05 October 2006

Miscellania

The September/October issue of Foreign Affairs has an excellent article on American Protestantism as it relates to foreign policy. I'd suggest any non-Christian who is confused by the misinformation in the media check it out.

Montieth pretty much summed up my feelings on the Amish school shooting and the other craziness going on the States. B anning something doesn't prevent it. It attempts to discourage behavior by providing punishments for that behavior. Prevention is achieved by putting obstacles in the path of successful fulfillment of the intention to engage in a behavior. For instance, it would prevent a great deal of school violence if teachers were permitted to get a CHL and carry in school. If creepy-guy had been wasted by the teacher, then all those little girls who are having funeral would require post-traumatic stress counselling, but that's a breeze compared to getting shot by a nutjob.

My brother's thoughts on childrearing:

Every day children are exposed to horrific threats. Tobacco, alcohol, drugs, violence, automobile accidents, pollution, unhealthy diets, and sexuality all conspire to kill our children or, even worse, expose them to the female breast. The worst of it is, no one can be trusted with our children. You only have to watch Oprah or read the reaction to the latest congressional scandals to know that anyone above the age of 18 that shows an interest in children is automatically suspect. Even other children can’t be trusted with children. Just look at school shootings or cases where elementary school peers were both charged with felonies for mutual exploration.

Something must be done. I propose the following:

Because mothers can’t be trusted to stay healthy while pregnant, babies must be conceived and grown under artificial conditions. Children should then be raised in complete automated isolation until the age of 18. Each child should have his or her own room, completely isolated, with a carefully filtered environment to keep out germs, pollutants and allergens. The room should be designed to present no hard surfaces, sharp edges, or any other physical threats. Food and drink should be carefully designed for maximum nutritional value and pre-mashed to reduce choking threats. The child’s mental development will be carefully screened to prevent all exposure to uncomfortable ideologies or four letter words. All interaction will be with computer software programs designed to educate the child through the exclusive use of multiple choice tests. Tests will be carefully designed so that children know what a committee of consisting exclusively of politicians with law degrees consider important. For example, under this system, no child can fail to grow up without learning that the only crop Virginia ever produced was peanuts or that Galileo proved that sun is the center of the universe. Certain topics, however, such as health and human anatomy, will not be permitted until adulthood because of the risk that they may inspire sexual thoughts. Driving skills will not be taught, as we all know that teenage drivers and dangerous and the only way to fix that problem is to reduce opportunities for practice. Entertainment will not be introduced, as it distracts from learning multiple choice test taking skills and all known forms of entertainment can be considered offensive or dangerous in one way or another.

At the age of 18, they will be released upon the world, confident that the protection their childhood has afforded them will prepare them for adulthood.

***

Yeah, sounds about like what your average liberal or populist wants.

Splitting hairs, the argument is that Mark Foley probably did not commit any crimes, depending on the age of consent in various states.

I find it fascinating that the political party which stood by Gerry Studds (censured in 1983 for a sexual relationship with a Congressional Page) and characterized his behavior as a consensual homosexual relationship while he remained in Congress is the one calling for the witchhunt now.

It is apparently, in the Democratic playbook, perfectly fine to actually engage in anal sex with a 17 year old, but NOT to send them dirty e-mails. The mind boggles.

Personally, given the reality of the age of consent in most states, I'm less interesting in getting uptight about the age difference or the homosexuality issue than with the power difference. To me, it is unethical and immoral to pursue a sexual relationship with your subordinates. It has at the least an appearance of impropriety and implied coercion that makes it impossible to determine whether or not the relationship is truly consensual.

But that's as far as it goes. If you are going to be passionately committed to "Gay Rights", then they ought to apply to Republican congressmen too.

I will say that the fact that there is no real "age of majority" in this country is a contributing factor to the confusion. Instead, adult civil rights are slowly apportioned over a 5 year period (16 to 21) in a totally illogical and inconsistent fashion which varies from state to state. Why should sex be legal at 16, cigarettes at 18, and alcohol only legal at age 21? Why should driving be permitted at 16 and handguns at 21? How does an 18 year old get to vote and join the Army, but not rent a car? It is legal for a person to have sex with a 16 year old male, but not to electronically solicit sex from the exact same male across state lines? What the hell kind of legal system makes THAT determination?

20 Comments:

Anonymous cMAD said...

I don't know what teachers you had, but I wouldn't want to trust mine (let alone my sister's) with concealed guns in front of children.
Tools that are available tend to get used, and a rifle can do much more substantial damage than a gun (which some of the teachers endowed with same used quite irresponsibly). Homo homini lupus, as I learned at my school.

