Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Failure to Persuade

All these racists suddenly emerging out of nowhere reminds me of the George R.R. Martin quote:
“When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you're only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”
At some point between the 1970s and now, the left moved from being a bunch of pacifist flower children spreading a message of colorblind love, to being a bunch of authoritarian post-modernists closely policing what people say and who's allowed to say it, and ostensibly eschewing labels while at the same time continually issuing brand new ones.

I can see how that happened, if not precisely when. The roots, I believe, lie in pacifism, and specifically in non-violent resistance. If your strategy for gaining power rests entirely on casting your enemy as a bully so the rest of the world will feel sorry for you, it leads to embracing hypoagency as being a moral good. This ethic gives rise to victim culture, or as I used to call it, "dueling dysfunctionals." Whomever can prove that s/he had the most tortured, most persecuted existence wins, and the winner gets to define reality, unchallenged, for everyone else. If Jenny wins the prize for being the most victimized, and she says that the biggest problem facing the world today is alien space lizards bent on world domination and disguising themselves as spiders, then we are all commanded by the gods of academe to believe, repeat, and act on that very idea...which is bound to really, really suck for the spiders. If anyone dissents, they're accused of hating Jenny and being in league with the spiders.

But what did that shift from lovers to despots accomplish? Did it make the world more loving and inclusive? Apparently, it just cowed the racists into silence without actually winning their hearts or changing their minds. Do you know why that is? It's because screaming accusations at somebody doesn't tend to be an effective method of persuasion.

To persuade someone, you first have to get them to stop actively resisting having their mind changed. You need to make them feel comfortable enough to let their guard down so, rather than clinging to their position like a drowning person clinging to a bit of flotsam, they're comfortable stepping back with you to look at their position and yours with a more objective eye. To accomplish this, you first have to stop attacking them and make it clear that you're not waiting for just the right moment to pounce and start attacking them again. Then, you have to acknowledge their lived reality. They might be dead wrong about the state of affairs, but even if they perceive things differently than they actually are, that doesn't completely negate the value of their perception. They simply have an incomplete or skewed picture. It's not wrong so much as only right within a very narrow frame of viewing. Stand with them in that place, looking out at the world from their little arrow loop of a window, and show them how to push the boundaries to allow for a wider, more complete view.

This, I feel, is why the left has failed to convert more people away from racism--it never dared to listen to the racists' concerns. It never bothered to acknowledge the racists' anxieties. It just pointed fingers and screamed, "Racist! Nazi! Sub-human filth!" browbeating them into silence. So when the racists, for example, look at the national crime statistics and see that blacks commit about half the murders in America despite being only about 13% of the population, and they fallaciously infer that black people are therefore more inherently violent, the left doesn't acknowledge the statistic and explain why things are that way. They just scream, "You can't say that! That's racist!" The racist shuts up if enough people ostracize him intensely enough, but he remembers that he read the facts and that the leftist failed to refute them or offer any explanation that would negate the racist's (incorrect) conclusion. In his mind, his perception is the truth, backed up by hard, scientific numbers, and the leftist simply says that you're not allowed to speak the truth because it might hurt someone's feelings, and victims' feelings trump facts. Instead of slowly coming around to at least partially accepting the leftist's point of view, he instead decides that leftists are unreasonable and duplicitous, and he withdraws from contact with them, instead seeking the company of others who will echo and validate his racist views.

A friend of mine recently said that Americans need to start taking responsibility for their opinions. That's clearly true among the racists who have been committing random acts of violence against minorities (or encouraging others to do so), but I think it's also true of leftists who can't wrap their minds around the idea of someone daring to do something so heretical as having a different opinion than theirs.

Monday, August 14, 2017

That Old, Familiar Feeling

Reading all these opinion pieces about the violence in Charlottesville has me feeling something I recognize. It's a feeling I felt before, just about a month shy of 16 years ago. At that time, so far as we know, some Islamist extremists hijacked some planes and deliberately crashed them into the World Trade Center. They were bad people, and they should not have done that. No argument.

