Thoughts on the Direction of the Gun Debate

Rubio’s “Laws Don’t Work” Argument

Senator Rubio argued that if someone is truly determined to carry out a horrific act, the law will not stop it. This is true, to a point. The argument bears much more heavily on demand-driven products like illicit drugs, but we don’t hear Rubio calling for the end of prohibition.

The gun case, if sensible legal hurdles block even one in a hundred, without significantly infringing on sportsmen, it’s hard to understand why we shouldn’t make that change in law. More importantly, if it fails to stop the madman from acquiring on the black market, then we can at least bring extra charges, ensuring the liability toward those supplying murder weapons.

All in all, we should take the steps we believe will help, and evaluate as we go (i.e., use science and reason).

Mental Health

Pass a bill if you think mental healthcare is the way to go. Please pass one anyway, as it’d do us all a lot of good to have the ailing be treated.

But it takes multiple components to create these massacres, and one of the necessary components is the gun and the ammunition. Over time, our ability to predict and treat may improve. For now, it is inadequate. Restricting guns is our best bet.

The NRA and Paid Actors

One of the repeated attempts to undermine changes to gun laws is to accuse people of being “paid actors.” Family members, schoolmates, and other community members affected by a shooting are all targets of this tactic.

But the people putting forth these accusations are invariably paid actors. Politicians that take money from the NRA. Right-wing media types are paid to be extremist soapbox goons. The NRA’s actual spokespeople, from their executive on down, are literally paid to stop proper functioning of government to regulate commerce.

If the gun regulation community wants to pay people to advocate, they should feel free to do so. The NRA has done it for over a century.

Other Ideas

Public notice or direct notification to guardians, the school or workplace or therapist, if someone buys a gun or ammunition. This matches with the anti-abortion parental notification laws. At least a heads-up could help either alert security guards and administrators, or maybe even spur reporting or clamoring around an unstable individual so that treatment be rendered before the worst happens.

Learn from previous bans and stop using silly surface characteristics to categorize weapons. Learn from other ban systems. Use a whitelist instead of a blacklist. Use an FDA-style (ugh!) marketing compliance system where they have to apply to sell a gun, an accessory that modifies a gun, etc.

Doing nothing is worse than stupid at this point. It’s grossly negligent. If the Republicans cannot bring themselves to do anything useful, it’s time for them to go. We need a conservative balance to the progressive and liberal impulses of the majority, but we cannot afford that balance to be an anchor against any common sense actions for the general welfare.

The NRA has a lot of sway, but they never actually pass anything or do anything to address the issue. They don’t pass a bill for mental health. All they do is take in money and spew out lies. The only way to stop a bad guy without a gun is to sell the bad guy a gun and let a good guy with a gun shoot him.

The bottom line on guns is as it has been since the late 1990s: with every act of violence the probability of major changes to gun laws goes up. The NRA, gun enthusiasts, whoever, can bitch about that fact but they won’t change the math one bit. If the NRA or gun owners or legislators want to forestall more bad laws from being enacted, they should work on solutions before that probability reaches 0.5 or greater.


The Need for Extreme Moderates

Goldilocks, the famous larcenist and squatter of bear homes, was once noted by the New York Times [This is not true.] as being an extreme moderate. Unfortunately, she was devoured by her victims, so the world missed its chance for her to expound on her positions.

But in the current political world of the USA, extremism rules the day. The extremes of corporatism and corporatism. Gone are the extreme moderates that have never existed and yet have prevailed by virtue of the fact that the government used to need to be functional.

These days, the corporations don’t depend on the government being functional, as they have the legal muscle to dodge any stray bullets from the contraption that is the modern government. Indeed, some of the corporations actively bet on dysfunction to keep their businesses thriving.

The only honest course for the world is one of extreme moderation. We must cut spending and raise taxes. We must invest in our infrastructure while avoiding supporting industries that ought to decline. We must provide a climate of relative certainty for our citizens, both against undue regulation and affirmatively that if they take a risk to start a business, their very lives aren’t at stake.

