1/25/13

Deep Thoughts #6

WEALTH

If you're among the super rich it's okay to drink a toast to yourself and have moments of self-congratulation.  Everyone deserves a little guilt-free pride time now and again.  But before you revel in your own awesomeness too long, just know that you're not in that position because you're "better".  We like to think we're all in the same race, on the same track, with the same obstacles.  Sorry.  That is a fantasy world of the simple minded.  Life is more complex than that, with an infinite number of variables and "butterfly effects".

On the one hand we're not completely at the mercy of Fortune's Wheel; but on the other hand, we cannot will ourselves into wealth - the idea of the  √úbermensch died with Hitler and Nietzsche.  In other words, rich people need to get over themselves and stop referring to themselves as "creators" and us as "takers".   It's a dangerous mindset.




SCIENCE AND POLITICS

How can belief in Global Warming be predicated upon your political party?  No one says, "I'm a Republican, so I don't believe in Archimedes' buoyancy principle."  Or "I'm a Democrat, so I believe in only the first two of Kepler's 3 Laws of Planetary Motion."

If it were a simple matter of shaky evidence, one could understand some Global Warming doubts.  But the skeptics are always "conservatives" and the true believers are always "liberals".  How can this be possible unless what separates these two parties is a deep impassable philosophical divide?

Could it be that the evidence itself is less than compelling, and so we default to the "hive mind" of our parties? Republicans view Nature as man's dominion to be subjugated if need be; while Democrats are more apt to consider man a part of nature and not above it. I can't help but wonder, as this divide gets wider and wider, where this polarity will ultimately lead.


GUNS

After every mass shooting, there's endless talk about banning assault weapons, or fully automatic firearms.  But, in fact the number of gun deaths NOT from a handgun is basically negligible.  In other words, if we outlaw fully automatic guns, your chance of not getting shot went up a whopping .000000001 percent.  It's handguns that are the issue.

Here's a fact: Rifles and handguns will never be outlawed in the United States.  It quite simply will never happen.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a reality of their own making.  Personally, I'd like to see all guns go bye-bye.  But what I'd like has no bearing on reality - guns are here to stay in America.

So, that leaves us with the problem of American ultra-violence still being an omnipresent threat.  Banning fully automatic weapons will simply be a symbolic gesture, nothing even approaching consequential in the grand scheme of things.  So, where does that leave us? Shall we bicker back and forth forever, or perhaps accept the fact that guns are here to stay and peel back the layers of the onion and treat the underlying problem, which is ________________ (you fill in the blank).

22 comments:

  1. I agree about the guns. I would love to see them go the way of the dinosaur but I am all too aware of why that will never happen, and to an extent why it shouldn't happen. I wonder how we ever got to this point as a nation though. I like violent media as much as the next twenty something gen-X holdover, but I'm not a violent person. When did the lines between fantasy and reality become so blurred? As for politics, nothing would make me happier than to see some unity between parties and ideologies in order to at least try to find some common ground. Nothing's ever going to change as long as we bicker among ourselves. But, maybe that's the point?

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  2. Oh no, Gilligan get philosophical again!

    I agree with you on wealth, I've seen enough in my life to know that there's a lot outside one's control. I do think more people could be more successful, but they'd have to work really, really hard and most people (even the successful ones) aren't willing to work that hard.

    I've pondered on the political divide many times. How is it that so many things are divided by party? Don't more people think on their own? I agree with one party on this, but another on that... how come most people aren't' that way? What is it that makes most Democrats line up with these positions, while most Republicans line with those? All down the line?

    Guns is tricky. I guess we could limit all hunting to bows. But we have to have hunting, the deer would get out of hand if we didn't. Here in Kansas I can pick any 20 people and ask how many have hit a deer with their car and I bet at least 7 out of 20 have. Better to have them hunted and used for meat than use automobiles as natural selection and let the meat rot on the side of the road.

    I'd love to sit down with you and talk this out sometime. I'm really good at solving all the world's problems, if only everyone would listen to me.

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  3. In the past, the owners of US companies understood that if they paid their workers a living wage, the workers would buy the products they produced, so the cycle was self-sustaining. Now you have global conglomerates who don't care where the stuff is made, how little the people are paid, or if it is good to support any one country. They pay off the politicians to stack the deck against middle class and the poor. That's not self-sustaining. Does anyone remember the French Revolution?

    The reason Republicans dismiss climate change is because it would then require them to do something about it. It's easier to ignore or deny a problem than deal with it. They just want to continue sucking up oil and gas and hope that the issue goes away.