But while I saw that, I also saw that this didn't happen in a vacuum. It wasn't a matter of some Muslims sitting around in the Middle East saying, "So, Mohammad, who should we attack next? I've got it--how about these people way on the other side of the world, not doing a thing to us?" Nor is it like someone who tries to establish street cred by going into a biker bar and punching out the biggest guy in the bar. The United States actually did some stuff to provoke that reaction.

But there was a time when saying that out loud was considered treason by many. I remember that time. I remember the chill. Just because there was a clear provocation doesn't mean that the attack was justified, and it sure as hell doesn't mean that any of the victims deserved their fate. I'm not saying any of that. But people who are in an emotional state lose the ability to make such fine distinctions. 

When I went to New York after the attack, it was all tears. Well, mostly tears. Now and again, someone would be out there with their anger, but often as not, it was anger at bigots who were acting out against anyone they thought was Muslim. A good 90% of the people I saw and met in Long Island were just interested in consoling each other. They didn't want revenge. They wanted the hurt to stop. They wanted the revenge-seeking to have not happened in the first place.The wanted the violence to end there. As we drove around, I saw groups of people gathered out on the sidewalks and front yards here and there, holding candlelight vigils and prayer circles and hugging each other and crying.

And then I came back to Ohio, and I heard a lot of angry people, red in the face, fuming and expressing hate. They said we needed to nuke Mecca. They said we needed to turn the entire Middle East "into glass." They said lots and lots of things that made them feel like badasses for saying it, things that deliberately and hatefully disregarded the humanity of the people they were saying them about. Islamists attacked us, but the blowback here was against Muslims, not just Islamists. Against Middle Easterners--heck, against foreigners, period. It was raw hate, and the people feeling it felt justified. And it was the majority view. It was made clear--by the people saying these things, by the ones nodding in silent assent, by the media, by the President, and even by people you had expected to know better--that anything more tolerant or even-handed than that would not be countenanced. If these angry-speaking rabble-rousers heard anyone speak in more moderate, less hateful tones, they turned on the speaker as though they'd just uncovered an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell. That was a very scary thing to witness, and to try to avoid being on the receiving end of, and to realize that these people are out of their minds and beyond being reasoned with, and that you have to just take shelter and let it blow by, like a storm. There's no point arguing with a hurricane. You will not make it see reason or calm down.

The thing I want you to hear now is the same thing I was screaming into the storm back then: THEIR BEING WRONG DOESN'T MAKE YOU RIGHT!!!

Just because your enemy went and threw away whatever moral defensibility they may have ever had doesn't mean that you can now go raping dead puppies and call it virtue. Wrong is still wrong even if both sides do it. The ref can call fouls on both sides.

The nazis in Charlottesville are foul. That's undebatable. Trying to explain the reason for their existence is every bit like trying to explain the existence of radical Islamists. That the hateful rhetoric they spew and the violent acts they commit are wrong is also undebatable. 

And that's it. There ends the list of subjects under this topic on which we are not allowed to disagree. The clash in Charlottesville wasn't a debate where, if you can make your opponent lose his cool and start yelling, you win. Nobody wins this. Somebody is dead. Nobody wins dead. I'm going to say it again, because this new generation of liberals seems to have a hard time with the concept of objective reasoning. THEIR BEING WRONG DOESN'T MAKE YOU RIGHT. The fact that the nazis have no credibility does not mean you can say whatever you want and have it go undisputed. Their killing somebody does not mean you win the prize of getting everybody else to shut up and let you be in charge now. Calling a foul on you doesn't mean the ref favors the other team, so quit saying that anyone who disagrees with you is endorsing the nazis. The messed up worldviews of the far left and the far right aren't the only two options. As much as we can liken the white supremacists to the Nazis of WWII, we can liken you guys to the Stalinists of the same era, and the rest of us are Poland, stuck in the middle and screwed if either of you win.

