Monday, June 20, 2016

Keep Calm and. . .

No, really, just keep calm. . . please.

"The worst thing about America is GUNS!"  I'm told, and if I disagree, I've been brainwashed by an organization I don't belong to or listen to and have contempt for.  Why? because zealots argue by the numbers the way a salesman is trained: with lists of objections and standard responses but without the yelling and insulting that make it hard to sell insurance or swamp land. When it comes to guns, food, cars, economics, taxation, immigration, religion and a few other subjects dear to the brainwashing trade, it's about avoiding the facts to avoid refutation. "Don't ask questions, just look at the bogeyman!"

 One preempts the calm, rational approach by attacking first. Nebulous and ill defined attacks are best for this purpose.  Sure, guns frighten the hell out of some people and everyone has the right to their fears, but other things may be more dangerous. That's why when I suggest banning the most dangerous feature of any gun, I get "no, only assault weapons, read the script or shut up,"  If you want to see a working definition of "conniption" just say calm and stick to the facts.

Sign here to send a petition to "Help stop the use of bee-toxic pesticides!"  Could we keep a bit more calm because there's no particular evidence that pesticides are causing or contributing to this apparently widespread phenomenon of  hive collapse syndrome, and even if the EPA has the power to ban or eliminate such things if they do exist, it doesn't mean there's any scientific consensus on the etiology of this disease which may not actually be new and appears on more than one continent. There's plenty of activist consensus, but as with the fanatical but unsupportable assertions about Autism spectrum syndrome and vaccines,  it's based on rumor and conjecture and hysteria, just as the previous notion that it was all about cell phones because after all, Post Hoc means Propter Hoc. Certain people prone to see real and imaginary ills to be the product of evil corporations (aren't they all evil?) won't question it though and if you don't, well you're brainwashed. Science?  Just keep banning until the problem goes away.

"I don't need any facts, I just know" said one Solon after I asked him whether a proposed measure had a record of previous successes.  I'm afraid that response is too commonplace when certain, activist-dominated subjects are involved. But what do I know?  I've been brainwashed by the facts and made a fool of by calm reflection. The 'solution' has been an abject failure more than once, but he just knows it will work which is a form of the argument from ignorance.  After all it's a gun control proposal and so it will, ipso facto,  control guns, just as all those "Crime Bills" we were urged to support in the 70's and 80's that made things worse. Or those bills to "untie the hands" of the police that also made things so much worse and the Drug bills that filled our jails with harmless and ordinary people, destroying the lives and families we were supposed to be protecting.  As old Daniel Webster said:
 "the strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many a bad measure." 
The end may justify the means sometimes, but the urgency and fear don't justify all proposals. None the less, if your plan fails, you can always blame it on the appropriate bogeyman to escape the inevitable "told you so."

I'm looking at a list of statistical rankings of fatality risks in our country.  It's in response to the "worst thing" assertion.  Of course as with all such things you have to define terms and I'm taking the liberty of defining worst as the most dangerous, the most likely to kill you and of course Heart disease, stroke and cancer are by far the leading causes of death. Odds are it's curtains for you and me sooner or later, I'm afraid.  It's full of many  interesting observations including that bicycles are enormously more dangerous than motorcycles in terms of how many people are killed on them.

 Assault by firearm?  It's number ten at 1 in 300 and that's terrible at first glance or at second glance, but then as with motorcycle accidents at 1 in 802  and death by drowning and immersion at 1 in 1073, those are averages for the entire population and if you don't go near the water and don't ride a motorcycle these risks don't apply, just as if you don't live in certain neighborhoods and don't get involved in gangs or drugs, your odds of firearm assault may vary - enormously.

Cause for some thought here about apparent risk and actual risk?  Nah. We just know we're right and reflection is weakness and if the group advocates something but I advocate something stronger, I must be a dupe, a stooge of the standard bogeyman. Pick one from the menu.

The overall likelihood of a fatal drug overdose is almost on a par with fatal shooting, but of course neither you nor I is likely to do them, (although I can't be too sure about you) Averages can be hugely misleading and they certainly are when used to frighten people into grasping at straws or laws.  So if I say that chances are something other than guns is gonna gitcha even if you do watch out, it's not because there's no danger from firearms and killers, but it's not the worst and I can prove it. There may be something worse in other senses than guns - say like injustice or the lack of access to medical care or higher education voting rights or legal council or even safe water, for our suburban Detroit friends.

But there is no anti-motorcycle advocacy group. The Motorcycle Haters are far less organized than the Monsanto Haters and of course since hardly anyone is an organic chemist or geneticist, has a degree in biology or agriculture, it's a perfect windmill for the bee saving Quixotes of America to tilt at. Bike haters?  They're around but not nearly so outspoken.  I think they're afraid of us.

As with all things relative to our fear and anger industry, the Worst Thing, as Orwell told us in 1984 is very personal. The worst thing may just be your own fear. It may be something you haven't thought about while being terrified of something else because what you fear is mostly about partisanship and manipulation. It's about preventing calm and objectivity.  It's all about what group has washed your cerebral cortex. It's less about the principles than about the principals. 

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