The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

11Sep/150

What Misery from 9/11

As horrible as the terrorist events on 9/11 were, the worst thing that happened on that day we did to ourselves.  We forgot the truth within the 18th century quote (variously expressed, and variously attributed to Jefferson and Franklin amongst others):

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

How can anyone argue the truth of that statement?  How can anyone argue that we did not betray that guiding principle?

We let the Patriot Act happen, we let the NSA and other clandestine agencies run wild, we began a forever war, creating new enemies perhaps more quickly than we can kill the old ones.  Will freedoms lost ever be restored?  Surely not.  Technology has only made it easier to violate our freedoms and harder to detect when they are violated.

Most confounding to me is that many of those seemingly most comfortable with this situation, with the violation of the above seemingly inarguable (to me) truth, are the same people who are the most unyielding when it comes to any suggested restriction of gun ownership.  How can one be unwilling to have any government involvement in weapons ownership/transfer for fear of encouraging tyranny or loss of God and Constitution given freedoms, and yet permit/accept the same government should be able to observe our phone and online activity?  It seems like wild hypocrisy to me, but maybe I'm not understanding some nuances involved in the argument; or maybe for those individuals it's really not so much about a love of freedom so much as it is a love of the gun (and its use).

Ah well, another sad 9/11, for so many reasons.

^ Q

21Nov/141

Another School Shooting, Another Round of Pointless Gun Debates

Every news story these days has a comment section which erupts into a slug fest between the politically left and politically right. The same arguments are made this time as last time, the same "proof" is offered this time as last time, and no one is convinced, and nothing changes.

What annoys me most is that neither side seems willing to debate their real point of view, they rely instead on dishonestly framing the debate.

On the right I wish they would admit, "Hey, look, if someone could could snap their fingers and get rid of all guns there would be a lot fewer homicides and suicides, but guns are a lot of fun, and people die left and right from driving cars and eating fattening food, so we've decided we're comfortable with the number of deaths from guns. And besides, it might theoretically make our government a little afraid of violating our rights, though admittedly they seem to be violating a lot of rights and we're not doing anything about it."

And on the left I wish they would admit, "Hey, guns are really scary. We're not hunter gatherers any more, and people who collect and shoot guns, especially at cute little woodland creatures, seem a little mentally disturbed to us. And if you want to carry them all the time, everywhere, and buy your kids Hello Kitty themed shotguns we really think you have a problem. We know there are so many guns in the country that banning them won't really do a lot, but it'll do something, and more important it'll feel like we're doing something. And maybe if we can damage the gun market now in a hundred years there will be less of them around, and maybe then society will be safer. And the sort of guns people have now haven't kept up with the hardware the government has, so give up on the argument that it'll keep us free from tyranny."

If both sides lead with that it would feel more honest to me, and at least make the debate potentially more productive.

^ Q

3May/101

The Waxing and Waning Legality of Alcohol, Drugs, & Guns

A friend of mine is pro-drugs and anti-guns.  She wants to legalize the former and crimminalize the latter.
Her position doesn't seem logically consistent to me and I hit upon an argument which I felt proves the point.  Here is that argument...
 
I was doing a bit of research to see if the argument I mentioned in the car yesterday might have any actual statistical merit to back it up.  I realized it's of course not really about drugs or guns, per se, but the broader question about how we make decisions based on the risk versus the reward of various activities with a mortality component.
 
Alcohol is legal and other drugs (marijuana) are moving towards legalization.  Combined they are estimated to kill about 100,000 people per year (80k from alcohol, 20k from drugs).  The deaths are from car accidents, other sorts of accidents, overdoses, organ failure, etc.  This does not include the vastly higher numbers of mental/emotional suffering personal or familial that their use creates, nor the huge physical or medical injuries/conditions that do not result in death.
 
Cigarettes are legal.  They are estimated to kill 400,000 people per year.  The nature of those deaths is a little different, admittedly, since cigarettes are more likely to kill older people than alcohol, drugs, or guns.  Children are, however, also allegedly negatively affected in terms of cancer rates, and issues such as asthma.
 