The nazis in Charlottesville were wrong, and you were wrong about Ferguson. A person who robs a store deserves to be arrested for it, no matter what color his skin is. A person who walks up the middle of the street and refuses to move to the sidewalk when ordered by the police deserves to be stopped by the police, no matter what color he is. A person who reaches into a police car and tries to grab a cop's gun will get shot and deserves to be, no matter what color he is. A person who has already been shot by police and makes a second charge at the cop who shot him will be put down, and he has it coming, no matter what color he is. Having brown skin or any other "pity me" marker is no excuse. You keep telling each other over and over until you believe it that blacks are given less leniency and held to a stricter standard by law enforcement. But whether that's true or not, what you have been demanding since at least as far back as the Jenna Six in 2006, is that black people be given more leniency than anyone else, that police give them a wider berth, that they be held less accountable for crimes they do actually commit. You have either denied the existence of black crime or made excuses for it and attacked the enforcers, not just when they act inappropriately, but even when they act appropriately. You have been wrong on this the whole time, and some harebrained racists in Charlottesville killing somebody doesn't mean your wrongness now gets crowned as the unassailable truth.

The nazis in Charlottesville were wrong, and you were wrong about the non-existence of reverse racism. I've heard liberals claim that it's not true that less qualified blacks and latinos are not shown preferences over better qualified whites and Asians under Affirmative Action.
Vijay Chokal-Ingam found otherwise.  

"I studied the statistics and data made public by the Association of American Medical Colleges and came to a surprising conclusion. The data suggested that an Indian-American with my grades (3.1 GPA) and test scores (31 MCAT) was unlikely to gain admission to medical school, but an African-American with the same grades and test scores had a high probability of admission. While I wasn’t able to pin down the exact number, I reasonably calculated that African-American or Hispanic applicants had as much as a 30 to 40 percent better chance of acceptance than I."
Liberals are fond of saying that racial minorities can't be racist, because for someone to be racist, they must both be bigoted and exercise institutional power. The only way one could think that ends the conversation, though, is to presume that no person-of-color has every wielded institutional authority in this country. Such a claim would come as a shock to President Obama, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr., and any number of non-white generals, admirals, governors, mayors, commissioners,council members, trustees, board members, superintendents, principals, chiefs, directors, sheriffs,judges, and so on.

A Chinese-American dean at Yale University, Dr. June Chu, recently lost her job for making openly mocking remarks about people she referred to as "white trash." Who do you imagine exercised greater institutional power--Dr. Chu, or the white people she looked down on? We've nearly come full circle, where it's now whites who must bow their heads and walk on eggshells so as not to offend haughty, high-class, powerful minorities, instead of the other way around. I'm not saying that white supremacy should be the norm, but I am saying that when it no longer is, you need to quit claiming that it still is. You want to know how to radicalize an already marginalized people? Oppress them and then claim publicly that they're the ones oppressing you, while you obviously enjoy privileges that they do not. That pushes people's buttons. That's how you get the kind of blowback we saw on 9/11 and on Election Day last year.


The nazis in Charlottesville were wrong, and you were wrong about white privilege. Every discussion of white privilege in America makes the mistake of conflating race and class. Checklists of white privilege like those in Peggy McIntosh's famous essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, are composed almost entirely of privileges enjoyed only by affluent white people (and some affluent people of other races), but not by poor whites. This is a simple matter of logic: if some red vehicles are planes while other red vehicles are cars, it is incorrect to say that all red vehicles fly. If some people with white skin enjoy the privileges of affluence and other people with white skin do not have access to these privileges, it is incorrect to say that all people with white skin have these privileges.

