[links] Link salad saw Elvis in the clouds over Seattle

A reader reviews The Sky That Wraps

America English Dialects — Linguistics neepery. (Via willyumtx.)

1948 Norman E. Timbs Buick Streamliner — Guh guh buh buh… Wow. (Via Dark Roasted Blend.)

Putting a number in its context — Ben Goldacre on the endless problem of humans misunderstanding risks and statistics.

The immediate aftermath of tragedy — Phil Plait on the Giffords shooting. I take his point, but we do live in a culture where discussion of “Second Amendment remedies” has become an accepted part of one party’s mainstream discourse. I have trouble believing that such rhetoric doesn’t help foster a climate where behaviors like the shooter’s come to seem appropriate rather than insane. Juan Cole addresses this question. Also, Digby touches on it as well. You are responsible for the consequences of your beliefs, something very few conservatives, or Second Amendment enthusiasts, are ever willing to take on.

?otD: Is there a little Elvis in your heart?


1/9/2011
Writing time yesterday: 1.5 hours (2,500 words on Sunspin)
Body movement: n/a (raining, no indoor bike here)
Hours slept: 6.5 hours (solid)
Weight: n/a (no scale here)
Currently reading: Salamanca by Dean Francis Alfar

8 thoughts on “[links] Link salad saw Elvis in the clouds over Seattle

  1. The Nth American dialects site is excellent – for an Australian writer that does touch on US scenes/characters, helpful.

    I suspect you know about this, but a truly excellent site for understanding the origin of words/phrases, etc but with an emphasis on comparative analysis between all the English idioms in the world, try http://www.worldwidewords.org/index.htm – I have subscribed to their newsletter for years.

    thanks again.
    Gerry

  2. Matt H says:

    ” You are responsible for the consequences of your beliefs, something very few conservatives, or Second Amendment enthusiasts, are ever willing to take on.”

    – Whoa, wait, what? If by “enthusiasts” you refer to those promoting “Second Amendment remedies” then I’m right there with you. But if we’re making the stretch that proponents of 2nd amendment rights are also proponents of using those rights to commit violence against a particular politician you happen to not like, then that’s a bit of a straw man. Two completely different bodies of belief.

    1. Jay says:

      Actually, that’s not what I’m arguing. I’ve literally only met one gun owner, ever, who was willing to admit to a causal relationship between the wide availability of firearms and the 15,000+ annual deaths by gun violence. The vast majority of gun owners I’ve met will engage in Jesuitical contortions of logic rather than admit that their beliefs on firearms, personal protection and defense of essential liberties have any possible connection with the death toll.

      The question is simple. Is your theoretical defense of essential liberties worth those 15,000 deaths every year? Would you feel that way if one of those deaths happened to be your child, your spouse, your sibling, your parent or your neighbor? That question makes gun rights advocates very, very uncomfortable.

      1. Matt H says:

        Ah, I understand. I am more than willing to admit a relationship between firearm availability and firearm homicide. What I’m not entirely convinced of is that the relationship is causal.

        “Is your theoretical defense of essential liberties worth those 15,000 deaths every year?”
        -This question implies that the “theoretical defense of essential liberties” is the only gain to the cost of “15,000 deaths every year”.
        As far as the costs are concerned, if you really wanted to judge the overall impact on crime the number is even higher, since we would also need to include the number of annual assaults by firearms that did not result in death – because of skill of the shooter and the quality of our healthcare system, etc – but where one person at least attempted to kill another person.

        Just perusing the crime statistics at nationmaster.com it appears that European countries experience rates of assault similar to the US, though their murder rates tend to be lower. Ditto with Canada. Is that only because fewer of their assaults/murders occur with firearms, or because European criminals aren’t as good a shot as American criminals, or because their healthcare is so much better than ours 😛 Of course, this is just a thumbnail observation of compiled internet statistics; I’ve yet to read a rational statistical study of various firearms laws and how they relate to crime in various countries. If you’ve read a good one let me know.

        On the other hand, the gain is not only “theoretical defense of essential liberties”. According to an academic study printed in 1995, between there were between 2.2 million and 2.5 million instances of defensive gun use by a civilian against another human during 1993.

        http://www.guncite.com/gcdgklec.html

        Ignoring instances of protection against wildlife, and ignoring changes in population, crime trends, and gun laws since then, you must admit that number is substantial. Perhaps Americans would need to defend themselves less if firearms were less available, the study doesn’t go on to research this, and I don’t know of one that does, but would be more than willing to review any information you have.

