Category Archives: Civil Liberties

Mother Jones Hacks Again

A few weeks ago Mother Jones, having not learned the lesson of their absurd article claiming mass shootings are on the rise, published a list of 10 Myths about guns and gun control from Dave Gilson. And I’m going to debunk their debunking again because the article represents what I believe is one of the worst sins in the field of Mathematical Malpractice: cherry-picking. As I went through this, it became obvious that MJ was not interested in the facts, really. What was motivating them was the argument. And so they picked any study — no matter how small, how biased or how old — to support their point. They frequently ignore obvious objections and biases. And they sometimes ignore larger more detailed studies in favor of the smaller ones if it will support their contention.

We see this a lot in the punditocracy, unfortunately. As Bill James said, most people use studies the way a drunk uses a lamppost — for support, not illumination. In any sufficiently advanced but difficult field of study, you will find multiple studies examining an issue. Let’s say it’s a supposed connection between watching Glee and having a heart attack. If there is, in reality, no connection between the two, you might find eight studies that show no connection, one that shows an anti-correlation and one that shows a correlation. This is fine. This is science. There are always outlier studies even if all the researchers are completely ethical and honest. The outliers fall away when your interest is the question and you look at all the evidence. But the outliers dominate the discussion from those who have an agenda.

This happens a lot in the gun debate. On both sides, really. But Mother Jones’ article is a particularly putrid example of this because that’s basically all it does: collect the cherry-picked nonsensical studies that support their anti-gun agenda. It’s quite remarkable actually; almost a clinic in how not to do research.

But here’s the one thing that really tips you off. There is one myth that Mother Jones does not debunk. It’s a myth that’s really independent of what you think of gun ownership … unless you’ve already staked part of your reputation and agenda on the myth that gun violence is increasing. In fact, all forms of violent crime have been falling for twenty years. This is, in my mind, the single most important fact in debates over crime and violence and the single most important myth to debunk.

MJ does not address this myth. They don’t even talk about it. That is a huge tell.

Continue reading Mother Jones Hacks Again

Rocket Man Linkorama

  • A tour of ancient Rome.
  • I’ve commented enough on the Sandra Fluke business at the other site and on Twitter. But here’s one last piece on the lack of outrage when conservative women are smeared — sometimes by supposed feminists.
  • These ads for a symphony are startlingly beautiful. I love modern photography.
  • A little profile of one of the more important First Amendment defenders out there.
  • And now … the least helpful review on Amazon.
  • And 100 reasons not to go to grad school.
  • My wife says she likes to exercise every day, but I don’t believe her.
  • Wednesday Linkorama

    Non-political links:

  • Great news that our fish stocks are recovering.
  • Some interesting pushback on the idea that parenting doesn’t matter.
  • Orac has fun with the latest blast of toxin hysteria.
  • Some follow-up on the principles of the Duke Lacrosse case.
  • Political Links:

  • Two of the most arrogant men in Congress push a “privacy bill” that exempts government. I would much rather have Amazon collating information about me than the FBI.
  • The latest shut up and do what we say from TSA.
  • Usual statement: what this guy did was stupid, but it doesn’t warrant the severity of the reaction.
  • Weekend Linkorama

    Non-political links:

  • Ken Jennings on his defeat at the hands of Watson.
  • I wish I’d known these things when I was single. It’s amazing how much of our habits, preference and lives are defined by evolution and our animal nature.
  • With research budgets hurting, UCSF decides to spend $37 million on … bullshit.
  • Political links:

  • When your a libertarian, everyone hates you. It’s the price paid for being right all the time.
  • WTF? Sarah Palin, being one of the few Republicans to outright dismiss the “Obama is a muslim Kenyan” bullshit, has to get back with the crazy by bashing Michele Obama over … breastfeeding. Why? Opining on social issues is something I’m fine with first ladies doing.
  • The racial smears against black conservatives continue.
  • To be fair, Mrs. Clinton is not the only one to engage in this sort of rank hypocrisy. Bush did it too with his “free speech zones”.
  • Thursday Linkorama

  • Heh.
  • Old trees in danger.
  • In praise of frozen veggies.
  • Our long nightmare is finally over.
  • Hotel death ray!
  • Political Links:

  • Great news. The Maryland cyclist who recorded a cop has been vindicated. Photography is not a crime.
  • Once again, Neal Boortz proves he can’t do the math on the Fair Tax. If wages go up, so do prices, Neal. And that is the most likely outcome of implementing the Fair Tax.
  • You’re Full of Shit Watch: Dahlia Lithwick. This one particularly gets my goat because all branches of government are supposed to defend our rights. Congress can not pass, the President can not execute and the Courts must not convict on laws that violate the Constitution. Pretty simple, no? No? I guess not.
  • More on Elizabeth Warren’s research. Just to be clear: I don’t think her studies are deliberately misleading; I just think they’re flawed. But that doesn’t matter because she’s very popular among Democrats. And her research reinforces their views.
  • Thursday Linkorama

    Non-political link:

  • I’ve stayed in places like this.
  • Political links:

  • Oh, Jesus, another notrovery. Obama misquotes the Declaration of Independence. I guess he’s a secret atheist in addition to being a secret Muslim. Update: the quote was apparently ad-libbed. So much for American Thinker’s body language analysis about how seeing “their creator” on the teleprompter made Obama uncomfortable.
  • The FBI did spy on war protest groups. Does anyone care?
  • Congress, having not even bothered to pass a budget, gives itself extra vacation time to campaign.
  • I think the most distressing thing about the DC mayoral election is that Obama basically let one of his strongest supporters twist in the wind.
  • Second Amendment Linkorama

    This week so the Supreme Court deliver a stunning victory for Second Amendment liberty by extending the Heller doctrine — that the Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms — to the states. This has been a long time coming. But it’s gotten to the point where even gun control advocates can longer defend the Miller philosophy that the Second Amendment protects “militias”. Even Elena Kagan is acknowledging Heller. It may be some time before the Second amendment is seriously threatened again (although the liberal wing still refuses to recognize the Amendment).

    Still, there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there about this decision:

  • Clarence Thomas roars to life in his opinion. Thomas is criminally underestimate by his critics. There have been a number of wonderful opinions he’s written and he’s interesting even when I disagree with him. He’s no puppet of Scalia.
  • Chicago hasn’t learned its lesson. I think SCOTUS understand the needs of cities better than the gun-grabbing Aldermen.
  • Meanwhile, Jacob Sullum eviscerates the liberal wing of the Court. What’s the point of having a Constitution if the “will of the people” is allowed to over-ride it? Liberties are not liberties if they are subject to a vote. I doubt the liberal wing would stand by if the “will of the people” was to return to segregation.
  • Glenn Reynolds reflects on how much the political landscape has changed. Two decades ago, strict gun control was supported by all right-thinking people. Now, it’s a minority view. It is possible to change the debate.
  • Gun licensing is nothing to worry about.
  • Monday Linkorama

  • A Tale of Two Counties that perfectly illustrates how we’ve gotten into such a deep fiscal hole.
  • I love the graph at this site about Cash for Clunkers. It perfectly illustrates the point the critics were trying to make. The program just changed when people bought cars, not whether they bought them.
  • This is amazing.
  • Nope. No such thing as defensive medicine. Nothing to see here. Move along.
  • Jesus. Why do politicians have to stick their noses into everything.
  • There is no place in America more dangerous than between Chuck Schumer and a microphone. Now he’s on about call centers. Because the Future of America is in answering phones? Or because people bitch about their calls being handled in India?
  • It’s depressing to read stories like this. The Obama Administration is no friend of liberty. Oh, and Jim Bunning is an asshole. But you already knew that.
  • However, one of the things I like about Obama is his calm demeanor. Apparently, this isn’t sitting well in some quarters that think he should blow his stack more often. I’m sorry. The last thing we need in this country is another president who promotes a perpetual sense of crisis.
  • Another hilarious review of the recent S&C movie.
  • Wednesday Linkorama

  • The State of Texas comes to its senses on candy.
  • Blogfight? The President’s Cancer Panel released a report on environmental chemical and cancer. Reason and the American Cancer Society point out that it’s panicky and inaccurate. Orac disputes. This is a rare occasion when I think Orac is wrong. As demonstrated by his criticism of the other MIchael Siegel for having the temerity to point out that the study on Scottish second-hand smoke was bullshit, he has a blind spot when it comes to cancer.
  • Here we go. Restrictions on food advertising. I’ve found a way to completely control the advertising my daughter sees. I don’t let her watch commercial TV.
  • Of all the things I worry about, debt has to the biggest. The West is on a spending orgy which is likely to finally break them the way Communism and Fascism couldn’t. Those trying to fix things — like Christie in New Jersey — are vilified. Those who make the mess worse — George W. Bush, for example — are praised. And the Democrats can’t even go three months without trashing PayGo.
  • Coolness. A way has been found (maybe) to battle a huge environmental catastrophe — coal mine fires.
  • Oops.
  • A big reason why I’m still keeping my distance from the GOP. If they elect Roy Moore to something, I’m outta here.
  • Wednesday Linkorama

  • For some reason, the financial overhaul bill includes regulation of the internet.
  • An absolutely appalling story of prosecutorial misconduct in Puerto Rico.
  • I take it back. When Glenn Beck is the voice of reason, we are really in trouble.
  • Speaking of which, why did people admire Joe Lieberman and John McCain so much?
  • Short-selling, betting on a stock or a bond to fall, is neither illegal nor unethical. It is the way we keep bubbles under control. It may be unpleasant, but if everyone long-sells … well, we saw what happened when the real estate bubble burst. Right now, Congress is criticizing Goldman Sachs for short-selling. Do the idiots in Washington not know that the internet exists and that their hypocrisy will be discovered? Apparently not.
  • 13 things that saved Apollo 13.
  • I am glad to see some holes poked in the Camelot Myth.
  • Weekend Linkorama