If you listen to people defend the notion of trans-class, white privilege, the "evidence" they offer nearly always follows the formula of a personal anecdote followed by baseless conjecture. 
"When my black friend walked into the hardware store carrying a backpack, they asked him to check it at the register, like he was some kind of thief. You know if he were white they wouldn't have done that." [We know no such thing, and neither do you.]
"My white friend got stopped by the police for having a brake light out, and they let her go with just a verbal warning. You know if she were black, they probably would have shot her on the spot just for reaching for her license." [No, nobody knows any such thing. You think it, and statistics say you're wrong.]
These are wild speculations, nothing more than ghost stories told around a campfire, eaten up and retold by eager listeners who accept them as factual proof that people of color are the good guys and the white people of the world are actively, if unconsciously, conspiring against them in an evil plot to rule the world. It's bullshit, and the fact that some horrible people killed someone in Charlottesville doesn't mean your bullshit gets to go unchallenged.

The nazis in Charlottesville were wrong, and you were wrong about the gender pay gap. The claim that women make 22-cents on the dollar or thereabouts less than men has been so thoroughly and repeatedly debunked it's not even funny anymore. Feminists appear to be taking a page from the Nazis' own playbook, with the advice that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will begin to believe it. Economists have solidly demonstrated that the disparity between men's and women's average earnings is due to women opting to work less, in lower-paying fields, in lower-paying positions. The National Organization for Women's response to this has been to fall back on female hypoagency, claiming that women can't be expected to be held accountable for their own choices. Nevertheless, women account for two-thirds of all consumer spending worldwide and 80% of consumer spending in the US. If women are earning so much less than men, how are they spending so much more? Whose money do you figure they must be spending? 21st century, Western feminism has become a princess riding in a golden carriage and complaining that the horse is oppressing her. 

The nazis in Charlottesville were wrong, and you were wrong about rape culture. Culture is the set of shared values, attitudes, customs, social conventions, goals, practices, and beliefs of a group. To say that a culture is based on something is to say that all those values, attitudes, etc. have that thing as their foundation. That foundational thing is celebrated, even revered as sacred, and it filters into all aspects of life within that culture. For example, many anthropologists have identified the Scotch-Irish culture of the Appalachian settlers as being an "honor culture," arising from pastoral agriculture, where one's wealth is portable and must be defended against thieves and predators. That idea of not letting a slight go unpunished originated from the need to defend livestock, but it ended up filtering into other aspects of human relations such that we ended up with bloody feuds like the one between the Hatfields and the McCoys. In an honor culture, nobody lets an abuse slide. Respect is both expected and demanded, regardless of whether you own any livestock.

Likewise, we can say that the United States has a gun culture. There are large parts of the country where only a minority of the people actually own guns, and people might panic at the mere sight of one. But even in those places, the police carry guns. People watch movies and play video games where the heroes use guns to rescue victims and defeat villains. Children shoot water and foam darts at one another with toy guns. Even people whose objections to guns are so strong that they deliberately avoid these things still use phrases in their everyday speech like, "shot in the dark," "lock, stock, and barrel," "loaded for bear," and "flash in the pan," possibly having no idea that this is all early firearms terminology. This is what a gun culture looks like.

It stands to reason, therefore, that a rape culture would be a culture in which rape is celebrated and institutionalized. Rape would be a common punishment, perhaps meted out by the courts or schools and employers. The heroes of our dramas would be rapists. We would have songs, traditions, and holidays all centering around the glorification of rape. There would be civic organizations promoting rape and political activist groups lobbying the government to encourage more people to become rapists, or perhaps using public monies to subsidize rape. Characters in children's cartoons would rape each other. Interior design motifs would feature images of rape. That's what a rape culture would look like. 

There's always an exception, isn't there?

We don't have that. We don't have anything even close to that. Believe it or not, we actually prohibit rape and severely punish people who do it! If an entertainer makes light of rape, we treat it as a scandal. The mere accusation of rape can drag a person's reputation from celebrity to pariah. That is not a rape culture.