        So the moral/ethical equation we really ought to be presented with is:

        Ability to defend oneself + constitutional liberties vs firearms homicides + firearms assaults.

        My personal take is that I’d prefer for citizens to have the ability to use a firearm in self defense, rather than trust criminals to stop committing crimes simply because they have more difficult access to firearms.

        1. Cora says:

          But how many of those alleged self-defense shootings were really due to someone being genuinely in danger of death or grievous bodily harm or someone flipping out and shooting at a small time criminal trying to steal the TV or car. If someone were to try to steal my TV but is not threatening me otherwise, I would be very pissed off. That alone does not, however, give me the right to shoot him. And that’s leaving aside those unfortunate cases where someone completely flipped out and accidentally shot the husband coming home late, the daughter’s boyfriend sneaking out in the middle of the night or a tourist who has gotten lost on the way to a party.

          Another problem is that the prevalence of guns in the US escalates violence in crimes that probably would not have turned violent to the same extent otherwise.

          If someone breaks into a house to steal a TV or robs a liquor store and has to fear being shot by the owner, he may well pack a gun and shoot first. But if it’s unlikely that the owner has a gun, the robber will be less likely to pack and use one, too, and the result is a normal robbers/burglary rather than one that leaves dead bodies lying around. Of course, it would be much better if criminals just stopped committing crimes altogether, but I don’t see that happening.

          In the local newspaper, I regularly see reports about gas stations or fast food restaurants being robbed or houses being burglared. Very few of these crimes turn violent and in the rare cases someone dies in the course of a burglary, it’s usually by a heart attack. Meanwhile, in the US burglaries or robberies that end with someone (whether criminal, owner or bystander) dead seem to be much more common. I strongly suspect the sheer mass of guns in the US has something to do with it.

          To be fair, the problem of routine crimes turning violent a lot faster than they otherwise would probably cannot be solved by restricting gun ownership alone, simply because restricting gun ownership would not affect the criminals (whose guns aren’t legal anyway) who are the biggest part of the problem, and there already are so many guns in the US that anyone who wants one wouldn’t have problems getting one.

          I have never owned a gun in my life and I have honestly never been in a situation where I would have felt safer owning one. And it’s not as if there is no legal gun ownership in my country, because it is perfectly legal for hunters or members of sport shooting clubs (and shooting is a very popular sport in rural areas) to own guns. But they’re generally responsible people, they don’t own semi-automatic guns, they don’t feel the constant fear to defend themselves from whatever and they don’t shoot anything bigger than a pigeon outside the shooting range.

          1. Matt H says:

            “But how many of those alleged self-defense shootings were really due to someone being genuinely in danger of death or grievous bodily harm or someone flipping out and shooting at a small time criminal trying to steal the TV or car.”
            -The study does not make that distinction, so I couldn’t say. My guess would be that this is a rather anamolous result. Even in the US using a firearm, even for self defense, has serious legal ramifications.
            Also, the study states, “Only 24% of the gun defenders in the present study reported firing the gun, and only 8% report wounding an adversary.”

            “If someone were to try to steal my TV but is not threatening me otherwise, I would be very pissed off. That alone does not, however, give me the right to shoot him.”
            -In the US this depends on which state you are in. In Colorado, where I live, as well as in other states, citizens are authorized to shoot people making unauthorized entry into their homes:

            “any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force, against another person when that other person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant”

            In Colorado there is no duty for the citizen to establish what a tresspassers intentions are before they shoot (this is commonly referred to as the “castle doctrine”). This changes if the citizen is outside the home, and as usual there are legal nuances depending on the situation.

            “And that’s leaving aside those unfortunate cases where someone completely flipped out and accidentally shot the husband coming home late, the daughter’s boyfriend sneaking out in the middle of the night or a tourist who has gotten lost on the way to a party.”
            -True, but how would you include these in a meaningful way, since they are fairly anamolous? Arguing for gun restriction based on these results is like saying non-professionals shouldn’t be allowed to operate automobiles because some people drive drunk. To make arguments meaningful you need to demonstrate common failures in the system, not outlying indicators.

            “…in the US burglaries or robberies that end with someone (whether criminal, owner or bystander) dead seem to be much more common. I strongly suspect the sheer mass of guns in the US has something to do with it.”
            -True, and this alludes to the catch-22 of trying to remove firearms from the population. The rate of firearms violence isn’t likely to go down until the number of firearms is decreased, but the number of people desiring to carry firearms for self defense isn’t likely to decrease until the crime rate decreases. So who are you going to convince to make the first move?