Another lesson I learned there was how slippery the slope between a sexual relationship between consenting partners (I avoid the word "adults") and criminal behavior can be.
Sometimes just covering up extremely inappropriate behavior is the best solution.


However...

You're spot on with your observation that a sexual relationship with dependents is improper and unethical, because it is a misuse of authority and a breach of trust.

The second issue I have with this kind of affairs is the disgusting hypocrisy of people in established positions who preach moral behavior, but look the other way and cover up completely immoral behavior when it could have a negative impact on their reputation, or even think that their position of power exempts them from the rules they try to impose on others.

The double standard that the Republican leadership demonstrated is, IMHO, the true scandal. The difference in corrupt behavior between the parties may be gradual (you don't have to be a Vietnam ace to be corrupt when you're in Washington - it helps, though), but at the moment the Republicans are the pox on both your houses. It's time to turn the tables to drive out the established corruption - it's that checks and balances thing (which originally didn't refer to campaign contributions).

Regarding your proposal to raise children:
Brave New World is next on my reading list, unless someone at work foists Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation on me first.

Anyway, in the unlikely case I'd ever let anyone become significant enough to have children together, I'd probably move to Scandinavia. I remember, from a trip to Denmark in the 1980s, some (early) teenage girls who chose to go topless to the (regular, public) beach, and except for me drooling nobody took issue at all. A whole lot of issues that folks here in the US and A get all worked up about are simply a non-issue over there, so I think it's a much healthier and less restrictive environment for children.

And don't get me started about the US legal system ... anybody with the power to do so (e.g., employers) try to avoid it anyway (and substitute it with "binding arbitration" by a clique of business executives).

9:56 AM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

"Tools that are available tend to get used, and a rifle can do much more substantial damage than a gun (which some of the teachers endowed with same used quite irresponsibly)."

Cite source which indicates Concealed Carry permit holders "tend" to use their weapons illegally, please.

Preferably with comparable statistics on percentage of handgun crime which involved illegally purchased and unregistered firearms owned by people who couldn't get a Concealed Handgun License due to past criminal record.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Oscagne said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Oscagne said...

Howdy, John.

Conviction rates in Texas in 2001 show that of all convictions for violent and/or weapons-related crime, CHL holders make up 0.51064% of convictions. And that doesn't even imply they used their concealed weapons in the crimes, just that they got convicted.

http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/administration/crime_records/chl/convrates.htm

3:19 PM  
Anonymous cMAD said...

Hmmmm. I'll try this again.

This is my rifle, this is my gun ...

Statistics?
1.5 +- 0.5 out of, say, 35 +- 10 of my sister's male school teachers.

The teacher in question did not have a license to carry a firearm.
However, the weapon he had, he carried concealed. Most of the time, at least.

I cited the source. The Latin isn't that hard to figure out.

Much to the good fortune of this guy, I do not think as highly of my sister's honor, nor as lightly of my criminal record, as an Arab male would do.
But I do feel strongly that, rather than giving this creep the license to carry a firearm, the ammunition for the gun he, unfortunately, has the license to carry should be taken away from him.

That's all the evidence I need when it comes to Concealed Carry Licenses for teachers, thankyouverymuch.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Oscagne said...

It keeps cutting off the url... let's try this:

2001 Conviction Rates of Concealed Handgun License Holders

3:21 PM  
Anonymous auxdarastrix said...

On guns in school: Not bad in theory. Only complication is ensuring that the teachers have ample training to be trusted with them. If current practice is any indication, all training will be done during a 6 hour workshop in the the summer.

Wouldn't have made much a difference in the Amish case, of course, because of their pacifism.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous cMAD said...

Texas CHL:
Handguns and other weapons cannot be carried at schools or on school buses, at polling places, in courts and court offices, at racetracks, at secured airport areas or within 1,000 feet of the premises of an execution on the day of the execution. License holders are also specifically prohibited from carrying their handguns in businesses where alcohol is sold if more than half of their revenue is from the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption, in locations where high school, college or professional sporting events are occurring, or on the premises of a correctional facility. A license holder may not carry a handgun in hospitals or nursing homes, amusement parks, places of worship or at government meetings if proper notice is given prohibiting such activity. Additionally, it is illegal to carry a handgun while intoxicated. A licensed security officer commits an offense, if in the course of employment he/she violates any provision under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code.
[emphasis is mine]

Makes good sense, if you ask me.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

CMAD said: ...but look the other way and cover up completely immoral behavior when it could have a negative impact on their reputation,......The double standard that the Republican leadership demonstrated is

[choke] [cough] [cough] Bill Clinton and the Dems [cough] [cough] Lewinsky under the desk [cough] [gag] [choke]

Get that log out of thine own eye before endeavoring to remove the splinter from the eye of another.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

"Statistics?
1.5 +- 0.5 out of, say, 35 +- 10 of my sister's male school teachers. "

So, because one of your sister's teacher engaged in sexual misconduct, you think all teachers. . .