  • Stunning pictures of the Icelandic eruption. Hat tip to Astropixie.
  • Part Two of the debunking of Lord Monckton. Again, notice how fundamentally dishonest he in the debate. He is one of the principle sources for much of conservative opposition to AGW. And he’s a complete crackpot.
  • Sometimes, I’m so happy I live in a country that takes the First Amendment so seriously.
  • Irony. The EPA has dangerous levels of lead in their building.
  • Color my unimpressed that NYC is planning to close their rubber rooms. They are not firing anyone or expediting the hearing process. They’re just giving them make-work jobs. Typical of the “conservative” Bloomberg.
  • A small triumph over the absurdly generous British libel laws. And pseudo-science.
  • Some sensible talk on IT security.
  • Coolness. Saving lives at $3 a pop. I love innovation.
  • An open letter to the Catholic bishops that reads more like the Declaration of Independence than anything else.
  • Cool windows.
  • Weekend Linkorama

  • The states, desperate for revenue, now want to tax services. Now there’s a way to stimulate the economy!
  • Let it not be said that only the Right indulges in conspiracy theories on global warming. Greenpeace has listed Reason as a climate “denier” even thought their science correspond, Ronald Bailey, is no such thing. All he does is disagree with how severe AGW is likely to be and how we should solve it. But to Greenpeace, anything but panic-laden submission to grandiose institutional solutions is “denial”.
  • Rubber rooms for everyone! If this keeps up, the taxpayer is going to need a padded room.
  • The Institute for Justice has a great video on asset forfeiture. Hopefully, some big guns are coming onto this issue.
  • On the subject of videos, Reason takes on public employee unions.
  • Fumento on information cascades. I’m reminded of the shark attacks.
  • I’ve beaten the “tea partiers are Nazis” bullshit to death on the other site. Still, it’s worth reading Moynihan’s article. I think the best comparison is to the war protesters of the Bush era. Similar odious comparisons; similar anger; similar mis-spelled signs. It seems like the angry, like the poor, will always be with us.
  • English laws continue to get dumber and dumber. (Caveat: the English press is not the most accurate; I got burned earlier this week by bad reporting on a similar incident.)
  • Weekend Linkorama

  • No, Sarah Palin isn’t like Ronald Reagan.
  • What’s this? A terrorist tried and convicted in civilian court? And the world didn’t end?
  • Glenn Greenwald calls out the Right Wing Echosphere on their utter hypocrisy. In the end, it boils down to declaring terrorism suspects to be unpersons.
  • It’s hilarious that Climate Bad Skeptics are harping on the IPCC for having some unsourced or poorly sourced claims when their own claims would not withstand scrutiny.
  • Speaking of which, the Daily Mail misquotes Phil Jones claiming global warming is bunk. He clearly didn’t. That doesn’t stop the Echosphere from quote-mining and trumpeting that global warming is now disproved.
  • I don’t think you’ll find a more perfect series of links to show why I left the “Right”, even though my political philosophy was and remains staunchly conservative/libertarian. All five deal with false memes — lies — that the Right is using to promote an agenda of anti-intellectualism, torture and bad climate skepticism that is anathema to everything I believe in.

    Sarah Palin isn’t just ignorant; she’s proud of being ignorant. Her cluelessness is seen as proof of how much of an “outsider” she is and how good she would be as the conservative leader or, God forbid, President.

    But that’s just nonsense. Guys like Reagan and Goldwater were outsiders, they were not ignorant. Reagan was intensely intellectually curious. Goldwater was so forthright about issues, he got massacred in the election. Even Gingrich, when he first came about, was all about ideas. Palin is none of that. She is pure resentment against a perceived “other”.

    Then you have the pants-shitting terror — or pretense thereof for political purposes — that leads people to declare terror suspects to be unpersons. No conservative should believe any human being to be an unperson, to have no rights. Rights may be restricted or conditional, but they always exist. Abducting people, imprisoning them without trial and torturing them is against everything conservatives supposedly believe in — specifically the universality of our divinely given rights and the need to restrain government. How can you possibly say you triumph the individual over the state when you embrace the greatest subjugation to which a state can subject the individual — imprisonment and torture with trial?

    And finally, I can understand — I support — skepticism about hysterical environmental claims. I especially support opposition to collectivist solutions to them. But that has now morphed from Good Climate Skepticism to Bad Climate Skepticism — a mix of conspiracy mongering, anti-science, witch-hunting and quote-mining. A conservative approach would say, “Maybe AGW isn’t real. But if it is … we need to do something about it.” A conservative would do what I do every time a Right Wing blog links up to some article that “disproves” global warming — look into it and see what it actually says.

    Until these things are purged from the Right Wing, I will remain outside. This is simply not what I signed on for.

    Friday Linkorama

  • Keep trying, gun controllers. It’s just so funny when you keep trying.
  • Am I single now? Is my daughter a bastard?
  • The idea that this decade has seen global cooling continues to fade.
  • I have so far avoided the new wave vampires. I think I’m going to keep doing that.
  • An startling graphic that show the surge in unemployment on a country level. See if you can notice which city on the eastern seaboard is immune from the recession.