Rape cultures do exist. There is certainly a culture of rape in American prisons, where prisoners--both men and women--use various forms of sexual assault as a means of dominance and social control. But contrast prison culture against mainstream American culture, and it becomes clear that we do not have a culture where we base our shared values, customs, traditions, and beliefs on the practice of rape. The whole notion of rape culture is just another example of radical feminists overstating problems to create the illusion of a patriarchal conspiracy. (Link goes to a 4:44 video.) This allows them to claim the status of victims, which in turn enables them to cast all who disagree with them as co-conspirators who support rape.

The nazis in Charlottesville were wrong, and you were wrong about illegal immigration having no effect on wages. Just as the cost of products and services are controlled by the law of supply and demand, so too are wages. If there's a strong demand for computer programmers who know a particular computing language, and there are only a couple hundred programmers nationwide who know that language, those programmers are going to be in high demand. Employers will compete to get them by offering high wages. Conversely, if somebody needs their lawn mowed or their leaves raked, and there are a few thousand unemployed, capable people desperate to earn some money, the owner of that lawn can pay as little as the law will allow--or less, if they think they can get away with it, say, by employing people who won't go to the police because their very presence in this country is illegal.

Opponents of immigration restrictions, fearing that this fact undermines their position, try to deny it by saying that the only jobs filled by illegal immigrants are the jobs that poor Americans refuse to do anyway. To prove their point, they cite the brutal, farm labor jobs done by migrants for low pay. But these aren't the only jobs done by undocumented workers. They also fill jobs in construction, lawn care & landscaping, child care, other domestic services, maintenance, food processing, and food preparation. These are jobs that low-income Americans do fill, when they can. Without competition from foreigners who will work cheaper, wages would rise.

This is just simple math, and because it is so easy to demonstrate, opponents of immigration restriction tend to derail the debate with accusations of racism, claiming that this very solid argument is just a facade that racists use to conceal their true motivations for wanting to close the borders. But acknowledging the effect of surplus labor on wages doesn't make one a racist, and you don't have to be a racist to acknowledge the effect of surplus labor on wages. There's no correlation between those two things.

Personally, I favor going in the opposite direction. I want to let anybody into the country who wants to come here (barring what felons and terrorists we can stop). I want to make the path to citizenship as easy as possible. America became great in part because we are a melting pot. Unlike the Trump administration, I believe firmly in the words written by Emma Lazarus in "The New Colossus." (You know at least part of it--the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty about "bring me your huddled masses.")

So how do I square that with acknowledging the wage-destroying effect of surplus labor? Not by denying basic facts or by slinging around accusations of racism. Instead, I look for other variables in this equation. If we allow the supply of labor to increase, how do we increase the demand for it accordingly? There are several things we could do. We could put restrictions on remittances of US currency sent abroad, so immigrants will bring their families with them and support them here, spending their earnings on goods and services in the US, instead of sending their money over the border. We could remove a lot of bureaucratic barriers to entry for new businesses, too. It should not be a Herculean task for a poor person--immigrant or not--to start his own business having a hotdog cart on the sidewalk or selling bottles of cold water on a street corner. Remove those barriers and make micro-loans for small businesses more readily available, and you'll not only cause wages to rise, you'll reduce poverty. 

At the same time, we could impose heavy penalties on companies that offshore their manufacturing. "Factory jobs are never coming back--they can be done by robots now," I hear people say. Well, they can have the robots make the stuff here, then. I'd rather those robots be serviced by one, well-paid, American union worker than have that person put out of work by a hundred sweatshop workers in Bangladesh. Likewise, impose protectionist measures to give American companies building things in America a competitive advantage over cheap imports produced by unethical, unsustainable practices. If we do these things, we can increase the number of jobs, increase wages, increase our talent pool here in America, and do it all without cruel deportation policies that terrorize hardworking families.

The point here is that you don't get to change the reality of mathematics just because you're afraid of losing an argument. Don't bully. Be creative. You don't get to tell everyone to shut up and swallow your lies just because people you don't like did something evil.