    The right is correct that guns don't kill people, people do. So why do we make it so damn easy for any knucklehead to get ahold of one? Would we let someone drive a car with only a 15 minute background check? Like a drivers license, gun owners should first have to take a required amount of gun training, then take a written exam on gun laws and safety, and prove their proficiency on a shooting range. These skills should be tested every five years or so. Also, the more sophisticated the weapon, the more stringent the test. That way, if a legal gun owner comes up against a criminal, he or she will be more likely to prevail in a gun fight. Also, it would help to weed out the unbalanced people and the hot tempered ones. Finally, limit the amount of ammo a person can purchase at one time. If they are forced to stockpile, at least you know they are truly plotting something.

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  4. Fully automatic weapons have been illegal for decades. I love your site but I would be cautious commenting on an issue you obviously don't have the facts.
    I find it amazing that so many consider the US a "violent" culture. Most countries per capita are as violent or worse. Also many governments in the last 60 years have killed their citizens on a massive scale. Would you consider Germany a violent country by nature? If not, why not? It has certainly proven so. As have many others. (China, Cambodia, USSR, Several African countries)

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    1. Germany has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world.

      Fully automatic weapons aren't illegal, just highly regulated. You're missing my point though.

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    2. Oh I'm not missing your point at all. I am pointing out that countries now considered not violent were very much the opposite. Violence has been the norm in history the US has no corner on that market in any way. That you want our country to be less violent is laudable. "Ultra-violent" and "omnipresent threat" really? By the way not intentionally posting as anon can't get wordpress account to post for some reason

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  5. The peak year for mass shootings in this country was 1929.
    Mexico has some of the most draconian gun laws in the world. You can go to jail for years for having a single bullet. And its violent crime rate is sky-high.
    In the UK, there are 2,034 violent offences per 100,000 people, way ahead of second-placed Austria with a rate of 1,677.

    The U.S. has a violence rate of 466 crimes per 100,000 residents, Canada 935, and South Africa 1,609.

    We are half the rate of the freaking canadians.

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    1. Sorry. Those numbers are not accurate. Look up intentional homicide rate; we are way worse than Canada. Sure, we're nowhere near Honduras or El Salvador, but your stats are still way off.

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    2. Those numbers are indeed accurate based on the EU stats. And while violent crimes numbers include murder, they also count rapes, robbery, and other assaults not just murder.

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  7. Good Article. The bottom line for me is this: It is unacceptable to allow an individual with documented mental problems to purchase military weapons, high-capacity magazines, body armor, explosives, you name it, in this country anymore. I don't give a damn what other countries are like. I hate the fact that we're a nation with a large & influential population who are full of hate and paranoia that ensures we stay knee-deep in firearms but that's the way it is. Can we at least stop arming maniacs?

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    1. done and done. . . Cannot by fully automatic weapon already. Background checks already prevent those with a record of mental illness from buying weapons. That is why the evil bastard at newtown didn't buy, but rather stole, his weapons after killing his mother. The average person cannot buy explosive, you have to have a federal license for that. True you can still by body armor, but not one mass shooter in the last 5 years has used body armor.

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    2. Well, Holmes had a record of mental illness and was able to purchase a gun at Gander Mountain, apparently no background check was made by that major outlet. Let alone the total arsenal he already had. That's not what I'd call done.

      But I'm not trying to change anyone's mind here - gun nuts want everyone, maniacs included, to own guns.

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    3. I agree that we will never get rid of all guns...and banning assault weapons will probably just increase the traffic in the black market for them. Guns last forever and there are so many out in circulation that there will always be someone making them available to the mentally ill and criminals without forcing them go through background checks. Its scary to think about, but that's just the way it is.

      Re: the rich...I think that Americans realize everything you pointed out when they didn't elect Willard "Mitt" Romney for President. That 47% comment really resonated with folks.

      Re: political divide. Republicans are still stinging from the slap in the face that they got in the last election. The party has changed so much over the last decade and now seems to be run by the ultra conservatives. I bet if Ronald Reagan ran today, he would NEVER be nominated because he was too moderate...yet for some reason they hold him in high esteem...a President who would would compromise with Democrats! Too bad today's Republican party can't learn from that.

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    4. I'm a gun-nut and proud of it. I have Walthers P88 9mm. A Walther PKS .380, a Taurus .44/410 Judge, two Taurus .44 magnum Raging Bulls, a Saiga 20 gauge shotgun, and a .308 bushmaster semi-auto. And no I don't think every should have a gun, the mentally ill, people with criminal records should not be armed. But I don't think that people who loathe and fear guns should be able to tell me, a stable, law abiding citizen, what I can and cannot own.