Why am I giving a lecture to a self-proclaimed engineer on the difference between statistical evidence and anecdotal evidence and the validity thereof?

Anyway, I didn't say 'give all teachers handguns', I said permit them to, if they have a concealed carry permit, carry on school grounds. Same licensing requirements as anyone else. Most teachers would not avail themselves of that opportunity because they have neither the desire nor the training to use a handgun in any way.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

Oh, and re: Amish folk specifically, picking on pacifists is regrettable, but true pacifism is making the decision to accept the possibility of martyrdom for one's beliefs.

I don't feel society should extend any protections to pacifists that it doesn't extend to the general population as a whole.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous cMAD said...

The Nerdasaaurus:

[choke] [cough] [cough] Bill Clinton and the Dems [cough] [cough] Lewinsky under the desk [cough] [gag] [choke]

Get that log out of thine own eye before endeavoring to remove the splinter from the eye of another.


Ok, Schroeder and cronies were thoroughly sleazy, as, for example, the handling of the case of Murat Kurnaz, or of Khaled al-Masri, showed.

He got voted out of office, after his gamble to call for early elections and win failed.

Just because the Nerdasaaurus believes that this may have anything to do with Clinton doesn't make it true.
Even perfect eyes don't do you any good if you don't bother to look before you judge.

8:46 PM  
Anonymous cMAD said...

The Decurion [and combat engineer?]:
"Why am I giving a lecture to a self-proclaimed engineer on the difference between statistical evidence and anecdotal evidence and the validity thereof?"

Actually, some institution in Zürich proclaims that I'm an engineer. Another institution in Heidelberg claims I'm a physicist, and I'd probably prefer to go with that, even though that's the less "advanced" degree.

Anyway, what the statistics is about is a reliability estimate of teachers, and in a sample of less than 50 you want to see a lack of failures to act responsibly, i.e., not one definite and one probable case (1.5 +- 0.5), but zero cases of misconduct.
If you insist, you can do the math, but as a physicist, I conclude without doing the numbers that the reliability of teachers is abysmal
(where abysmal is a failure rate in the 1% range, i.e., 99% of the teachers aren't a problem).

9:23 PM  
Blogger Oscagne said...

Hmmm. I think that if had completely slipped my rails and was looking for a place to get a target-rich environment at little or no risk I might try:

schools or on school buses, at polling places, in courts and court offices, at racetracks, at secured airport areas or within 1,000 feet of the premises of an execution on the day of the execution . . . businesses where alcohol is sold if more than half of their revenue is from the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption, in locations where high school, college or professional sporting events are occurring . . . hospitals or nursing homes, amusement parks, places of worship or at government meetings

I did leave out "the premises of a correctional facility".

3:29 AM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

Ok, Schroeder and cronies were thoroughly sleazy, as, for example, the handling of the case of Murat Kurnaz, or of Khaled al-Masri, showed.

If you are discussing German hippocrites as opposed to the American model, then I will grant you your expertise in the matter. Since the topic was American hippocrites, that is what I was discussing.

There is a double standard: Republicans are held to a higher and uniquely different moral standard than Dems. Nobody accused Foley of actually having sex with any male, in or out of office, with or without a power play. It is well established that WJC however, had sex in the Oval Office while conducting official business. [oh, thats right, blow jobs are not officially sex--never mind].

The chief accusers of Foley today (the Dems) were the chief defenders of Clinton a mere 8 years ago. Further, Foley did The Right Thing! (TM) when he immediately resigned from office. This our 42nd Prez seemed entirely incapable of and which his defenders (Foleys accusers) viciously defended. Furthermore, Foley was a mere congresscritter from Florida while WJC was (in theory) the Leader of the Free World(TM).