The nazis in Charlottesville were wrong, and you were wrong about gun control keeping people safer. Before the National Firearms Act of 1934, people in this country owned machine guns. You could even order them through the mail. The Ithaca Auto & Burglar Gun--basically a sawed-off, double-barrel shotgun--was an especially popular weapon among truck drivers, security guards, and those wanting a weapon for home defense. Such weapons were widely available and practically unregulated...yet nobody was shooting up schools. People weren't going postal at work (unless they were gangsters). Even after the NFA was passed, you could still order non-prohibited guns through the mail. I remember in the 1970s, looking through the Sears Christmas catalog, and seeing rifles for sale. Even dynamite was commonly sold in rural feed and hardware stores, as farmers commonly used it to blow tree stumps out of the ground, and no one batted an eye. It was no more alarming or out-of-place than seeing rat poison for sale in your local grocery store today. Even with all these guns and bomb making materials being so easy for anyone to get their hands on back then, we just didn't see mass murder on the scale we have since the 1980s. 

There was one, big school fire started by a bomber in 1927. Bath, Michigan. The guy killed his wife, blew up his own farm, blew up a school, then killed himself by blowing up his own truck. To date, that's the deadliest school attack in US history. 44 dead, mostly kids, and 58 other people injured. But that didn't set off a rash of school bombings, and they didn't stop selling dynamite. Then no more huge massacres until 1966, when a man in Texas killed his mother and his wife, went up a clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin, and killed 14 more people and wounded another 31 before police finally killed him. They didn't stop selling hunting rifles after that. Like I said, I saw them for sale through the Sears catalog 12 years later, and it didn't lead to an epidemic of random sniper massacres. There were a couple other mass killings in '66, in Chicago and Mesa, Arizona, but there was no great moral panic leading to the banning of firearms. There were a few other notable incidents in the '70s, but the biggest body counts came from police and soldiers shooting protesters on college campuses.

But then in the 1980s, a guy shot a bunch of people in his office in California. Then there were a few other multiple homicides at workplaces. Somebody shot up a McDonald's. Somebody else shot up a daycare. In 1986, postal workers started going nuts and shooting up their workplaces. There were some school shootings with large numbers of people hurt, but not many killed--notably in Los Angeles (1984), Detroit (1985), Cokeville, Wyoming (1985), Winnetka, Illinois (1988), Greenwood, South Carolina (1988), and Stockton, California (1989). Not all of those were by students. There still wasn't a clear pattern to tie all these mass murders together, but it happened often enough at postal facilities that we now had a new term: "going postal." It was a phenomenon that really hadn't existed before the 1960s (with the sole exception of a teacher in Pasadena who "went postal" and shot seven co-workers when he got fired in 1940).

In 1990, Congress passed
The Gun-Free School Zones Act, and in 1994, they passed the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, more commonly known as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). The same things you're pushing to have banned today--"assault rifles" and "high capacity" magazines--were banned from 1994 to 2004. Your gun control dream actually happened. It was law for ten years, and the Gun-Free Zones are still law today. You know what happened?

