Tuesday, December 29, 2015

with respect to People who Possess Child Porn

*TW Trigger warning for discussion of sexual abuse of children*

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What I Mean when I Say Congress is Corrupt (and so is Hillary Clinton)

More and more, I find myself bringing up the same argument in increasingly varied contexts.  I just find it impossible to have the same political conversations I used to, because it's clearer than ever that the those conversations are completely meaningless, given one key factor:  our government is irrevocably corrupted, with Congress completely beyond the control of the American people.

The system of government that is supposed to represent our collective opinions does not.  Not only is it hopeless to throw our letters and phone calls at Congresspeople, to do so is a severe placebo that prevents us from strategizing about how to actually change laws and the world.  Whenever I get into political conversations, I find myself drifting away from the topic at hand, towards metadiscourse about having a political conversation.  The meager effect that our opinions have, and our consequent powerlessness to mobilize change, are the reasons I'm creating Magnova Carta (which I'll write about in my next post), are the reasons the United States needs a major rework of its system of government, and the reasons Bernie Sanders is the only politician I actively support.

So, this is my thing.  Everything that comes next is the basis of my political ideology.  Take it as you will.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Violence is Peace

I totally understand and empathize with many Republican beliefs.  Distrust of federal government, protecting your liberties, strong call for defense, and plenty of others are pretty solid ideals.  But at this point, the Republican party isn't really advocating for those things.  I really don't think they represent the average Republican anymore.  The Democratic party has also gotten pretty far from the issues they claim to represent.  They're just businessmen who take up the banner of progressivism to gain power, and to be in the position of receiving corporate patronage.  The successful politicians are those who run the most expensive campaigns, who make their name recognizable to more people.  It's not about issues anymore, it's about political strategy.

But one of the scary things the R party has done is to take advantage of the reasonable values of conservatives and create a culture of xenophobia and paranoia.  It's also taking advantage of people, especially people who have been chronically lied to and economically abused for generations.  And it's created a culture where many in our country want to stand up against people who haven't actually done anything wrong.  To an Orwellian degree, we've been conditioned to think that violence is a way of seeking peace, that spreading fear is a way of defending against terrorism.  And the very people that represent everything a Republican genuinely hates--centralized authority, terrorism, killing innocent Americans--are the ones controlling the Republican party.  They've turned people against their own beliefs, in the name of those beliefs, and are turning their support into a radical insurgency.  Innocent people are dying as a result.

Every once in a while, we need to step back and look at ourselves--are we really fighting for what we believe in?  Or are the thought leaders of our time taking advantage of our beliefs dishonestly?  Are we giving them the benefit of the doubt because we need somebody to trust, or do they genuinely fight for the ideals they claim to uphold?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

11,300 guns = 1 human life

I was sifting through the data that was available on Wikipedia on guns per capita and gun deaths per capita.  Found that among the countries with the top 15 scores for Human Development Index, the correlation between guns owned and gun deaths per capita has an R2 of 0.94.

Using this line of regression, you might even say that, in a highly developed country, the optimal number of firearms per 100 people is the y-inercept of this line, at 5.61 guns or fewer per 100 people.  US has the 5th highest HDI, making it one of the world's most developed countries, so it falls squarely in this category.

Above that optimal number of guns, the line of regression shows that there is about 1 death for every 11,300 guns in a highly developed country.  In other words, if we had a gun buyback program, for every 11,300 guns that were turned in, 1 human life will be saved.

The correlation between guns and deaths becomes weaker as you start to include countries with progressively lower HDI.  But the correlation was still strong at R2=.75 for the top 33 countries Wikipedia had the relevant data on.  This line of regression, which has a less strong correlation, suggests that the optimal number of guns is zero (since you can't have a negative number of guns), and above that, 1 human life is lost for every 12,900 guns owned.  Still in the same ballpark as before.

Note that the US falls just above the line of regression in each case, suggesting that this relationship holds true for us as well.