            “To be fair, the problem of routine crimes turning violent a lot faster than they otherwise would probably cannot be solved by restricting gun ownership alone, simply because restricting gun ownership would not affect the criminals (whose guns aren’t legal anyway) who are the biggest part of the problem, and there already are so many guns in the US that anyone who wants one wouldn’t have problems getting one.”
            -This is true, and I can see plenty of room in the US for restricting ways in which criminals may obtain weapons. However, figuring out a way to restrict access to criminals without causing undue restriction to legitimate users of firearms is typically where you find a lot of political opposition and legislation begins to break down.

            “I have never owned a gun in my life and I have honestly never been in a situation where I would have felt safer owning one.”
            -That is very fortunate, and I think it’s a fairly typical European sentiment. However, we must also take into account that Germany is not congruent to the US aside from relative access to firearms. There is a different legal system, socio-economic conditions, racial make-up, population density, etc. To make the allusion that, “if the US restricted firearms similar to us, they would experience the same relative safety that we do”, is not well supported in this case.
            To be fair, I admit there are many people in the US who feel the same way you do. For most of my life I would say I’ve felt the same, and even today I don’t feel like my life is in any particular danger. But there have been rare instances where I would have felt safer owning a firearm, and I had the freedom to obtain a firearm if I wished. Also, I can’t speak for other people living in my same state or country, so I won’t actively pursue trying to limit their ability to own a firearm if they believe they have a legitimate need for it.

  3. Cora says:

    It’s very simple. If US politicians and pundits weren’t so very quick to wish death and violence on their political opponents as a matter of rhetoric, then maybe some deranged person wouldn’t take them seriously. And if the US constitution didn’t guarantee US citizens to have whatever firearms they like in order to defend themselves against largely imaginary threats, then maybe said deranged person wouldn’t have had it so easy to find the weapons he needed for this massacre.

    You’ll always get deeply disturbed people who are looking for someone to vent their frustrations on, so attacks like this unfortunately happen sometimes. But the sort of violent political rhetoric common in the US encourages those people and the ease of acquiring weapons can easily turn their attacks into mass slaughters, as happened in Arizona.

    For example, in 1990 two German politicians, Oscar Lafontaine and Wolfgang Schäuble, were (separately) attacked by deranged people in situations very similar to what happened in Arizona. However, these attackers did not have highpowered guns, so they did not cause a massacre. What is more, both politicians survived, though Schäuble as been wheelchair bound ever since.

  4. Matt H says:

    At the risk of this turning into a flame war, just a few responses to play devil’s advocate:

    “If US politicians and pundits weren’t so very quick to wish death and violence on their political opponents as a matter of rhetoric, then maybe some deranged person wouldn’t take them seriously.”
    -Agreed

    “And if the US constitution didn’t guarantee US citizens to have whatever firearms they like in order to defend themselves against largely imaginary threats, then maybe said deranged person wouldn’t have had it so easy to find the weapons he needed for this massacre.”
    -There’s a lot going on in this statement. First, whether these threats are imaginary or not is largely a moot point. The fact is the threat seemed real enough at the time the constitution was written, and enough people since then have believed the threats real enough to keep the right from being amended out.
    As far as availability is concerned, sure, illegalizing firearms may make it not “so easy” to acquire them. But heroin and prostitution are illegal in the U.S., and though they may not be “so easy” to acquire, it’s hardly difficult. So what we’re really questioning at this point is not the restriction of the firearms, but rather the deranged person’s resolve to obtain them. Carrying that thought through to conclusion, all you’ve really done in illegalizing firearms is insure that criminals will be the only citizens in your population who have them.

    “For example, in 1990 two German politicians, Oscar Lafontaine and Wolfgang Schäuble, were (separately) attacked by deranged people in situations very similar to what happened in Arizona. However, these attackers did not have highpowered guns, so they did not cause a massacre.”
    -The Lafontaine attack was a stabbing, no? As far as the Schäuble shooting is concerned, he was hit in the spine, hence the paralysis. If Judge Roll et al had been shot in the spine, they likely would have been paralyzed instead of killed as well. For the record, the gun used in the Arizona shooting was a 9mm, which is also not a high powered gun.

    All that said, I understand your viewpoint, there are plenty of people in America who make the same arguments just like there’s plenty who make the same arguments I’ve just made. The point I was really trying to make in my first post is that people who lobby for 2nd amendment rights are not necessarily, and I would go so far as to say rarely, the same people who uphold vigilante rhetoric.

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