1997, Paducah, Kentucky--a boy took some guns to school and shot eight kids.
1998, Springfield, Oregon--a boy murdered his parents, then went to school and shot 25 more people.
1998, Jonesboro, Arkansas--two boys filled a van with guns, food, and camping supplies. They set up a firing position in the woods outside their school, pulled the fire alarm, and then shot 15 people coming out of the school. The boys fled in the van and were caught by police.
1999, Littleton, Colorado--two boys made a whole bunch of bombs, got a hold of some handguns, and sawed off a couple shotguns to make them concealable. They had planned to continue to the airport and wreak havoc with their bombs after finishing their killing spree at school, but they didn't make it that far. They shot 33 people, exchanged fire with the SWAT team, and then killed themselves.
2001. Santee, California--a boy shot 15 people at school.
2004 - Assault Weapon Ban expired. Attempts to renew it failed.
2005, Red Lake, Minnesota--a boy killed his grandparents, then went to school and shot 14 more people before killing himself.
2006, Nickle Mines, Pennsylvania--a man shot up an Amish school--5 dead, 5 wounded--before killing himself.
2007, Virginia Tech--a lone, mentally ill student, who was armed with two handguns he purchased legally after passing a background check, killed 32 people and wounded another 23 before killing himself.
2008, Northern Illinois University--a student with a shotgun shot 26 people before killing himself.
2010, University of Alabama, Huntsville--a female professor went postal and shot six of her colleagues.
2010, University of Texas--only one person was hurt in this one before the shooter killed himself, but I mention it because it's one of the rare cases in which the assailant actually used an "assault rifle"--an AK-47.
2012, Chardon, Ohio--a student opened fire in his high school cafeteria, killing three and wounding three.
2012, Newtown, Connecticut--a man killed his mother, took her guns, went to an elementary school, and shot a whole bunch of people, mostly first graders, before committing suicide. Final casualty count: 28 dead, 2 wounded.
2013, Santa Monica, California--a man killed two of his family members and then went on a shooting spree ending at Santa Monica College. He killed five people and shot 4 more before dying in a gunfight with police.
2014, Marysville, Washington--another high school cafeteria shooting. This one killed four students and wounded another before killing himself.
2015, Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon--a student killed nine people, wounded nine others, battled police, then shot himself.

And those are just the school shootings with high body counts from random killings or workers killing co-workers. I left out lots of school shootings where there were only a few casualties or where the shootings appeared to be connected to gang violence or another fight between aggrieved individuals. The ones I listed are mostly where somebody went into a gun-free zone--a school--and shot as many people as they could, like they were trying to rack up a high score. We still don't fully understand why they're doing this, or why they're doing it now when they didn't used to do it, but we know that's what they're doing--trying to kill as many as they can--and we know that they go to schools to do it, because that's where there are a lot of unarmed, vulnerable victims concentrated in large numbers in one place with nobody to protect them.

The gun-free zones have been law for 27 years now, and they haven't worked yet. They were counterproductive. You might as well replace the words "gun-free zone" with a sign depicting a fish in a barrel. Your policies failed spectacularly, and many, many innocent people are dead now because of it. The American cities with the highest murder rates are also the ones with the tightest weapons restrictions. They aren't working. If anything, they're making it worse, leaving the victims unarmed while doing nothing to disarm the criminals. Reason dictates that it's time to drop the smug, "we-know-best" attitude, swallow your pride, and admit that your conservative opponents are less wrong on this issue than you are. You're afraid of guns. We get it. But your being afraid isn't keeping anybody alive. It's just making them vulnerable. Give honest people a fighting chance and let them fight back, especially where we gather our precious children together in one place like a shooting gallery for psychos. It makes no sense that liquor stores and supermarkets should be guarded better than our schools are.

The nazis are wrong to spew hate. That doesn't mean you know everything. Quit saying that everyone who calls you on that fact is in league with the nazis. It's getting to be where you're almost as bad as they are, just different.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Massive Undertaking

Critics of American gun policies, especially critics from outside the US, often wonder why, with the number of gun-related deaths in America, we don't simply ban guns like Australia did.

Setting aside for a moment that such a ban would be unconstitutional, and that it's far from certain that it would reduce violent crime, and that it could actually cause a greater number of people to be killed because they'd be less able to repel an attacker...setting aside all those things, let's just consider the enforcement of such a ban.

America has a long and unsuccessful history of banning things and then having those bans skirted. When the American colonies were still under British rule, and the Crown imposed too many taxes on the colonists, the colonists simply stopped paying. During the Revolution, even though desertion carried a death sentence, soldiers still deserted anyway, to the point that General Washington started having deserters executed by their own best friends. After the Revolution was fought and Congress disbanded the new country's military forces, they kept a few Navy ships in service to catch smugglers, because there were a significant number of merchants willing to sneak goods into the country illegally rather than obeying the law and paying the required taxes.

