“Reasonable Restrictions”

The Writer in Black

There has been a lot of talk about “common sense” gun laws and “reasonable restrictions” on the 2nd Amendment.  I wrote the following to summarize my thoughts on that.

The full text of the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution reads as follows:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

To anyone but a lawyer or a political agenda, it’s pretty straightforward. However, very few, even among diehard arms rights supporters would claim that it’s truly unlimited: that literally everybody with a body temperature somewhere near 98.6 degrees Farenheight (say within about 20 degrees) must be permitted to own, possess, carry, and use any kind of weapon they can get their hands on. The controversy is generally over just what constitutes a “reasonable restriction” particularly since there is no allowance in…

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How “Common Sense” are Those Restrictions?

The Writer in Black

Every  year the Brady Campaign to steal our Freedom (okay, they call themselves the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, but I call them as I see them) comes up with a “scorecard” of how well various states conform to their proposed “common sense gun laws.”  The claim is that we need these “reasonable restrictions” in order to reduce crime and violence.

Well, some years ago I took the time to gather up the numbers on violent crime for the various States and their Brady Scores.  Plug them into a spreadsheet and chart the results:

Notice something here?  There’s no discernible trend of reduced violent crime with greater implementation of the Brady Campaign’s “wish list” either overall or for most of the individual violent crimes.  While I originally did this some years ago the overall results have not noticeably changed.

The Brady Campaign keeps talking about “common sense gun regulation.”…

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Women in combat and The Three Ps — peeing, periods, and pregnancy

Women in combat isn’t bad only because of physical stamina and unit cohesion issues. The Three Ps (peeing, periods, and pregnancy) also militate against it. Heather MacDonald, undoubtedly one of the most brilliant conservative writers and thinkers around, has written about the military’s decision, based upon Obama administration dictates, to water down physical standards to allow women to serve in combat units.

Source: Women in combat and The Three Ps — peeing, periods, and pregnancy

97% Agreement on what?

First heard from Dennis Prager: the climate change activists are insisting that we believe three separate things:

  1. The climate is changing;
  2. Humans are responsible for a lot of that;
  3. It’s leading to a catastrophe.

Alex Epstein says much the same in Forbes, and looks at the numbers.

If you’ve ever expressed the least bit of skepticism about environmentalist calls for making the vast majority of fossil fuel use illegal, you’ve probably heard the smug response: “97% of climate scientists agree with climate change” — which always carries the implication: Who are you to challenge them?

The answer is: you are a thinking, independent individual–and you don’t go by polls, let alone second-hand accounts of polls; you go by facts, logic and explanation.

Here are two questions to ask anyone who pulls the 97% trick.

1. What exactly do the climate scientists agree on?
Usually, the person will have a very vague answer like “climate change is real.”

Which raises the question: What is that supposed to mean? That climate changes? That we have some impact? That we have a large impact? That we have a catastrophically large impact? That we have such a catastrophic impact that we shouldn’t use fossil fuels?

What you’ll find is that people don’t want to define what 97% agree on–because there is nothing remotely in the literature saying 97% agree we should ban most fossil fuel use.

It’s likely that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from.

If you look at the literature, the specific meaning of the 97% claim is: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that there is a global warming trend and that human beings are the main cause–that is, that we are over 50% responsible. The warming is a whopping 0.8 degrees over the past 150 years, a warming that has tapered off to essentially nothing in the last decade and a half.

Even if 97% of climate scientists agreed with this, and even if they were right, it in no way, shape, or form would imply that we should restrict fossil fuels–which are crucial to the livelihood of billions.

Because the actual 97% claim doesn’t even remotely justify their policies, catastrophists like President Obama and John Kerry take what we could generously call creative liberties in repeating this claim.

On his Twitter account, President Obama tweets: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Not only does Obama sloppily equate “scientists” with “climate scientists,” but more importantly he added “dangerous” to the 97% claim, which is not there in the literature.

This is called the fallacy of equivocation: using the same term (“97 percent”) in two different ways to manipulate people.


Bottom line: What the 97% of climate scientists allegedly agree on is very mild and in no way justifies restricting the energy that billions need.

But it gets even worse. Because it turns out that 97% didn’t even say that.

Which brings us to the next question:

2. How do we know the 97% agree?

To elaborate, how was that proven?

Almost no one who refers to the 97% has any idea, but the basic way it works is that a researcher reviews a lot of scholarly papers and classifies them by how many agree with a certain position.

Unfortunately, in the case of 97% of climate scientists agreeing that human beings are the main cause of warming, the researchers have engaged in egregious misconduct.

One of the main papers behind the 97 percent claim is authored by John Cook, who runs the popular website SkepticalScience.com, a virtual encyclopedia of arguments trying to defend predictions of catastrophic climate change from all challenges.

Here is Cook’s summary of his paper: “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 percent [of papers he surveyed] endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”

This is a fairly clear statement—97 percent of the papers surveyed endorsed the view that man-made greenhouse gases were the main cause—main in common usage meaning more than 50 percent.