With great power comes great responsibility.....WJC and his supporters seem to realize this only when it appears to be in their best interests. A POX ON THEM ALL.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

I...was looking for a place to get a target-rich environment at little or no risk I might try

Interstate 35, North OR Southbound, either direction from Dallas, on Texas/OU weekend (tonight/tommorow). I declare it a "target rich environment" and a "free fire zone".

9:44 PM  
Anonymous montieth said...

CMAD did you miss the part about laws which prohibit carry at specificed locations do NOTHING to hinder those acts? Especially when the subject intends far more serious crimes AND suicide at the end? Those laws do NOTHING but disarm the pool of victims. Tell me how many massacres you expect to see at gun-shows? If what your purport was true, we'd see mass shootings at gun shows and gun competitions and nothing at the gun free zones.

7:12 AM  
Anonymous cMAD said...

Montieth,

no, I did not miss that part.

Your conclusion: "If what your purport was true, we'd see mass shootings at gun shows and gun competitions and nothing at the gun free zones." is just based on a very inaccurate statistical failure model (namely, that either no failures or lots of them happen).

What we're discussing can be modeled as failure analysis.
First we make the assumption that sane people do not spontaneously kill other people, so we consider a killing, for whatever reason, a failure.
These failures are, statistically, very rare events. If they weren't as rare (like, for example, car accidents), they wouldn't make international news.

Now, bascially,
(probability of failure within some time T) =
(probability of individual failure at one moment) *
(number of individuals capable of failure) *
(time T).
See the note at the bottom of this page.

What "those laws" do is
1. to reduce the number of individuals capable of failure, namely, the number of individuals who are, at any given time, carrying a deadly weapon;
2. to reduce the probability of individual failure at one moment, by
2.1. eliminating individuals more likely to fail from the pool of individuals capable of failure, and
2.2. mandating training for the remaining individuals to reduce their individual risk of failure.

These are the basics, which are somewhat oversimplified.
One of the simplifying assumptions is that
(probability of individual failure at one moment)
is constant everywhere, any time.
This is not quite true, and this fact is used in accelerated testing, where we want observable failures to happen. Note that this is exactly the opposite of what we're trying to do with gun laws, namely, to observe lack of failures.
How can tests be designed to overcome an expected lack of failures?
The answer is to make failures occur by testing at much higher stresses than the units would normally see in their intended application.


Now, even though I've always liked mathematics way too much ever to do this nearly as often as most of my classmates (or, in a sense, my sister), I have actively tested how much stress my high school teachers could handle before they lost it.

So, the laws also make sure that
3. at times when (probability of individual failure at one moment) is high, (number of individuals capable of failure) is low.

It is quite possible to use statistics to construct gun control laws that, given the available data, make best sense, and it is a trusim that some form of gun control makes sense (that's why even Texas has gun control laws, and why the Decurion gets really upset if soldiers handle the weapons he hands out improperly).
The problem, of course, is that the majority of the people who have the right to vote would rather kill than do the mathematics.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous cMAD said...

The Nerdasaaurus:

There is a double standard: Republicans are held to a higher and uniquely different moral standard than Dems.

Higher: no.
Uniquely different: yes, and this is entirely appropriate.

Republicans and Democrats should be held to the moral standards they advocate in public, for the public, and how they adhere to those standards themselves.
The Republicans' standards are, IMHO, not higher, but, when it comes to behavior between consenting adults (again, according to each party's respective definition of "consenting adult"), quite restrictive, while the Democrats' standards are, well, more liberal.

Other than that, there's the issue that the Decurion brought up:
Given the discrepancy in rank and the dependence of one party involved on the favorable consideration of the other party, can one still speak of a relationship based on the mutual consent of adults, or is the more powerful party in a position to make an offer that the other party simply can't refuse?


Further, Foley did The Right Thing! (TM) when he immediately resigned from office.

As I mentioned before, the true scandal is that this is exactly what Foley did not do, nor did the Republican House leadership convince him to resign. He only resigned after his behavior became known in public, i.e., was no longer deniable.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

As I mentioned before, the true scandal is that this is exactly what Foley did not do, nor did the Republican House leadership convince him to resign. He only resigned after his behavior became known in public, i.e., was no longer deniable.

This is precisely what Clinton DIDN'T DO at any point in is Presidency, even after being impeached. Clinton committed a felony. Foley didn't.

Clinton is guilty of perjury. Foley committed no chargeable offense (that anybody has mentioned).

The double standard STINKS. I can only hope that the American public has the charisma to see through the scandal and continue to use the voting booth to protect us from the Democratic Party and all political liberals.

7:46 AM  

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