a myriad of subjects is that NO ONE is capable of digesting the amount of information required to make knowledgeable decisions on every subject. It simply can’t be done by the average human being. There is literally too much information now for any one person to know what the right answer is to any random question without spending days, weeks, months and years studying the problem. We, as a people, need to accept this fact. That expertise has a value that we should support. That we don’t know everything we need to know and truthfully can’t know it all at one time.

More Perfect – The Gun Show – October 11, 2017

When it comes to weapons and the statistics of their use, we are all dealing with a subject that we think we understand, with views that we are loathe to give up crafted over a lifetime. Most ideas about guns and the proper way to respond to gun violence, simply don’t work to alter the statistics that more knowledgeable people bring to the table. In order to have a criminal record that will disqualify you from owning a gun, as the laws are currently written, you have to have committed a crime that disqualifies you. This means that we cannot screen out the unknown quantity of people who should never have access to firearms.

There is no specific need to throw large amounts of lead downrange quickly, the one thing that automatic and semi-automatic weapons were designed to do well. Ammosexuals will argue that their weapons have to reload themselves or they aren’t worth anything. This simply is not the case and limiting access to these weapons would radically reduce the numbers of deaths and almost instantly end most of the mass shootings, because the weapons that allow them simply are priced out of the range of people intent on creating mayhem. Will they turn to other weapons? Some of them will. It will at least require them to work harder to conduct their mayhem, meaning we’ll catch more of them in the process.

But in the meantime we have people who shouldn’t have access to guns being given access to the best killing machine that money can buy, available at every sporting outlet in the country. This is a surefire recipe for disaster.

Jim Jefferies — Gun Control (Part 1) from BARE — Netflix Special (Part 2)

Good guy with a gun? Self-defense? If you see someone breaking into a car, do you shoot first, or do you try and figure out why they are breaking into that car? I’ve broken into my own vehicle countless times. It took years for me to start carrying a spare set of keys around with me and/or making sure I had my keys on me before locking and closing the car door. I’m glad no one ever shot me for breaking into my own car. Is it self-defense to shoot someone for breaking into car? Really?

We’ve had people right here in Austin shot for breaking into cars. The specific shooter that I’m thinking of was acquitted because the thief brandished a screwdriver before being shot, or so he claimed. We don’t know because the thief is dead and the only witness to the incident was the shooter. In any case we have a pedestrian who is dead in someone’s driveway because he had a screwdriver and was purportedly caught in the owner’s vehicle. A screwdriver!

This is insanity. I’m all for self-defense, as I’ve said many times. I’m a Texan whether I like it or not. Self-defense arguments are in my blood. But a guy threatening you with a screwdriver deserves a bullet?

What he deserves is to be disarmed and hauled before a judge. A criminal record will keep from ever owning a firearm. Which is a finding that should have been applied, at minimum, to the shooter. If you shoot someone, you probably shouldn’t have access to firearms. At least for a few months of cool down time. Good luck even getting that minimal amount of change enacted into law.

Postscript

This article was wildly expanded from a Facebook status and comments linked there. Here too. And here. Also here. I’ve been thinking about this subject for awhile now. Does it show?

This culture you’ve created, the cost of your so-called freedom. The face of this kid. You want ALL the victims, the victims of war, gun violence, racism, sexual assault, all of it, to be silent. You can’t face it, because it makes you ashamed and you don’t have the guts to look it in the eye.
So you don’t have to do anything.
You’re cowards, America.
Just like your president.
Fortunately for our future, however, kids like David Hogg are not.

Stonekettle Station

Featured image is from The Trace – ‘Tower’: a Haunting New Documentary

An Increasingly Isolated Orange Hate-Monkey

They are rats leaving a sinking ship. It’s just too bad that the GOP put him in power in the first place. I don’t think their tactical retreat will do them much good; or rather, I hope they don’t profit from it. They don’t deserve it, they backed him solidly right up to this point and now, Now, NOW that he’s admitted impeding an investigation into his and his campaign’s actions, NOW they think this presidency is questionable.

So the targeting of hispanics and muslims wasn’t bad enough? The scapegoating of the poor wasn’t disqualifying enough? The bragging that he could kill people in the street and he would still win wasn’t troubling enough? The evidence that he is a sexual predator wasn’t damning enough?

Now he fires Comey and brags that he told him to lay off the investigation, the investigation that he insisted was fake news since day one, so this isn’t surprising behavior, and NOW they have a problem.

Well, welcome to the club, dumbasses. Wipe the drool off your collective chins and try to pay attention. Caveat Emptor.

Facebook status post backdated to the blog.

The Fourth Estate

Trump, Clinton Voters Divided in Their Main Source for Election News

According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Trump voters got their news about the election from Fox News (in distant second place was CNN at 8 percent, and the rest mainly from social media).

Clinton voters got 18 percent of their political news from CNN, 9 percent from MSNBC, 5 percent from the New York Times, and only 3 percent from Fox (the rest from an assortment of networks, local news, radio, and social media).

Fox News – especially Trump surrogate Sean Hannity – delivered a steady stream of pro-Trump infomercials. If America still has the “fairness rule” that used to require media to be truly fair and balanced, Fox would be out of business.

What do you think?

Robert Reich, January 19, 2017

I think we need to destroy political machines wherever they are, whatever they are. Political machines are a barrier to democracy because they supplant the will of the people for their agendas, which the leadership of the machine thinks is important.

News reporting should simply be held to a truthful/useful standard (which FOX would also fail) because any other standard introduces a bias that is unnecessary. There are not just two sides to political arguments and this is true across the board.  It is long past time we started dismantling the machines that have grown up around the framework that was established with the constitution; machines that no longer serve the purpose they were established for.  Machines like party primaries. Party-favoriting rules in legislatures. Party-backed campaigns.

There are new ways and new machines that we need to build so that we can introduce the vast majority of the US population to actual governmental involvement. The old machines are only going to get in the way.

Journalism needs to be governed by a professional organization empowered to police their ranks in much the same way that the AMA licenses Doctors, the AIA governs the practice of Architecture. State bars govern the practice of law. This has been my opinion for a very, very long time. There is no organization which can establish truth standards in reporting that organizations can be held to if they want to qualify as legitimate news outlets, and there really needs to be.  This has never been clearer in history than it is right now.

How journalists go about governing themselves is a question I’d like to see journalists discuss. What will work? What won’t work? What kind of standards would they be able to establish and enforce? Should be an interesting discussion.

Facebook status created on the blog.

Monsanto Defrauded Investors, Court Rewards Executive?

Reuters

The Securities and Exchange Commission has fined Monsanto $80 million for defrauding investors by misstating its earnings and awarded more than $22 million to the former Monsanto executive who blew the whistle and tipped off the SEC.

Sounds fair until you realize the $80 million penalty mainly hurt Monsanto shareholders, some of whom were defrauded by Monsanto’s earnings misstatement. And the $22 million award goes to an executive whose own pay was likely pumped up by the fraud.

Unless and until the government begins to hold executives personally liable for corporate misdeeds, those misdeeds will continue.

What do you think? – Robert Reich on Facebook

This is a drop in the bucket compared to the big problem businesses, like the banks. I don’t see boards being held accountable anytime soon. More likely would be the revising of corporate law to constrain corporate practices in particular ways; say limiting maximum compensation to some multiple of the lowest paid worker, or requiring the corporation to spend x% of gross revenues on charitable works.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.