If you read the Constitution, you find extreme moderation. The right to religious freedom is extremely moderate, neither recognizing nor barring any set of religious beliefs. The right to free speech is extremely moderate, neither favoring nor barring speech. The right to keep and bear arms is extremely moderate, neither forcing the issue nor allowing it to be overtaken by an overzealous government.

The whole document is utterly balanced, at least in its intention.

When it comes to our current predicaments, it seems as though moderation is the filthiest word available. Nobody is willing to take the moderate position, in fear that one extreme or the other will drag them askance.

Let me be clear I am not speaking to social issues when speaking of moderation. Social issues have little place in the law. Gay peoples’ right to marry exists, and the government’s failure to recognize it is not legitimate. Women have the right to determine their bodily activities, and the government’s attempt to thwart that is not legitimate. Individuals have a right to due process, and national security is only a legitimate defense if the government can show that they have taken all necessary steps to attempt to mitigate that issue and protect civil rights.

Most of our current issues involve the size and scope of government. It is there that I point to moderation. There is a bright line, where on the one side you have private businesses engaging in public commerce using private resources, and on the other you have private businesses engaging in public commerce using public resources. In the former case, only minimal regulation ought be allowed. In the latter case, the public has the right to the benefit of our shared resources.

On defense, we have an interest in defending our nations, but only to the point needed, and that point is not based on the geopolitical climate of 60 years gone. When you have crossed the river, you do not carry the boat around on your back the rest of your life.

It is disrespectful to the generations past, present, and future, that we would waste our precious time trying to have everything at once, rather than one thing at a time.

The one side speaks of limited government, seeing the glass nearly empty. The other speaks of limited government, seeing the glass as nearly full. I’m not that thirsty, but I am yet thirsty. I’ll take a half-glass of government.

biz unAmerican

Least-paid Worker (LPW)

An idea that offers a plausible regulatory fix for economic disparity, slave wages, and other inequalities of the economy. A simple, prominently displayed value that lets you know how well the workers that contributed to a good or service were compensated.  The basic idea is pretty straightforward, though the implementation details may be a bit troublesome to devise.

For each seller of a good or service there exists a set of suppliers.  This is basically “upstream.”  Each also has consumers (“downstream”).  So the LPW algorithm is simply:

  1. Receive LPW data from upstream.
  2. Compare upstream LPW to local LPW.
  3. Forward downstream the lower of the two.

A few caveats include the exclusion of volunteer labor (for example, open source software) and the marking of whether the given LPW value is direct or indirect.

The tricky part of the algorithm is what the actual LPW data should be. The most obvious, the actual hourly or yearly wage, is faulty because of differences in the living wage. That varies from region to region. An alternative that accounts for this is needed.

So the second choice would be something like the percentile of the worker. This may be more effective in most cases, but it could still fail in cases where there is a large majority of impoverished workers. It also requires significant research on the region.

There may be others, requiring more or less effort to discover, and more and less accurate. The hard part is figuring out the most readily understandable and available value to use.

Now, you may or may not be wondering why this data should be published at all. The idea is simple: given the choice between two otherwise-indistinguishable goods or services (same in price, quality, etc.), one could decide to choose based on which either directly or indirectly pays their workers better.

Again, if possible it will show the difference from a living wage, so that wages aren’t necessarily inflated when workers are fairly compensated.

As a closing note, I’ll simply point out that the MPW (Most-paid Worker) could also be included just as easily.

What do you think? Could simple information, when propagated, solve wage inequality?


Am I being detained?

Via diggRejecting Authority at Police State Checkpoint: Video on
Pretty much self-explanatory. I’d like to make a few points anyway.

  1. If you are being questioned by law enforcement, border patrol, etc. assume you are detained and follow this photographer’s lead. Get confirmation that you aren’t before you leave.
  2. If you are told you are not being detained, you are free to go at that point. He probably should have left it at that, but the border patrol agent did not seem to mean what she said. She continues to treat the rendezvous as an interview.
  3. It’s not clear what would have happened if you walked past the road block. It did not appear to be a closed-access highway, meaning you are allowed to walk or bicycle on it.

Nice video though. I can only hope that the border patrol agent didn’t take it the wrong way; they probably do get a hard time a lot. We should be using our public servants more wisely than this.