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  8. Just have to respond to 'Anonymous's' ridiculous response to this post. I am Canadian, live in Germany (having lived all over Europe) and lived in China for eight years. At no time have I ever felt any fear or trepidation walking down the street at any hour in those two countries. He seems to believe that events that took place a half century or more ago represent those states for eternity. it angers me so much to have to read comments by those who pontificate about other peoples and yet clearly never left their little corner of the world.

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  9. There is one perspective that has not been said, and it's my fill in the blank. When I was young and i did something that needed correcting my Mom and Dad parented. Sometimes that was a talk, sometimes something more harsh. This is not abuse, it is making sure that when I was an adult, I could live a life as a civilized person and know that the world does not revolve around me, it's me being a person with caring and self control. As I aged (I'm 47) I noticed that all my friends that had kids in the 80's changed the 2 basic parenting ethics from " Be smart, treat people right, work hard and have a good life" and "you can do anything you want when you are on your own, but right now in our home we will know what you do, because we care" to "My baby will be denied nothing and no one will be allowed to tell him he's wrong". My sister quit being a teacher because they are not allowed to discipline them in any way, and yet these 13 year-olds could threaten them. I own guns now because I'm an adult in my own home. There would be no way I could have had a gun and my parents not find out eventually. I don't have children by choice, because I don't have the time to be the parent a child deserves. Making a baby doesn't make you a parent, parenting does. Having children is the biggest responsibility you will ever have. If you don't want that responsibility, do us all a favor and wear a condom. Guns don't kill people, not being a good parent does. Have you watched Honey Boo Boo? Entire swaths of the population are proud to only be one gene mutation away being a plant.

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  10. It's very simple: Democrats see "Global Warming" (As they saw "Global Cooling" in the 1970s, as an excuse to enact more laws, regulations, and taxes. There is nothing more to it than that.

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    1. so melting glaciers, extreme weather patterns, and overwhelming scientific consensus are all a bunch of hooey? Global warming isn't a 'democratic' issue. The Chinese are concerned about it and they are hardly democratic. Could it also be that many in the republican party are in the pocketbook of companies that stand to make a lot of money in the short term off of the fuels and practices that lead to global warming? Even Newscorp, which owns the Fox, a leading proponent of climate science denial, is carbon neutral. And more and more people on the right are having to admit that it is a serious issue. They disagree with those on the left about what mechanisms to use to combat it, but they acknowledge it is problem.

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  11. Fully automatic weapons(as well as suppressors, short barreled shotguns/rifles) are legal to own with a thorough background check performed by the ATF and a $200 transfer fee.

    An "assault weapon" is a semi-automatic(i.e. meaning one shot fired per one pull of the trigger) rifle.

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  12. The use of the term "job creators" during the election scared the hell out of me. It seemed like the right-wing pundits wanted to divide the country into the landed aristocracy, who create jobs for us poor plebians who are lucky to get the scraps they give us.

    The election also made me realize that because we have a two-party system, both sides are committed to strengthening their brand and keeping the dialogue very much "us vs. them." This prevents any compromise, rational discussion, or attempt to find common ground. The other team wants to destroy this country and hates America - our team is the only one who knows what's best.

    Global warming is tough because it is an abstract, complicated, and long-term issue. If we were to totally cut carbon emissions today, the temperature would still rise because of the crap we've already put into the atmosphere. And if we end up successfully combating global warming, the end result will be that nothing much happens. How do you prove success when all you have to show for it is a less severe increase in temp? I work for a nonprofit that is dedicated to stopping global warming, and I can tell you that my colleagues and our peers are not doing it to make a buck or support big government - they are doing it because they believe that the future of the planet depends on us taking action, and all of their opinions and actions are based on the best science available. We also see the global warming skeptics as being largely motivated by fossil fuel companies who have a vested short term financial interest in business as usual.

    and guns....god. Anytime anyone brings up the fact that maybe gun violence is a problem, the right gets freaked out that the government is going to take their guns and the NRA blames 15 year old movies. The bigger issue to me is the fact that so many people seem to think that the only way they can feel safe is to walk around fully armed.

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  13. I love the photo of the couple with the periodic table in the background since chemistry is my thing. If that table behind them is current, that photo dates between 1961 and 1964. The last element listed on that periodic table (in the lower right) is element 103 - Lawrencium, named after the inventor of the cyclotron. Lawrencium was discovered at Cal-Berkeley in 1961. The next element to be discovered was element 104 - Rutherfordium, named after Rutherford who discovered that elements had a nucleus with his gold foil experiment in the early 1900's. Element 104 was discovered in 1964. Element 104 should be behind the blonde guys head, but it is not there. To date, there are now 118 elements on the periodic table. The one in the photo only goes to 103.

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