Here's the data used to construct the above graphs, all taken from Wikipedia on December 5, 2015:

Country HDI (Human Development Index)
HDI Rank
Guns/100 (2014)
Gun deaths/100,000/year
Year of Calculation
Norway 0.944 1 31.3 1.78 (mixed)
Australia 0.933 2 21.7 0.86 -2011
Switzerland 0.917 3 45.7 2.91 (mixed)
Netherlands 0.915 4 3.9 0.46 -2010
United States 0.914 5 112.6 10.5 -2013
Germany 0.911 6 30.3 1.24 -2010
New Zealand 0.91 7 22.6 1.45 (mixed)
Canada 0.902 8 30.8 2.22 (2007-2011)
Singapore 0.901 9 0.5 0.16 (mixed)
Denmark 0.9 10 12 1.28 -2011
Sweden 0.898 12 31.6 1.47 -2010
Iceland 0.895 13 30.3 1.57 (mixed, incomplete)
UK 0.892 14 6.6 0.26 -2010
South Korea 0.891 15 1.1 0.06 (mixed)
Japan 0.89 17 0.6 0.06
Israel 0.888 19 7.3 1.87
0.882 20 4.6 0.87
0.884 20 31.2 3.01
0.881 21 15.3 2.02
0.881 21 17.2 2.42
0.881 21 30.4 2.95
0.879 24 29.1 3.64
0.874 25 13.5 2.49
0.872 26 11.9 1.28
0.869 27 10.4 0.62
Czech Republic
0.861 28 16.3 1.76
0.853 29 22.5 1.64
0.851 31 19.2 0.15
0.845 32 36.1 0.96
0.84 33 9.2 2.54
0.834 35 1.3 0.25
0.83 37 8.3 1.75
0.822 41 8.5 1.77


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Katie Brown and Stochastic Pet Abuse

Photo taken from Katie Brown's public Facebook page.
Photo taken from Fox News
Katie Brown, the woman who duct-taped her dog's mouth shut:  obviously what she did was cruel, potentially traumatic.  But if you look at her pictures, she was obviously a person who deeply loved her pets.  From her perspective, she was trying to teach her dog a lesson, which is extremely difficult to do without language.  She wasn't trying to traumatize her dog.  She just did.  Animal cruelty isn't something that comes from malice or violence, it's something that happens when people don't know how to treat their pets.

Look through her photos yourself if you think I'm cherrypicking
Just like average (not overtly racist) police officers sometimes shoot black people, normal pet-owners sometimes do things that are cruel.  You don't just make that go away by locking up the bad people.  If you want to stop that particular kind of pet abuse, then you have to reframe the way our culture views nonhumans.  We might call what happened in Florida stochastic pet abuse.

Look at the way her dog and cat sleep together.  Has the owner of these pets raised them to be malicious?  Look through her pictures and tell me that this woman is the face of animal cruelty.
Maybe future pet-owners will learn from this event, and it's probably a good thing to use her as an example, but to me it seems really basic to vilify a woman whose Facebook photos are devoted to loving pictures of her cats and dogs.  Again, what she did was cruel, and I advocate for a far more radical approach to animal cruelty than most people are willing to.  But if ending animal abuse were really what people cared about, there are bigger and more heinous targets than some redneck Florida woman.  How many of those raising their pitchforks against Katie Brown are pledging to go vegan?  How many still adopt their puppies from puppy mills?  I'm not saying they shouldn't campaign against one form of abuse unless they campaign against all of them, but the hypocrisy raises some flags that maybe people are taking up arms for the wrong reasons.

Treating acts of physical and psychological violence as the hallmarks of criminals, as opposed to the bad decisions of otherwise good people, is not productive.  We should be looking to create a world where there aren't bad people, and where people don't do bad things.  If punishment and retribution against the perpetrators were the way towards that world, everybody would go blind.  Or maybe we're all already blind, and we're just feeling around in a dark, confusing world for something that makes sense.

I think there's a lot to be done about people like Katie Brown, but I don't think it's putting both the perpetrator and the victims behind bars, whether they're in a prison or a shelter.  There must be a better way, some form of restorative justice that can both heal the wounds of her dog and make Katie a more thoughtful and compassionate person.  Vilifying and punishing individuals hasn't gotten of rid of animal abuse yet, so I'm extremely doubtful that it's the right strategy towards eliminating it.