In the 1920s, in response to a nationwide epidemic of alcoholism, Congress passed the 18th Amendment, which banned alcohol. That ban lasted just shy of 15 years. The battles between police and alcohol traffickers, not to mention the battles between the criminals themselves, cost countless lives. By some reports, alcohol became even more available during Prohibition because there was no regulation of production or distribution, and the profit motive was greater. In 1971, President Nixon declared a War on Drugs. Forty-six years later, we're still at it. The drugs are still there, people's lives are ruined as much by overzealous enforcement as by the drugs themselves, and nobody's benefiting but the private prison industry. Forty-six years later, the drugs aren't gone, and the states, one by one, are starting to decriminalize drugs in defiance of federal law.

My point here is that Americans have a long history of looking at legal prohibitions as being "helpful suggestions" more than absolute moral codes. The very founding of our nation was a defiance of the law.

This is important to keep in mind when envisioning what enforcement of a gun ban in the United States would actually look like. Given that many gun owners see their guns as quasi-religious talismans representing liberty itself, and that even less idealistic gun owners often see their guns as necessary, lifesaving, safety equipment, many say they would fire on anyone who tried to seize their guns. G. Gordon Liddy infamously advised his radio audience that when the ATF showed up to seize their guns, "Just remember, they’re wearing flak jackets and you’re better off shooting for the head.”

As with firearms, many Americans also have a patriotic, sentimental attachment to fireworks, which they set off in celebration of Independence Day on the 4th of July each year. Unlike guns, nobody sees these fireworks as being necessary for self-preservation. Nobody is relying on fireworks to protect their family from criminals. Nobody's counting on fireworks for protection against a violent ex-spouse. They aren't stockpiling fireworks to fend off invading armies or government tyranny. It's just for fun.

Fireworks regulations vary from state to state. In Ohio, adults are allowed to possess sparklers, smoke devices, and "bang snaps"--tiny noisemakers that explode when thrown against a hard surface. But the state bans residents from purchasing firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets, and fountains without signing an affidavit promising to transport them out of the state within 48 hours. It requires any Ohioan possessing aerial burst fireworks to be a licensed pyrotechnician. The Ohio State Fire Marshall's Office says it seizes about 15,000 pounds of illegal fireworks annually. Violations--including falsifying paperwork, illegal possession, and exploding fireworks in-state--are usually 1st degree misdemeanors, carrying a punishment of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offense. With all of this in mind, listen to this video I recorded in my back yard in Columbus, Ohio, on the Fourth of July this year. Neighbors in every direction were shooting off not just firecrackers and bottle rockets, but professional aerial display fireworks. (You'll get a few, brief glimpses of these in the video, but otherwise it's all dark. Just listen to the sounds.) Each pop you hear is a violation of the law that could get a person locked up for six months. Turn up the sound and have a listen to how much people care about the threat of fines and imprisonment getting in their way of having a good time celebrating their nation's founding.

Despite the ease of tracking down who's making giant explosions over their back yards, police make little attempt to enforce the fireworks ban simply because non-compliance is overwhelming. If they actually attempted to arrest every illegal fireworks possessor, they'd be doing nothing else but that, and they'd still fail to catch all violators.

If Americans will willfully defy the law on this scale to obtain and very conspicuously explode illegal fireworks just for fun, imagine how much greater the defiance would be to possess something they see as protecting their lives and ensuring all their other rights.

So that's one reason we don't ban guns here. There just wouldn't be any point. We'd have to create a massive, new law enforcement agency with incredible powers to do unannounced, door-to-door searches just to make a dent in the number of privately possessed firearms. And a lot of the gun owners would shoot back. It's estimated that there are more than 300 million guns in America. How many law enforcement officers would it take to seize them all by force? We would essentially need to employ an army to invade and occupy our communities. We would be turning our own homeland into Iraq, with troops fighting door to door in our streets. Millions would die, forcing us to reconsider what the point of banning guns was in the first place.