But even a quick scan of the paper reveals that this is not the case. Cook is able to demonstrate only that a relative handful endorse “the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.” Cook calls this “explicit endorsement with quantification” (quantification meaning 50 percent or more). The problem is, only a small percentage of the papers fall into this category; Cook does not say what percentage, but when the study was publicly challenged by economist David Friedman, one observer calculated that only 1.6 percent explicitly stated that man-made greenhouse gases caused at least 50 percent of global warming.

Where did most of the 97 percent come from, then? Cook had created a category called “explicit endorsement without quantification”—that is, papers in which the author, by Cook’s admission, did not say whether 1 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent of the warming was caused by man. He had also created a category called “implicit endorsement,” for papers that imply (but don’t say) that there is some man-made global warming and don’t quantify it. In other words, he created two categories that he labeled as endorsing a view that they most certainly didn’t.

The 97 percent claim is a deliberate misrepresentation designed to intimidate the public—and numerous scientists whose papers were classified by Cook protested:

“Cook survey included 10 of my 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.”
—Dr. Richard Tol

“That is not an accurate representation of my paper . . .”
—Dr. Craig Idso

“Nope . . . it is not an accurate representation.”
—Dr. Nir Shaviv

“Cook et al. (2013) is based on a strawman argument . . .”
—Dr. Nicola Scafetta

Think about how many times you hear that 97 percent or some similar figure thrown around. It’s based on crude manipulation propagated by people whose ideological agenda it serves. It is a license to intimidate.

It’s time to revoke that license.

Forbes Magazine

The Religion of Environmentalism

I’m not sure if I read this piece by Michael Chrichton before or not, but listening to a friend of mine who is very definitely an environmentalist, I noticed how she seemed to believe in a Fall From Grace story. At one time in the past, the environment was in a perfect state. And then humans came along and started making changes, and every change humans make is, by definition, for the worse. (She did not receive that well.)

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.
There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Environmentalism is a Religion — Michael Crichton

So what about it?

There are two reasons why I think we all need to get rid of the religion of environmentalism.
First, we need an environmental movement, and such a movement is not very effective if it is conducted as a religion. We know from history that religions tend to kill people, and environmentalism has already killed somewhere between 10-30 million people since the 1970s. It’s not a good record. Environmentalism needs to be absolutely based in objective and verifiable science, it needs to be rational, and it needs to be flexible. And it needs to be apolitical. To mix environmental concerns with the frantic fantasies that people have about one political party or another is to miss the cold truth—that there is very little difference between the parties, except a difference in pandering rhetoric. The effort to promote effective legislation for the environment is not helped by thinking that the Democrats will save us and the Republicans won’t. Political history is more complicated than that. Never forget which president started the EPA: Richard Nixon. And never forget which president sold federal oil leases, allowing oil drilling in Santa Barbara: Lyndon Johnson. So get politics out of your thinking about the environment.
The second reason to abandon environmental religion is more pressing. Religions think they know it all, but the unhappy truth of the environment is that we are dealing with incredibly complex, evolving systems, and we usually are not certain how best to proceed. Those who are certain are demonstrating their personality type, or their belief system, not the state of their knowledge. Our record in the past, for example managing national parks, is humiliating. Our fifty-year effort at forest-fire suppression is a well-intentioned disaster from which our forests will never recover. We need to be humble, deeply humble, in the face of what we are trying to accomplish. We need to be trying various methods of accomplishing things. We need to be open-minded about assessing results of our efforts, and we need to be flexible about balancing needs. Religions are good at none of these things.


Big Bad John

The Writer in Black

No, not the coal miner of song, but John Adams who is rapidly becoming one of my personal heroes as I learn more about him.

The public schools I attended did a great disservice in selling this man short.  All I learned there was that he was Vice President under George Washington, the second President after him, and the father of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams (and all I knew about him was that he was the son of the second president).  Some years later I learned that he was also the lawyer who defended the British officer and soldiers involved in the riot that became known as the Boston Massacre.

But he was involved in so much more.  He was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, and one of the major voices in the call for Independence.  While the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson…

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“First They Came” a slightly updated blast from the past.

The Writer in Black

It’s been less than a year since I originally posted this on this blog, but it seems the idea is coming around again.

It’s always frustrating to me when I see a “gun rights supporter” buy into the “we just want reasonable gun control” lie.  I’ve dealt with part of that, the “nobody wants to take your guns” claim elsewhere.  The questions you need to ask somebody who claims that is “how much is reasonable?  Where is the line?  At what point do you turn around and say ‘no more’? How far does it have to go before you’d agree we need to roll back the restrictions?” And then, take any answer they give you with a grain of salt because, frankly, whenever they’ve gotten a “we just want this” restriction they merely used that as a springboard for more.

One of the tactics the anti-gun folk use to…

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