Guns are legal, but increasingly restricted.  They kill about 18,000 people a year.  For simplicity I'm not considering injuries, though I'd argue there's no need to consider them here, since the emotional and physical results from alcohol/drugs are much more larger. 
 
As someone who has never been drunk or high, I cannot imagine how the pleasure associated with alcohol or drugs warrants 100,000 deaths a year, not to mention the millions who suffer serious negative emotional effects directly and indirectly related to alcohol/drugs.
 
As someone who has shot a gun on a handful of occasions and enjoyed shooting guns (at targets, not animals) I can understand the pleasure associated with that activity.  And as someone who has been robbed and been threatened (with the police unable or unwilling to meaningfully assist), I can understand the desire and/or need for someone to want to protect themselves or their family.
 
So, I do not see why one choice of pleasure with a vastly worse mortality record should be increasingly legally protected while another far less dangerous activity should be increasingly restricted.  That does not seem consistent or reasonable.
 
And in fact alcohol/drug use and abuse are the root cause of the majority of the deaths/injuries from guns.  If alcohol and drugs were to magically vanish from the earth, the number of deaths from guns would plummet.  Most murders (and many suicides) directly or indirectly involve the influence of alchol/drugs (and in the case of murder, the sale of or attempt to secure drugs).
 
One final more profound but weaker argument I'd make...  Alcohol and drugs have no necessitated "value" for society.  One can achieve significantly similar states of altered consciousness without their use, through meditation, lucid dreaming, sleep deprivation, sweat lodges, etc. and those experiences come at very, very low risk (while also bringing spiritual/mental benefit).  People may choose alcohol/drugs because that is an easier route to altered consciousness, but that doesn't make it the right means to achieve that societal benefit.  Guns, on the other hand, do provide an arguable inherent value for society.  Used by responsible individuals in specific circumstances, they are the only means to effectively defend yourself and your family (the cops are useless to protect you in a home invasion, useless to prevent a rape, useless to prevent a mugging).  And used by a responsible society guns are the only means it has to ultimately defend itself against its government.  Jefferson said quite reasonably, "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." and "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."
 
It seems inconsistent to gleefully want the legalization of alcohol/drugs while raging against the continued legalization of guns.
 
My own position is mostly a personal one.  I don't get drunk, I don't get high, and I have no guns.  But I'm not necessarily opposed, I may do any and/or all of those in the future.  If I were made god for a day I would rid the world of alcohol, drugs, and guns.  I think they are all dangerous distractions and poor ways to get by in the world.  But I recognize I am not god, and that no one can make those things happen.  So instead I reluctantly acknowledge that we're stuck with both realities and the benefits and problems they each bring.  I hope therefore that we can maximize the benefits of each while minimizing the negatives of each. 
 
 
Some links with some of the stats:
 
A note on how I calculated the 18,000 figure.  The number of gun related deaths is 30,000 people per year.  But let's break down that 30k number, since that's really not a fair number, since a good percentage of those deaths would have taken place anyway, with the use of another weapon.  Of that number, 56% are suicides, 40% are homicides, 4% are accidental (with 2% being truly unintentional).  Even in industrialized, modern countries where guns are banned there will be murders and suicides, so we can't fairly include those just because a gun is used.  The US murder rate is 3x the UK rate, the US suicide rate is roughly 2x.  Half of all suicides in the US use a firearm.  If we adjust the numbers to eliminate those people who would have used another weapon then the numbers might approximate: 8,000 murders (instead of 12k), 8,500 suicides (instead of 17k), 1,200 accidental deaths by firearm (same) for a new total of about 18,000 deaths per year which could arguably be said to be a mostly direct result of the existence of guns.  So, really we're talking about 18k deaths, not 30k deaths.  I suspect a fairer exploration of these numbers would further reduce this 18k quite a bit, when other elements of US culture versus UK society are considered. 

 

So that was my attempt to convince her...  either to be less in favor of banning guns, or less in favor of drug legalization/used, doesn't matter to me.  I'm sure my argument won't work, but it was a nice try.

Q